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Best Washington State Parks to Visit in the Spring


Best Washington State Parks to Visit in the Spring

Beacon Rock State Park - courtesy of Washington State Parks

The Top Three Choices Feature Parks Along the Columbia River.

Take a Spring driving tour along the Columbia River Gorge. Lupine and balsam root bloom in mid-April making spectacular fields of purple and gold. The surrounding Columbia River channel was carved out of basalt rock as a result of floods following the last ice age. The basalt rock resulted from a series of lava flows which emerged from cracks in the earth's crust and blanketed the entire eastern Washington/Oregon region long before the coming of ice-age floods. When viewing the cliffs along the river, notice the stratigraphy highlighted by benches rising up the cliffs. Each of these benches, or layers, represents a different lava flow. Some lava flows were hundreds of feet thick in places.

Beacon Rock State Park

Enjoy the beauty of Beacon Rock State Park, a 4,650-acre camping park located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. This park is well known for its unique rock structure created by ice-age floods more than 17,000 years ago. The Spring is the perfect time for wildflower viewing. Hamilton Mountain trail is considered a favorite among wildflower enthusiasts. A mile-long trail to the summit of Beacon Rock provides outstanding panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge. The park has 29 tent spaces, one restroom and two showers. Camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

(Park is located 35 miles east of Vancouver, WA.)

Columbia Hills State Park

Columbia Hills State Park (which includes the Horsethief Lake area and Dalles Mountain Ranch area) is a 3,338-acre camping park with 7,500 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Columbia River. Horsethief Butte dominates the skyline, standing over the lake like an ancient castle.

For centuries, the park was the site of a Native American village. The Lewis and Clark expedition camped at the village and described its wooden houses in one of their journals. The village was flooded by the waters of The Dalles Dam. Guided tours of the pictographs and petroglyphs (Indian rock art) are offered on Fridays and Saturdays, April to October. Reservations are required; call 509-767-1159. The park has eight tent spaces, eight utility spaces, and two primitive hiker/bicycle camp sites. All campsites are available on first-come, first-served basis.

(Park is located on the Columbia River on SR 14 at milepost-85.)

Maryhill State Park

This 99-acre camping park features 4,700 feet of waterfront on the Columbia River in Klickitat County. The area is significant for its natural beauty, its access to the surrounding natural wonders and its cultural history. A full-scale model of Stonehenge stands near the park. Sam Hill, built a "castle" for his daughter, Mary, on a hill, and named it "Maryhill”. He designated the building, originally designed as a family home, as an art museum. Artifacts associated with local tribes can be seen at Maryhill Museum of Art and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.

The park has 20 tent sites and 50 utility sites. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-888-CAMPOUT.

(Park is located 12 miles south of Goldendale, WA.)

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