This Friday, April 22 is Earth Day and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by taking advantage of free entry to one of the many state parks nearby.
Did you know that Washington is home to a whopping 124 state parks? There are 17 of them located in the Seattle-Tacoma region alone. All Washington state parks will offer free access for Earth Day on April 22 but to help you decide which one to visit, we narrowed it down to our top ten favorites. The majority of our picks are no more than a two-hour drive from Seattle, so you can easily make a day trip out of it.
Whether you’re interested in hiking with your dog, bird watching, kayaking, or just getting some quiet time in nature away from the city, there’s something on this list for you. Lace up your hiking shoes, pack your water bottle, and leave your Discover Pass at home—this adventure is free.
1. Bridle Trails State Park
A mere 20 minutes of driving from Seattle, Bridle Trails is a day-use park with 28 miles of trails spread out over 489 acres. Hikers and leashed dogs are welcome (although there are no bike trails or camping), but the main attraction is its extensive horse trails, horse shows, and other equestrian-related events. BYOH (bring your own horse).
2. Lake Sammamish State Park
You only have to drive about half an hour from Seattle to enjoy a leisurely beach day at Lake Sammamish State Park. This park has something for everyone: two lakefront beaches, hiking trails, kayak rentals, a playground, and plenty of opportunities for bird watching (keep an eye out for great blue herons). The area is also steeped in some interesting history. The lakefront carries cultural significance as a gathering place for at least four Native American tribes, and if you’re a true crime buff then you may already know about the park’s association with the serial killer Ted Bundy.
3. Squak Mountain
If you’re looking for a variety of hiking options about 20 to 30 minutes from Seattle, Squak Mountain has miles of walking and horse trails catering to all abilities. Enjoy the sound of burbling creeks, follow the Bullitt Fireplace Trail to see the remains of the 1952 Bullitt House’s stone fireplace, and—if you’re feeling ambitious—reach the summit of Squak Mountain at 2,024 feet to take in a peek-a-boo view of the Seattle skyline.
4. Saint Edward State Park
An excellent spot for picnics, kayaking, and kid-friendly fun, Saint Edward State Park is a 326-acre day-use park with 3,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on Lake Washington (about a 30 minute drive from Seattle). Take advantage of the park’s picnic tables, playground equipment, and verdant hiking trails.
5. Tiger Mountain State Forest
This 13,745-acre forest is a mere 30-minute drive from Seattle and has plenty to offer. You can use its trails for mountain biking and horseback riding in addition to hiking. Some even go there for paragliding and hang gliding. You can choose from many different trails depending on what kind of hike you’re looking for; just be sure to appreciate the spring wildflowers that are currently in bloom.
6. Olallie State Park
You can drive 40 minutes east of Seattle to find this state park that offers six miles of moderate hiking trails as well as opportunities for rock climbing, mountain biking, and fishing. Most of all, however, the park is known for its several waterfalls, including the popular Twin Falls.
7. Dash Point State Park
Located between Seattle and Tacoma, this state park is worth the one hour drive from the former if you’re a water lover. In addition to its hiking and biking trails, you’ll find a beach that provides plenty of fun for kids, anglers, and skim boarders.
8. Blake Island Marine State Park
Accessible only by boat, this state park is the place to go if you really want to get away from it all. It offers quiet hiking trails and beaches featuring views of the city and Mt. Rainier. If you don’t have your own boat, you can easily take a ferry from the Seattle waterfront.
9. Kopachuck State Park
About an hour and a half from Seattle, Kopachuck is a 280-acre marine park with more than 5,000 feet of saltwater shoreline on Henderson Bay. Here you can enjoy views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Feeling adventurous? You can take a boat or kayak a half mile out to Cutts Island (also known as Deadman’s Island).
10. Palouse Falls State Park
This 100-acre park is worth the four-hour drive from Seattle thanks to its dramatic canyon views and unique geology. The park’s 200-feet Palouse Falls—a remnant of the Ice Age—was named Washington’s state waterfall in 2014. Viewing this waterfall is on many Washington residents’ bucket list.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the state parks in Washington. There are over a hundred more to choose from while making your Earth Day plans! For example, there are over a dozen seaside parks along the Pacific coastline as well as several stunning parks scattered throughout the Olympic Peninsula if you don’t mind the drive. You can find a full list of Washington state parks here.
If one day is not enough for you, consider purchasing a Discover Pass for year-round park access. And most importantly, remember to bring plenty of water, leash and clean up after your pets, and leave no trace. Happy Earth Day!