Summer is a season of happiness in Skagit County for so many reasons! Topping everyone’s list is the chance to get out and play in and around our abundant sources of water. While other parts of the country are sweltering, local residents flock to creeks and rivers, beaches on the Sound and the many lakes we’re fortunate to have within a just a short drive. The facilities vary quite a bit—some parks have playgrounds, some don’t. All have restrooms, but they range in number and appeal. It’s best to check out some of the links below before heading out so you know what to expect. Here is where to play in the water in Skagit County.
Bay View State Park
10901 Bayview-Edison Road, Mount Vernon
You can spend an entire day at this spot just north of the town of Bayview. Located on Padilla Bay, Bayview State Park can be counted on for cool breezes off the water.
Set up chairs and an umbrella near the bay and let the kids build a sandcastle or splash in the shallows while you relax. There are grassy areas for playing frisbee or catch, and the park is a popular kite flying spot too. You can have lunch at a nearby picnic table or cook on one of the barbecues at the large picnic shelter.
If you can’t tear yourself away, the park offers 76 campsites and 6 cabins. All can be reserved. A Discover Pass is required for parking.
Take Bayview-Edison Road north from Highway 20 for about four miles. For information, call the park at 360.757.0227.
3494 Friday Creek Road, Burlington
People who have discovered this little spot in Burlington just love it. Bordered by two creeks not far out of town, it’s convenient without being too crowded.
Perhaps the best word for Donovan Park is “friendly!” It’s kid-friendly, with shallow spots for toddlers to mess around in the water and a playground too. Older children can catch and release crawdads. The ground is easy to navigate, so seniors and people in wheelchairs use the park too. Your dog (on a leash) is welcome, so you can truly bring the entire family.
Picnic tables with barbecues are available, and with plenty of shade the park is a great spot to spend time on a hot day. To get there, drive north on Burlington Boulevard. After passing Bow Hill/Prairie Road, veer left on Friday Creek Road or continue north on the main road (now Old Highway 99) and turn left on Parson Creek Road.
Clear Lake Beach
12925 South Front Street, Clear Lake
If you draw straight lines east from Burlington and south from Sedro-Woolley, their intersection will just about make a bullseye on Clear Lake. Clear Lake Beach park is at the southeast corner of the lake, and it’s an incredibly popular spot. With grassy areas, playground equipment, picnic tables, a beach and tolerable water temperatures—it’s no wonder families with kids of all ages visit regularly. “On hot days, it can get crazy busy,” says Brian Adams, director of Skagit County Parks and Recreation.
When you’re planning a family outing to Clear Lake and loading up water toys, picnic food, chairs, sports equipment and so on, Brian recommends getting there early to find a parking spot convenient for schlepping gear. “On hot days when Clear Lake Beach is busy, you may need to park in town and walk further,” he explains.
From Mount Vernon, take College Way east and turn left on Highway 9. For information, call Skagit County Parks and Recreation: 360.416.1350.
Howard Miller Steelhead Park
52804 Rockport Park Road, Rockport
If you want to immerse yourself in an essential Skagit County experience, spend a day, or a few days, at Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport. In 100 acres on the Skagit River, you’ll find trails through the forest for people, horses and bikes, picnic facilities, fishing areas, campgrounds and lots of opportunity to see wildlife. Especially popular for viewing eagles, the park is home to the Skagit River Bald Eagle Awareness Team and its interpretive center.
For getting out on the water there’s a boat launch, and according to Brian Adams, a few “brave souls” put river rafts and even inner tubes in the river above the park and float down. Brian advises thinking it through carefully, though, as “the Skagit River always runs hard and cold,” he says. On a hot day you might find enough relief just putting to your feet in the water.
For more information, download the park’s printable brochure or call park staff at 360.853.8808.
Whistle Lake Road, Anacortes
It’s no wonder Whistle Lake is a beloved spot on Fidalgo Island. It shows up on a number of websites with its attributes described:
- “It’s astoundingly beautiful year-round,” declares one site
- The 3.7-mile loop is “a beautiful trail for families and beginning hikers,” says a blogger
- The water is wonderful for swimming and cliff jumping,” a YouTube poster says
This spot in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL) is appreciated by locals and visitors. What it doesn’t provide—a playground, picnic tables and multiple restrooms—it makes up for in scenery and water you can actually swim in without risking hypothermia.
After walking the half mile or so in from the parking area, adventurous types make a beeline toward the southern end of the lake for cliff jumping (be careful and check for submerged rocks). Families spread towels and water toys on small beaches along the water. Hikers venture out into the quiet with ACFL maps in hand.
To find Whistle Lake, take O Avenue south from Commercial (after a quick jog to the west on Longview). Turn on Spradley, then on Whistle Lake Road. Parking at the trailhead is limited, so getting there early is best.