There are more than 200 Washington State Parks so it might seem a little overwhelming digging in and figuring out which one to visit, but if you’re in the Seattle-Tacoma area, never fear! We’re here to help you with a list of which parks are in the Seattle-Tacoma area, what each one has going on, and which ones are best to visit with the family.
Also, be aware that all state parks require a Discover Pass, which you can usually buy right at the park for $10 for day use or $30 for annual use, or you can buy in advance online, and there are a handful of ways to visit these parks for free.
There are two state parks located between Seattle and Tacoma that are perfect for families with kids – neither require much driving time and both are located not far off the freeway so the convenience factor is high, and yet both offer sheer nature goodness in spades. Dash Point State Park is closest to Tacoma and Federal Way and offers everything you’d need or want from a state park, including a wide open beach, trails through the forests, and 114 standard campsites and 27 utility campsites. While there’s plenty to do here, the main draw is the beach, especially at low tide when it turns into an expansive tide flat where you can kick back and build a sandcastle, explore the tidepools, or go skimboarding.
5700 S.W. Dash Point Road, Federal Way
Saltwater State Park is the other park between Seattle and Tacoma that’s super easy to get to – it’s only two miles off I-5! You might guess from the name, but this park is also popular for its beach, which is perfect for young children or toddlers who want to build a sandcastle or wade into the water (but, as with almost all water in the Northwest, the water is cold so wading is about it). You can also take a hike on one of the trails through the forest, have a picnic or grill at one of the shelters, camp at one of 47 standard sites. Be aware, Saltwater State Park is under the flight path for Sea-Tac airport so you might spot planes flying low overhead, but if you have a plane-obsessed kid, all the better!
25205 8th Place S, Des Moines
Penrose Point is perfect if you want to dig for shellfish or camp…or both. The park offers clam digging, oyster harvesting, and opportunities for crabbing and fishing as well. There are also 270 feet of moorage for boaters. There are 82 campsites for land lovers, too.
321 158th Avenue SW, Lakebay
Yet another park popular for its beach (and yet a little more off the beaten path than Dash Point and Saltwater so the beach might be quieter on sunny days), Kopachuck State Park is an awesome park with lots of shoreline and two miles of trails through the forest. But most families come here for the beach, which is popular for clamming and oyster harvesting. Look for starfish when the tide goes out and enjoy the view of the Cascades. Offshore are two moorage buoys for boaters. Note there is no camping at this park.
10712 56th Street N.W., Gig Harbor
Named for the site of the former St. Edward’s Seminary, which closed in 1976, St. Edward State Park is set on the shore of Lake Washington and feels almost like a cross between a city park and a state park. For one, there’s a great playground for kids and, due to the former seminary on the grounds, there are some interesting spots to check out beyond the hiking trails and shoreline on the lake. Look for the Grotto – a river-rock alcove that makes for a unique photo op – or enjoy a picnic in one of the five shelters. There are trails for both hiking and mountain biking.
14445 Juanita Drive N.E., Kenmore
Bridle Trails State Park probably isn’t the park for every family, but if your family bonds best atop a steed, then you’re in the right spot. This park is all equestrian all the time with 28 miles of trails, four arenas, horse shows, organized horse rides and just about everything horse-related.
5300 116th Ave. N.E., Kirkland
Blake Island is a unique state park in that you can’t drive to it. In order to visit, you must get there on a boat. My favorite way to do that is to take an Argosy Cruise and do the whole Blake Island experience where you learn about the history of the island and its natives, watch a show, and eat a delicious traditional salmon meal. However, you don’t get much time to explore the island that way unless you choose to arrive one day and take a different boat home (which you can do). Alternately, if you have your own boat, you’re in luck as this park is quiet and peaceful and it’s quite nice to sit on the shore and look at Seattle on the other side of the water with Mt. Rainier in the background. There are eight miles of trails, 1,500 feet of moorage, shoreline, and amazing views galore.
Lake Sammamish State Park is just an all-around great state park. Shoreline? You got it. There is not one, but two stretches of sandy beach along the Lake Sammamish shore, which is way warmer than the Puget Sound so kids can splash around and even swim. There’s an awesome playground, a spot to rent kayaks at Tibbetts Beach, sports fields, and community events throughout the year. There are several boat launches so you can get out on the lake. And there are, of course, trails to explore, too.
2000 N.W. Sammamish Road, Issaquah
Squak Mountain is your best bet for a Seattle-Tacoma-area state park if you want a bit of elevation to your trails. The park has 13 miles of pedestrian trails and 6 miles of horse trails. Trails are suitable for all ability levels, but if you really want to push yourself a bit, take the trail to the top of Squak Mountain, which tops out at 2,024 feet. No, it’s not exactly climbing Mt. Rainier, but you’ll get a view from the top.
21430 S.E. May Valley Road, Issaquah
Years ago, long before my life as a toddler mom, Flaming Geyser State Park was one of my favorite spots to put in to kayak down the Green River. And, indeed, kayaking is one of many things to do here, both calmer stretches as well as white water. You can also just hang out by the river’s edge and play in the water, hike the trails, let the kids run around on the playground, or bring along your remote controlled aircraft as there’s a popular area to fly those here too.
23700 S.E. Flaming Geyser Road, Auburn