SP Campground Review – Deception Pass State Park, Whidbey Island, WA

Hubby poses on the hike to Deception Pass Bridge
Hubby poses on the hike to Deception Pass Bridge

A pretty, but crazy busy and tight state park at the northern end of Whidbey Island, WA. NOT recommended for big rigs.

Link to campground here: Deception Pass State Park, WA
Link to map location here: Deception Pass State Park, WA

  1. Site Quality = 1.5/5
    Site quality is the biggest issue at this park and the main reason I wouldn’t recommend it for other big rigs. There are over 300 sites all gravel, mostly back-in (some pull-through) located around 3 camground loops** -> Quarry Pond, Forest Loop and Lower Loop. There is a mix of dry-camping and partial hookup (water/electric). All sites are very similar in that they are generally small, VERY unlevel, at odd angles and very tightly treed. Separation is very mixed with some sites that have excellent privacy and others that are located side-by-side with nothing but a log to delineate space. Aside from the very mixed quality the potentially bigger issue for larger rigs is that interior camp roads are narrow, curvy and heavily treed. We were able to squeeze our RV through the Lower loop, but it required me walking in front of the rig and negotiating turns at a snail’s pace. We also ended up with one of the very, very few flatter/larger sites that could actually accommodate us. I would estimate 95% of the sites could not. Out of the 3 campground loops, the two on the west side of Hwy 20 (Forest, Lower) are generally nicer/quieter than the campground on the east side of Hwy 20 (Quarry) which sees substantially more road-noise and has the added disadvantage of no trail access to the beach. However this is really a campground best-suited to tenters or small campers, and given the tight access I would not recommend it at all for bigger rigs.
    ** NOTE/ there is also a small 5th campground loop, Bowman Bay located on the north side of Deception Bridge, but we did not go see it.
  2. Facilities = 3/5
    Decent facilities. The toilets were clean and showers large/spacious. Main ding is that showers are paid ($0.50 for a 3 minutes).  On-site dump station with rather awkward access, plus a few water spigots scattered around the campground.
  3. Location = 4.5/5
    Location is the main reason to come here, and for those without a big rig I can see the draw. Deception Pass covers a huge area with water-front/beach, a large lake, lovely Deception Pass Bridge and ~40 miles of hiking trails. Within the park itself there is also a dedicated swimming area (very popular with the kids) as well as lots of spots for hanging and picnicking. Lastly you are only ~10 miles from either Oak Harbor or Anacortes which has all the shopping & eating you can think of. The only slight ding? You are just around the corner from the Naval Air Station which means the sounds of fighter jets roaring through the air all day long.
  4. Pet Friendliness = 5/5
    Good location for doggie. All trails and shoreline within the area are dog-friendly, although the park does enforce a very strong leash law (with heavy penalties/fines). Poo bags provided around the park area.

Overall Rating = 3.5
BONUS ALERT = Camp within walking distance to Deception Pass Bridge!

Summary: Talk about mixed feelings! This park has some great aspects and some very disappointing aspects. On the plus side it’s in a beautiful location with miles of hiking trails, long beach-front, lakes, swimming access and great access to nearby towns of Oak Harbor and Anacortes. I honestly can’t complain on any of these. On the negative side the sites are, sorry to say, terrible and best-suited to car/tent or small rigs. Many of the sites are very small, at odd angles or so terribly unlevel that there’s no possible way anything bigger than a car could fit. Ontop of that interior roads are curvy, narrow and heavily treed. The only way we were able to get into our site was by me walking through the loop in front of the rig and navigating Paul through each turn by hand signal. This was despite the park telling us we would have “no problem” with our 40-footer (I called and checked before booking). We also had one of the very, very few sites that was level or large enough to accommodate us. Lastly the campground was crazy busy. I’m sure, being so close to Seattle, this is a prime tenting location for many families. Not only was the campground packed out, but so was the beach and swimming area. Also there was near-constant noise from fighter planes (from the nearby Naval Air Station) right up to past sunset. In the end we really enjoyed the natural aspects of the park. Early morning was quiet, and once you get away from the beach most of the hiking trails are almost deserted, but we would not recommend it to other big rigs and would not personally stay here again.

Extra Info: Stable Verizon signal (4 bars of LTE on our MiFi). Sites cost $20-$39/night, depending on site type. Over 300 total sites, mix of water/electric and primitive ALL reservable on-line. On-site flush toilets, showers (paid), trash, dump and potable water.

Extra, Extra Info – OTHER CAMPING: There is plenty of other big-rig friendly camping around this area including several private parks. If we come back to the northern part of Whidbey Island we will likely chose one of the following:

  • Staysail RV Park – This is a city-owned park located right by the waterfront in Oak Harbor with easy access to walking trails and downtown. It’s a basic-looking park, but for $15/night for tenters or $25/night for full hookups, the price and location are just right. Plus it’s got no problem handling big rigs. Click HERE.
  • Pioneer Trails RV Resort – If you’re in the mood to splurge and just want a really, really nice place to stay with large site in a pretty setting this is your spot. Sites are not cheap at $36-$49/night, but is a top notch park. Click HERE.

Note/ You can see a pic of each and every campsite at Deception Pass State Park on campsitephotos.com

View of our site from the front #135. This was one of the largest/flattest.
View of our site from the front #135. This was one of the largest/flattest in the campground.
Back view of our site. Our "sitting area" with picnic table and firepit is on the right
Back view of our site. Our “sitting area” with picnic table and firepit is on the right
View down lower loop. Car in site 128 on right. #127 on left. These sites are VERY small.
View down lower loop. Car in site 128 on right. #127 on left. These sites are VERY small.
Another view down lower loop. Trailer in site 120 on left.
Another view down lower loop. Trailer in site 120 on left with 118 behind it.
View down middle of lower loop. Car on left in site #113. A very windy road behind.
View down middle of lower loop. Trailer on left in site #113. A very windy road behind.
View down beginning of lower loop. Site 84 on front right which is right next to 83.
View down beginning of lower loop. Site 84 on front right which is right next to 83.
View down forest loop. Site 37 on left.
View down forest loop. Trailer in site 37 on left with 34 behind it. Both are small sites.
Another view down Forest loop. Site #18 in front with #17 behind. Hard to see on the pic, but both cars here are at a steep angle.
Another view down Forest loop. Site #18 in front with #17 behind. Hard to see on the pic, but both cars here are at a steep angle.
View of facilities.
View of facilities.
General map of the camping areas at Deception Pass State Park.
General map of the camping areas at Deception Pass State Park.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    Concur with your review. We were at Deception Pass in a smaller rig this past January. We will not be back to Deception Pass for many of the reasons you highlighted. Thanks for your honest assessment.

    • libertatemamo says

      Well I’m honestly happy to hear I’m not the only one. This park got such rave reviews on the web that I thought I must be missing something. I could see it being a good place for tent campers and families in small trailers (lots of kid stuff here), but it really didn’t suit us at all.


  2. Mark says

    Hi again and thanks as always for your campground reviews. I’m still in the RV research phase and have been pondering what size motorhome to buy. Now that I’ve had a chance to read many of your campground reviews and other RV blogs I’m convinced that bigger is definitely not better and that a 30-35′ rig will be plenty big enough to full-time in as well as small enough to maneuver the campgrounds that I think I will want to spend most of my time in. So thanks for providing me insight into your life in the ‘beast’. Happy trails to you!

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup, I agree. Had I known what I know now before we started RVing we would most definitely have gone smaller. I think 30-35 is about the “sweet” spot for space versus mobility. It still won’t get you in everywhere (e.g. Deception Pass would still be a squeeze), but it opens up a lot of possibilities. At least that’s what I would choose were we to do it over.


  3. says

    Bowman’s Bay sites are small. There are a couple that our Scamp 19 _might_ fit. The city park in Oak Harbor is a better value as is Washington Park in Anacortes where they have some large W/E sites but a tight access road.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks for the info on Bowman especially since we didn’t get over there to see it for ourselves. The city park in Oak Harbor (Staysail) is probably where we would choose too if we come back to the northern part of the Island.


  4. Luke alexander says

    A much better park is Pioneer Trails RV Park, on Hwy 20, just before you turn off to go toward Anacortes. Very big rig friendly.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup, that’s the one I mentioned at the bottom of the review. Looks like a really nice spot.


  5. says

    I remember Deception Pass well from my T@B camping days (a 12′ “big” teardrop trailer). Sites were never too small for that little thing, but one thing we didn’t plan on (that nearly shook my tooth fillings out!) were the fighter jet training exercises at the the NAS next door– wow, are those things LOUD when the take off next to you!

    So, I’m guessing the NAS must now be closed?

    Loved Whidby Island, and Deception Pass itself is a gorgeous photo op, but yes agreed, camping could be much better at other spots on the island!

    • libertatemamo says

      No, the NAS is actually still open. We heard the roar of fighter jets almost all day long. That was another thing that made this park less attractive (for us anyway). I could see a T@B being fine in here…and a small trailer too..but not much bigger!


  6. says

    Hi Nina! I’m part of the couple that knocked on your door at Kalaloch Campground many moons ago! You’ve been following our route (more or less) through the OP. We made stops that you didn’t, as well as vice versa (although you passed us by while heading into Neah Bay). Thought you might be interested in our blog which shows the sights you chose to pass by. As we said to you, we sure enjoy following your posts–especially when we are acquainted with the places you write about! I know you’re going to LOVE the San Juan Islands!!! Our time there was sweet, but short. Can’t wait to see where your travels take you once you leave the islands behind!
    Melinda and Chris Wall

    • libertatemamo says

      Of course. I remember you well! I’ll definitely be doing some reading on your blog to fill in the gaps. It’s always interesting to read I what others find in the area. Ideas for the next trip!


  7. Melissa says

    Fort Ebey is our favourite and close to the cute town of Coupeville
    Very nice sites and there are quite a few that will take the beast.

    • libertatemamo says

      Good to know. We didn’t make it out there this trip, but I read about it and thought it looked very interesting. So much hiking out there too!


  8. says

    Yup, even we (with our 25′ trailer) had a problem finding a suitable spot at Deception Pass. We loved the beach though. It was September when we visited & it wasn’t very crowded. I would love to go back, but would probably stay at a different park.

  9. says

    Glad I read the review before looking at the photos – the big trees are beautiful and the separation looks pretty good. But alas, tight turns and small and uneven spaces are no bueno. Nice to have a couple other options – one for real and one for when we win the lottery :-). Thanks for another great review!

    • libertatemamo says

      Indeed the interior roads are tough for bigger rigs. It’s just a much better campground for tenters or small trailers.


    • libertatemamo says

      So right. The cars just fly across that bridge, and there not much shoulder at all. It’s a tight squeeze with two big rigs side by side.

  10. Sally Summerfield says

    I read all of you posts. You have created a valuable reference that we enjoy and will use once we can escape to full time RV life. I just wanted to let you know it is appreciated.

  11. Nancy Crawford says

    Melissa is correct about Fort Ebey being the best choice. One must make reservations there nine months in advance however. It is always sold out. Sometimes you get lucky if someone has to cancel.

    • libertatemamo says

      A second recommendation. Always good when that happens! We may overnight one day on Whidbey on our way back south at the end of this month so I’ll see if we can get in here. Otherwise we’re headed to Fort Casey.


  12. Sergio says

    Honestly, the problem here is the size of your rig… It doesn’t suit the State Park culture of minimalism and conservationism. I travelled three years with a similar size Newmar Diesel Pusher and felt ridiculous in some State Park. I had to book Resorts most of the time… witch I hate, really!

    In my next trip as a Full Time RVer I will buy a 24 ft Class C rig and not any bigger. I will leave the cup cake tray at home. I’m even contemplating a Roadtrek 210…: https://sites.google.com/site/campskunk/

    I now believe, “Smaller is smarter”… Any way it’s a free world, isn’t it?


    • libertatemamo says

      If we ever “upgrade” our rig it will be for a smaller one, for the same reason. I still felt this state park had poor sites, regardless of size. Too many unlevel sites with varied privacy even for smaller trailers. But I agree smaller is better for maximum flexibility, especially on public land.


  13. Craig says

    I lived in Anacortes and then Coupeville back in the 1960s and loved it despite the lack of suitable date material. We have a 36′ DP but kept our 1972 Steamline 21′ “Princess” TT just to get into the parks like Deception Pass. The last time I was at Deception Pass I parked in a wheelchair spot in the Princess and it was great. Accurate reviews, IMHO. The downtown park in Oak Harbor is best for big rigs though not as scenic. But I must say I love the jets! 😀


    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah I could see the jets being a positive or a negative, depending on the person. Some people love to jet-watch.


  14. Mike says

    Was there last week with a 28′ Airstream and had to see saw back and forth to get around some of the trees hugging the side of the road. I would say for combined vehicle trailer you don’t want to be much more than 35′, 32′ even better.


    • libertatemamo says

      Yes, I think you’re about right in size-terms. We were definitely too tight in our 40-footer, even unhooked. I think closer to 30-feet total length is comfortable.


  15. Lisa says

    I’m excited to hear about your adventure to Orcas Island and the wor-kamping you have taken on.

    What advice can you give towards working on the road and how to find/choose/make a good job decision. If you are or have ever been a camp ground host, what are your responsibilities and how do you negotiate pay? How are you chosen over the hundreds that might apply.

    Enjoy your stay in the Pacific North West!


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