2019 Update: This trail is featured in our new guidebook, Urban Hikes Washington, available July 2020. Check it out to learn more!
We've been really lucky with summer weather this year in Washington—and we're not complaining here by any means. But, when the temperature climbs to the mid-80's, a strenuous hike isn't always our go-to. So when we had a day off with projected temperatures in the 90's, Beers at the Bottom hit the beach for sun, surf, sand and a beer chaser.
The Deception Pass Headlands, part of Deception Pass State park, includes Lighthouse and Lottie points, and Rosario Head. With views of Deception Pass Bridge from Lighthouse and Lottie, and the San Juan Islands from Rosario Head—no matter which trail you take, the views are breathtaking.
The trailhead begins at Bowman Bay, parking for which is located near the Civilian Conservation Corp Interpretive Center. The center is worth a look, especially for history fans. The interpretive center is small, housed in the former bath house for the CCC there at Deception Pass. With original photographs, letters, clothing, and a documentary on display, in just a few minutes you can get a feel for the generation who built our state parks. As a part of FDR's New Deal, the CCC employed unmarried and unemployed men ages 18-25 to work in a variety of different fields, mostly focusing on the conservation of the nation’s natural resources. Most of the campgrounds we all enjoy in state and national parks were built and created by the CCC. The interpretive center is a great little peek into the history of it all.
From the Interpretive Center, it's just a few steps out onto the beach. One of the best things about Deception Pass Headlands is that there isn't really a specific trail to follow—many paths are simply loops, some with smaller off-shoots leading to secluded beaches and bluff-overlooks. We chose to head left towards Lottie and Lighthouse points. Lottie, the shorter of the two loops, is closest to the bridge. We only hiked out to Lighthouse Point—which is unfortunately sans-Lighthouse. The most difficult part of these trails is the small incline up through old growth forests. Luckily, the trails here are wide, well maintained, and the highest point is only 110 ft. Lighthouse Point is heavily forested on its northern side, facing Bowman Bay, but the southern end is grassy rolling slopes with gorgeous views of Deception Pass.
After cooling down in the sea breeze, we continued on the Lighthouse Loop back to the beach at Bowman Bay. From there, we headed towards Rosario head. The north side of the beach hosts rocky tidepools, home to Pacific Northwest critters like sea-anemone and starfish. On Rosario Head, it's hard not to admire the large cedar carving depicting Ko-kwal-alwoot, logged from the Baker Lake area. Also, take a few minutes to read through the Legend of the Maiden of Deception Pass, a traditional myth of the Samish tribe, the first people to make Deception Pass Headlands their home. Before you get much farther on the trail, you'll most likely notice a “Caution” sign. Don't be too alarmed—the trail itself isn't any more treacherous. The sign is alerting you to the sheer cliffs, which plunge right into Rosario Strait. However, as long as you leave a safe distance between yourself and the edge, these cliffs are an amazing backdrop to the Salish Sea, San Juans, and the shadows of the Olympic Mountain range.
Deception Pass State Park is one of the most popular parks in the state and offers great camping options if you'd like to make a weekend out of your meandering adventures in the area. If you're looking for an easy-going beach walk, this one is highly recommended. I would also advise looking into a tidal chart – low tide offers a chance to check out tidal pools in the park.
As always, trail-reports can be found through WTA at:
For more information on the CCC, check out:
A great article about The Maiden of Deception Pass totem and artist Tracy Powell can be found here: