Hike of the week: Deception Pass Headlands Trail

March 18, 2011 

Hike description: The Headlands Trail will give you a taste of all that Deception Pass State Park has to offer. Deception Pass is a lowland hiking paradise with natural and man-made marvels. The state park is known for spectacular views from its rugged cliffs overlooking the turbulent water of Puget Sound. The bridge is another marvel. The 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline is home to abundant marine life. Within the park's 4,134 acres you'll find diverse areas to explore. More than 38 miles of trail will take you from sand dunes to old-growth forest where you'll find four freshwater lakes (Cranberry, Pass, Campbell and Heart).

To explore the Headlands, start by taking the trail to Rosario Head. You’ll pick up the Bowman Bay Rosario Beach Trail by the interpretive center near the campground. Heading west, the trail takes you along the northern edge of Bowman Bay, through forest and then up a hillside with several prime lookout spots. The trail then descends to Sharpe Cove and makes a short loop around Rosario Head. Here, as everywhere on this trail, use caution. You may only be 50 feet above sea level but most of those 50 feet involve steep cliffs. After taking in the views, head back along Bowman Bay, walking the beach to the boat launch and pier. Beyond the launch area, head uphill over a rocky area. Heading back down to the beach, you’ll pass the trail to Pass Lake on your left. Stay on the main trail, taking the left fork to Lottie Point for more views. Back at the junction take the right-hand trail to Lighthouse Point and Reservation Head. When you’ve had all the magnificent views you can manage for the day head back the way you came to the trailhead .

For views of Deception Pass from a different perspective, before leaving the area, park in one of the state Route 20 pullouts and walk out on Deception Pass Bridge.

Directions: From I-5 take Exit 230 and drive west on state Route 20. In 12 miles, at the junction with the state Route 20 Spur (toward Anacortes) turn left on state Route 20 (to Oak Harbor) and continue for 5 miles. Turn right onto Rosario Road just after Pass Lake. In about 100 yards you will turn left (to Bowman Bay) and follow the park road 0.4 mile to the day-use parking area by the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center. You can park here or at the nearby boat launch lot.

Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)

Miles round-trip: 5

Elevation: 350 feet

Best time of year: Year-round

Map: Green Trails 41S Deception Pass

Pass: None required

Also: Be sure to have the 10 Essentials in your pack and to practice Leave No Trace travel to leave the trail at least as pristine as you found it. Water and restrooms at the day use parking area. Stay on maintained trails. Many rescues have been needed for folks who end up on cliffs around Deception Pass.

Information: www.parks.wa.gov; “Day Hiking North Cascades,” “Best Hikes with Kids Western Washington & the Cascades,” “Washington State Parks,” all Mountaineers Books.

Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.

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