If you have a bad case of the seasonal blahs, here’s a solution: take a day trip to Washington Park! Situated on the northwestern tip of Fidalgo Island, this heavily forested jewel of a spot has something for everyone to enjoy, even on shorter, cooler days.
A Park System for Anacortes Residents and Visitors
Anacortes Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Bob Vaux notes that Washington Park is an unusual place in a town with unusual dedication to parks and open lands. “Preserving spaces for everyone to enjoy has been a priority since the city was founded,” Bob says. In fact, Anacortes has more than 20 city parks of all kinds and about 3,000 acres of open space.
Washington Park is unique in terms of its size and features. “It does have the feel of a regional park,” Bob agrees. With more than 200 acres for visitors to enjoy, plus a 68-space campground that includes many spaces suitable for RVs, it’s a surprise when first time visitors learn that this is a city-owned park.
Winter in Washington Park on Fidalgo Island
If you’ve neglected your exercise routine during winter, Washington Park is a good place to get your legs working again. Miles of hiking trails weave in and out of the forest. The paths aren’t generally steep, and even in the wet season most don’t get extremely messy. But don’t let even the rainiest of times deter you from walking in the park. The paved loop road is just over two miles long and offers gorgeous forest and water views too. It’s ideal for taking your dog if you’re not inclined to give him a bath afterward!
If you take a look at the trail map and feel concerned about losing your way, don’t worry. The park is surrounded on three sides by water, and you’re never too far away from a vantage point to get your bearings.
You’ll appreciate the fact that most of the crowds are gone on winter days in Washington Park. “You can hike the trails for a couple of hours and not see anyone else,” Bob Vaux says. You can even find a deserted bench to enjoy a bit of solitude and spectacular views of Decatur and Lopez islands to the west, or Cypress and Guemes islands to the north.
Take the Kids to Play at Washington Park
Washington Park is a favorite destination for Anacortes kids as well as adults. There’s so much for youngsters to do! You can start at the playground near the park’s entrance. Funded by the local Kiwanis Club, the equipment is sturdy and varied enough to invite kids of all ages to have a romp.
A stone’s throw away is Sunset Beach, where little ones love to – you got it – throw stones in the water. The shoreline here is a mix of sand and pebbles, with lots of opportunity for play. There are a few picnic tables too, where parents can relax and watch the state ferries sailing to and from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal nearby to Friday Harbor, Orcas Island and Shaw Island.
When it’s time to venture further into the park, kids can get on their bikes or scooters and zoom ahead on the Loop Road while adults walk behind. With one-way traffic confined to 10 miles an hour, you don’t have to be concerned about vehicles coming at you.
Older kids may enjoy checking out the Rosario Strait tidepools along Green Point and West Beach. If you’re driving along the Loop Road, there are a few parking spots at the western edge of the park where you can pull off and walk down to the rocky shore. In winter, there’s a good chance parking will be available!
Washington Park Staff Enjoy Winter Too
Bob Vaux explains that each of the four seasons offers a distinct experience for Washington Park staff as well as visitors. Park workers enjoy the quieter hours of the cooler months. “We like to get projects done in winter,” Bob says. He notes that in summer, staff spend most of their time taking care of visitors to this popular place. “I heard a saying once that seems to fit,” Bob remembers. “Winter is a time to heal the wounds of summer.”
Park enthusiasts celebrated the centennial of the naming of Washington Park in 2015. On hand were members of the Havekost family, descendants of the German immigrant who donated the first eight acres of the park to the City of Anacortes. Hikers joined park volunteers and staff in paying tribute to this beautiful land where the forest meets the sea. “We feel fortunate to be the current stewards of Washington Park,” Bob said.
To get to the park, head west on the Highway 20 spur through Anacortes. Follow the road (now Commercial Avenue) north into Anacortes and turn left on 12th Street toward the ferry terminal. Veer left onto Sunset Avenue and continue into Washington Park.
For information on park hours, fees, camping and more, check out the information here or call 360.293.1927.