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Featured Photo by Washington State Parks

The Best State Parks In Central Washington Near The Columbia River

The Columbia River is a hub for extreme water sports and summer fun, but the river valley can be explored and enjoyed all year long. The Columbia River Valley in Central Washington is home to some of the best State Parks in the Pacific Northwest that are bound to satisfy any adventurer’s outdoor itch during any season.

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Central Washington State Parks: Steamboat Rock State Park, Electric City

Best For The Most To Do
Featuring 5,043 acres of park and 50,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on Banks Lake, Steamboat Rock State Park is seemingly endless with wide open spaces, plenty of water access, and opportunities for all kinds of recreation. During the summer, park visitors can enjoy 13 miles of hiking and biking trails, 10 miles of horse trails, 320 feet of dock on the lake for fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and waterskiing. When winter rolls around, those who brave the cold can view bald eagles, ice climb, ice fish, go Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. The campground is open in the summer from April 1 to Oct. 31 and partially open in the winter from Nov. 1 to March 31, featuring a variety of campsites and ADA accommodations. In addition to all of the winter and summer activities, the park has an amphitheatre, basketball court, sand volleyball court, a playground, and opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
Steamboat Rock Trip Tips
Permit Needed: Discover Pass Season: All year round, Best Natural Attraction: 650 foot columnar basalt butte, Most Popular Activity: Hiking, Local Outfitter: https://arriveoutdoors.com/
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Central Washington State Parks: Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park, Coulee City

Best For Most Striking and Historically Significant Landscapes
Given this park is surrounded by a geological wonder of North America, Sun Lakes – Dry Falls is a perfect state park for viewing stunning landscapes and beautiful views of one of Washington’s amazing natural areas. The striking landscape was carved over 13,000 years ago by Ice Age floods leaving deep gorges and high cliffs, one of which used to be a waterfall more than four times the size of Niagara Falls. You can marvel over the view from the 400-foot-high and 3.5 mile-wide cliff and many other table-top cliffs for panoramic views of deep gorges and reflective lakes. Anglers can enjoy fishing for trout in Dry Falls Lake with 73,640 feet of freshwater shoreline, and hikers can explore 15 miles of trails that wind through the hills and on top of cliffs. The park’s visitor center is another great addition, giving visitors a place to learn about the geological features of the park through interpretive displays and to understand the historical significance of the land. Camping and other outdoor activities can also be enjoyed here.
Sun Lakes – Dry Falls Trip Tips
Permit Needed: Discover Pass Season: All year round, Best Natural Attraction: Natural cliffs up to 400 feet high, Most Popular Activity: Fishing, Local Outfitter: https://arriveoutdoors.com/
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Central Washington State Parks: Daroga State Park, Orondo

Best For Family Camping Trips
If you’re interested in a smaller state park that still offers great views and outdoor experiences, or you’re travelling with family or younger children, Daroga State Park may be the perfect place for you. On the smaller side compared to other Washington state parks, Daroga is a 127-acre camping park with access to the Columbia River shoreline. The park features great activities and experiences for people of all ages and abilities. There are two miles of biking and hiking trails, an area on the Columbia for new or beginner watercraft operators and shallow swimming, and a deeper area on the river for boating, freshwater fishing, and waterskiing. Visitors also enjoy the additional family-oriented park amenities such as a playground, baseball, soccer, and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, barbeque grills, and areas for bird watching and wildlife viewing.
Daroga Trip Tips
Permit Needed: Discover Pass Season: April to October, Best Natural Attraction: Rolling Hills, Most Popular Activity: Camping, Local Outfitter: https://arriveoutdoors.com/
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Central Washington State Parks: Lincoln Rock State Park, East Wenatchee

Best For Relaxation
Named after a rock face resembling Abe Lincoln’s face, Lincoln Rock State Park is another small state park for mainly relaxing and camping. The park stretches 86-acres on the east side of Lake Entiat above the Rocky Reach Dam and features rolling hills on the sides of the Columbia River. Visitors can enjoy shaded campsites, a boat launch with mooring docks, and the community-like atmosphere of Lincoln Rock. Of all the state parks in Central Washington on the Columbia, Lincoln Rock is designed the most like a city park with ball fields, tennis and basketball courts, a playground and public swim beach. You can also explore Rocky Reach Trail, a paved, mixed-use trail that connects to the Apple Capital Loop Trail and is ADA-accessible. It is recommended to pack your bikes, bats, balls, and gloves and prepare for fun and relaxation, but you can rent camping gear and other equipment from the Washington State Park’s partner outfitter Arrive Outdoors.
Lincoln Rock Trip Tips
Permit Needed: Discover Pass Season: Day Use all year round, Campground March 1 – October 31, Best Natural Attraction: Columbia River, Most Popular Activity: Boating, Local Outfitter: https://arriveoutdoors.com/
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Best For Most Diverse Fossil Forest
Considered Washington’s official state gem and registered as a National Natural Landmark, Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park is one of the most diverse fossil forests in North America featuring the rare petrified wood of the Ginkgo Tree and many others. Visitors can take in the big skies, view of the Columbia River and the Gorge, and view outdoor exhibits of petrified wood. The park is split into three regions, the Wanapum Recreational Area, the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center, and the Trailside Museum and Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail, each with its own amenities and attractions. The area is great from viewing wildlife including golden eagles, sage thrashers, elk and bighorn sheep and you may see them while driving to the museum or hiking. The Wanapum Recreation Area has campsites you can reserve to relax at your campsite or in the Wanapum Lake after a long day of exploring.
Ginkgo Petrified Forest Trip Tips
Permit Needed: Discover Pass Season: Day Use all year round, Campground March 1 to October 31, Best Natural Attraction: Ginkgo Petrified Forest, Most Popular Activity: Walking the Interpretive Trail, Local Outfitter: https://arriveoutdoors.com/

Content Writer and Social Media Coordinator. I paint, listen to music, and play with my dogs a lot. When I’m not doing all that, I love to read and try new things.

Maeve Miller

Writer, River Travel Magazine

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