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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Fall return to Deception Pass as lovely as earlier visits

Off-season might be the best season to travel.

This notion was reconfirmed for us recently when we revisited Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island.

It was late October, spitting rain and blowing 40 knots. Huge white-capped waves were rolling in off the Salish Sea into the turbulent waters of Deception Pass — in other words, it was perfect off-season weather.

A fall storm like this can make you feel very much alive.

Best of all, hardly anyone was staying in the campground of Washington’s most popular state park and we mostly had the place to ourselves. We watched the eagles fly, seals swim and saw an enormous hawk catch an unlucky rabbit right before our eyes.

When we needed to warm up, the RV was ready to provide a refuge from the storm.

So consider this: Instead of putting away your RV for the winter, why not try to use it during the dramatic and raw off-season? If you can embrace the sometimes-iffy weather, it’s a wonderful time to visit county, state and national parks in Washington state that remain open year-round.

Your first question might be, what about the rain?

Our philosophy is that sometimes you need to roll the dice and hope for the best when the weather is iffy. Yes, our trip  to Deception Pass started off in a storm, but the rain was intermittent and we had an excellent payoff with late-day clearing and a beautiful sunset. The cold temperatures were manageable with a roaring fire. The next day, we woke up to partly cloudy skies, and while it was chilly, it was still beautiful.

If you’re willing to take the off-season gamble to go RVing, you might just get lucky and score a bluebird day in the middle of winter, an event that feels like a gift from the gods.

As we look ahead to spending the winter in the Pacific Northwest, we’re embracing the prospect of more fall and winter trips in our RV. Here’s a partial list of public parks that stay open year-round in the off-season.

Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca region: Birch Bay State Park near Blaine; Larrabee State Park near Bellingham; Bay View State Park near Anacortes; Camano Island State Park near Stanwood; Dash Point State Park near Federal Way; Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island; Fort Worden State Park, near Port Townsend; Dosewallips State Park on Hood Canal; Dungeness Recreation Area and Salt Creek Recreation Area, both Clallam County Parks.

Washington Coast: Olympic National Park’s campgrounds at Mora and Kalaloch offer unprecedented access to wilderness beaches. Several state parks stay open year-round on the central and southern coast, including Pacific Beach, Ocean City, Twin Harbors, Grayland Beach and Cape Disappointment.

Columbia Gorge: Maryhill State Park in Klickitat County and Beacon Rock State Park, in the heart of the Gorge, remain open (and are both sites once visited by the Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, for those looking for a historical connection.)

Eastern Washington: If you’re a hardy sort, a few Eastern Washington state parks have partial availability in the winter. Note: The water may be turned off and dump stations may be closed. These include Steamboat Rock State Park and Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park in the Columbia Basin;  Wenatchee Confluence State Park and Potholes State Park near Moses Lake.

Other Washington off-season faves? Tell us where you like to visit in the off season in your RV. Send us an email at and we’ll share your recommendations in the next column.

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.