Dosewallips State Park
306996 Highway 101 Brinnon, WA 98320
Summer Day Use: 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Winter Day Use 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
camping, outdoor-adventures, seasonal-activities, road-trip, hike
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A Washington State Park that offers wildlife spotting, shoreline view and hiking opportunities in one!
Our family has visited Dosewallips (pronounced doh-si-wall-ips) State Park for years now and it feels like the perfect Pacific Northwest experience. We typically stay in one of the single-room basic cabins for a couple of nights, but the park would be fun even as a day trip along the east side of the Olympic Peninsula/Hood Canal area. You can travel around the base of the Canal through Olympia, or take the Bainbridge or Kingston/Edmonds ferry for more adventure.
Part of what brings us back year after year is the wildlife that flock (literally) to the area in the fall - spawning salmon reach their final destination in the river adjacent to the campground and make redds (nests) for their eggs in easy view of the river shoreline. Elk herds, including sweet calves with their mothers, make their way through the meadows (watch out for droppings!). This year we also saw a nest with 2 adult bald eagles and their 5 juveniles - watching them learn to hunt and fish was spectacular and I could have spent much more time there.
A short trail (roughly 0.5 mi RT) takes you from the campground (near cabins 6-10) via a pedestrian walkway over Highway 101 to the "beach." Most of the trail would be friendly to rugged strollers. This isn't a spot for building sandcastles so much as playing along a nice gravel path on the way to an awesome lookout where you can see shoreline for miles. You'll also pass a huge meadow where elk and geese often hang out.
The Steam Donkey trail lies on the opposite side of the campground near the day-use parking (additional limited parking is available on the east side of Highway 101). It's technically a 3.5 mi loop, but there are multiple places where you can cut the trail short if little legs are too tired. Look for trailside mushrooms and bridges to cross with plenty of the green moss characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. The trail can get muddy, so pack boots and rain pants just in case.
You'll need a Discover Pass, which is $10/day or $30 annually (if your visit will take you through several state parks or multiple days, it's worth it; you don't need a pass if you are a registered camper). They are available online or at the ranger station when it's open. If you visit during the fall like we do, remember to bring warm layers. It can be quite chilly, especially early in the morning.
For a meal after your fun, stop by the Halfway House in Brinnon. Their breakfast is always a favorite of ours during non-pandemic times (they do offer takeout) and we loved the white chocolate macadamia cookies on a recent trip.