Trail Log: Camano Island State Park

After last weekend’s hiking existential crisis, I opted for a lower impact adventure for this weekend. My criteria was: short, within an hour drive, easy, and also, short. Something about traipsing around the woods with a toddler and mad baby for 5+ hours has been burning me out a little (I wonder why…). A great weather forecast gave us an excuse for a beach excursion, and we invited some friends who are interested in hiking with their toddler to join us. Their son is about a year younger than T, and just starting to really get his feet under him. Since we were doing a short hike (2.6 miles), we let them borrow our Deuter carrier and had T walk himself.

We chose to park at the north end of the park so that we could walk the ridge rim that overlooks the water. Unfortunately that entails a quarter mile walk uphill on a road, but other than that, I would recommend this as a good parking spot. The other area is near where we stopped for lunch and makes a better destination when you have kids with you.

The trail is well groomed and travels along the ridge, with views of the Saratoga Passage and Whidbey Island peeking through the trees. Long stretches of the trail are lined with a handrail, both for the safety of people and surrounding flora. Benches are regularly located throughout the walk, and T didn’t miss a chance to try out every single one.


Native wildflowers are making their appearance, and the trail is lush and shaded. We followed the Loop Trail all the way down the staircases to the southern parking area and beach. Here, there are picnic tables, trash cans, large piles of driftwood, and a rocky beach. T and his friend O were very excited to throw rocks, a shared hobby of theirs. Something about rocks + gravity + water = ultimate good time for them. The tide was out far enough that we got down to the green, slimy rocks with little crabs hiding under the rocks. This is a great spot for kids, but the footing is a unstable with the round, wet rocks, so younger toddlers might have a hard time or need a close hand for safety.

I retreated to feed Si, then we all had a quick lunch on the driftwood. Despite the clear sunny day, the beach was cold and windy so we left shortly after for the shelter of the forest. After looking at the trail map below the stairs ascending from the beach, we decided to take the left turn further into the woods. There are a lot of stairs here, and an occasional nettle. The stairs are covered with metal grating to keep them from being too slippery, but its still an area to keep an eye on younger ones. We coaxed T down the trail with temptations of giant spotted slugs (“snake!”) and chasing games.

At the top, we arrived at the camping area. After following some signs, we had the choice to head back towards our parking area via the Roy Trail, follow the Loop Trail far out and around the State Park, or take a side trip on  the Al Emerson Nature Trail. Other than a short period before the beach, Si hadn’t slept much and was very vocal about his displeasure at being stuffed in the carrier. I made a quick choice to do the nature trail and I’m glad we did. Its short and easy, but the trees are old and huge. There are signs with photos on them along the way, but I hadn’t looked at the map long enough to know what they were illustrating. The nettles here were thicker and I am sure summer will only make it worse (or better, if they cut them back).

After completing the nature trail, we followed the Roy Trail back towards the parking area. It runs parallel above the trail we came in on and is very easy. Once we reached the road, we headed down a trail we thought might go to the parking area and found a viewpoint. Justin and T started making animal noises, much to the confusion of some passing hikers who couldn’t see them through the trees. We decided to head back to the road and return the way we came in, since we weren’t sure if the trail met up with the parking area. There is beach access at this northern parking spots, which makes a nice conclusion if your kiddo (or you) have the energy for it. We didn’t, so we headed home. We’ve been trying to cut out T’s afternoon nap which has been mostly unsuccessful. He’s either completely exhausted by 4 pm, or he is a hyperactive beast by 6. Either way, its not fun, and I was hoping he’d sleep on the way home (he didn’t).


Camano Island State Park is a great place to put on your list of hikes to check out with young kids, especially if you are new to getting outdoors with them. There are bathroom facilities and the trails are flexible in their configuration, so you can add or subtract length as needed. Hazards include falling if you let them go off trail, a few longer stair climbs, a rocky beach, and seasonal nettles.

WTA Trail Guide: Camano Island State Park

WA State Parks: Camano Island State Park


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