Camping at Deception Pass State Park is one of the best ways to enjoy Washington State’s most-visited state park.
Roughly 2 million visitors per year flock to this Northwest Washington camping hotspot for its proximity to the Puget Sound, 38 miles of hiking trails, and to walk across the towering (and often photographed) Deception Pass Bridge. Three campgrounds suitable for both tent and RV camping as well as a handful of rustic cabins make this one of the best places for family camping in Washington.
Our thorough guide will help make planning your Deception Pass State Park camping trip that much easier.
Why Visit Deception Pass State Park
There are a hundred different reasons to go camping at Deception Pass State Park.
In addition to the three campgrounds themselves, visitors love to explore the beaches rife with tidepools, driftwood piles, and mysterious coves. Look for interesting shells as you walk but don’t forget to keep your eyes on the water to spot a seal or even a whale. An array of bird species also call this area home, including black oystercatchers, red-throated loons, blue herons, and bald eagles.
Once you’re done exploring the beaches (as if you’ll ever truly be done!), head to one of Deception Pass’s two lakes (Pass Lake and Cranberry Lake) for fishing, swimming, and boating galore. Or, launch your boat into Puget Sound to explore the surrounding waterways (be very careful going through Deception Pass itself as the strong current is known to create whirlpools).
Other Deception Pass activities include discovering historic structures. Deception Pass Bridge is the most obvious, but make sure to check out the interpretive center at Bowman Bay that explains the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the area as well.
There’s also a large grassy area in the Bowman Bay section of the state park that’s perfect for throwing a frisbee or playing lawn games. A small playground with swings and slides will keep young children more than happy.
Hiking in Deception Pass is yet another popular park activity. Although there are roughly 38 miles of hiking trails total, the 5-mile Lighthouse Point, 1-mile Pass Lake, and 3.2-mile Hoypus Point are hard to beat (all distances are roundtrip).
Deception Pass State Park truly has a little bit of everything that Northwest Washington has to offer.
Best Camping in Deception Pass State Park
Even though I live within an hour of Deception Pass, by far my favorite way to enjoy this state park is with an overnight camping trip.
Luckily, there are three campgrounds in Deception Pass State Park with over 300 campsites suitable for tents and RVs. Despite the high number of campsites, make reservations early as this campground fills quickly, especially during the bustling summer months.
Here’s what you need to know about each of these Deception Pass campgrounds as well as your other options for overnight accommodations.
Bowman Bay Campground
The most private place for camping in Deception Pass State Park, Bowman Bay has just 20 campsites total.
Many of these campsites have beach views while the rest are just minutes from walking down to the water. The forested setting is relaxing and peaceful. Several hiking trails start in or near this Deception Pass campground.
Bowman Bay is best for tent camping. Small RVs and camper vans will fit into some campsites, although only two partial hookups are available.
Cranberry Lake Campground
The largest campground in Deception Pass State Park, Cranberry Lake boasts 230 campsites total.
These campsites include 147 sites with no hookups and 83 sites with partial hookups plus 5 sites reserved only for bikers/hikers (walk-in only). A large group camping area (suitable for up to 50 campers) is also available. Although RVs are welcome, the roads and campsites are small and aren’t spacious enough for large rigs.
Almost all of Cranberry Lake’s campgrounds are shaded by old-growth canopy. A handful are located on bluffs above the beach while a handful of others are located on the lakeshore itself.
Quarry Pond Campground
The only campground open for year-round camping in Deception Pass State Park, Quarry Pond is also the most suitable for RVs.
It has just 7 sites without hookups but does have 49 sites with partial hookups plus a single site reserved for walk-in/bike-in campers only. Like the other two campgrounds, restrooms with flush toilets and showers are available here.
Quarry Pond is located in a peaceful, forested setting. The most scenic campsites are set on a bluff that overlooks the titular pond.
Nearby Hope Island Marine State Park has six additional primitive campsites but is accessible only by watercraft.
Very large groups might like to stay at Cornet Bay Retreat Center. It has 16 cabins, 2 duplexes, a main lodge, and a recreation center that can accommodate up to 186 people.
Finally, there’s the ever-popular Ben Ure Cabin. Located on Ben Ure Island, this amazing cabin rental comes with standard modern amenities (bathroom, full kitchen, electric heating). Rent this cabin and it’s basically like renting the whole island for a night. Ben Ure Island is only accessible by watercraft.
Other Things to Do Near Deception Pass State Park
Thanks to its location in the northern region of the Puget Sound, there are plenty of things to do nearby on your next Deception Pass camping trip.
The state park serves as a great home base for exploring Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island (the two islands that the Deception Pass Bridge connects) as well as towns such as Coupeville, Anacortes, La Conner, and more.
During the spring, many people camp at Deception Pass and go enjoy the vibrant colors of the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in nearby Mount Vernon.
For a bit more of an adventure, consider taking a ferry out to explore the San Juan Islands, like the ever-popular Orcas Island or the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. If you’re not up for such a long trip, nearby Guemes Island is just a few minutes ferry ride from Anacortes.
Of course, there are plenty of other opportunities for camping in Washington, such as around scenic Baker Lake just an hour and a half east of Deception Pass. Also, nearby is the rugged North Cascades National Park. Other Washington national parks worth visiting while camping in Deception Pass State Park are Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park.
Hiking trails are also in abundance near Deception Pass. Our list of the best hiking in Washington and best hikes near Seattle will help point you in the right direction.
One of the best hikes near Deception Pass is the 5.6-mile roundtrip Ebbey’s Landing near Coupeville, just over a half hour from the state park.
Plan Your Deception Pass State Park Camping Trip
Visit the Deception Pass State Park webpage for more information on planning your next camping trip.
You can check out Washington state park camping rates here. Make your Deception Pass camping reservations online or by calling 1 (888) 226-7688.
And, if you’re thinking about going RV camping at Deception Pass, then check out our guide to renting an RV for the first time and our review round-up of the best RV rentals in Seattle.
Friday 21st of June 2019
I definitely need to plan a camping trip to Washington!