I am a very proud Michigander currently living in Seattle where I’m very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to opt outside and experience everything wonderful, free and beautiful that is Washington state! While it’s mostly is about swimming for me, as I venture into territory, a new journey and explore backcountry hike-in swimming, I’m finding the opportunities available within the local area are limitless! While I wouldn’t consider myself an avid hiker yet, I do have an affinity for tents as well as the water, so you know…. put two and two together and Wandering Washington is born!
The Islands, Peninsulas & Coast Regions – Pacific Coast & San Juan Islands
- Doe Bay at Orcas Island: Soaking tubs, sauna, pristine protected bay, need I say more?! The soaking tubs and sauna are absolutely 100% worth it (fee for use, clothing optional). The bay is beautiful, cold, but generally protected from the elements. Colder by shore due to the influx of water from streams.
- Garrison Bay at San Juan Island: Protected cove with sea life, be careful of oyster shells and barnacles.
- Ocean Shores: Public beaches abound, be cautious of weather, ocean conditions, low water temperature, unpredictable waves and rip currents.
- Pacific Ocean from Copalis National Wildlife Refuge: Many areas are native owned land in this area, always ask permission, show respect and don’t trespass. If you don’t know, don’t go.
- Pacific Ocean at Kalaloch Lodge: A great place to get a dip and go for a swim. Low tide meant my mom could walk out with me. Stick close to shore, watch for rips and be aware the incoming tidal streams make the water colder than average. Stay overnight at the lodge and enjoy the surrounding beaches and trails too!
The Islands, Peninsulas & Coast Regions – Port Angeles/Townsend Areas & Heading North
- Crescent Bay at Salt Creek Recreation Area: The bay is unpredictable with conditions, be cautious, know the tide table and weather. Salt Creek Recreation Area is a fee for use area, Crescent Beach is privately owned and is $8/day payable at the camp office.
- Dungeness Spit at Dungeness Wildlife Refuge: Long hike on sand out to the lighthouse. Know the tide table before you go, be cautions of water temperature, weather, and challenging currents. Fee for use area.
- Fort Flagler Historical State Park: Swimming along the NW portion of the park, you can expect strong currents and variable conditions depending on wind direction. There is lots of parking available, restroom facilities close by, and a great view of Admiralty Inlet.
- Fort Worden Historical State Park: Located in Port Townsend, you can swim on the unprotected North side of the park where you can expect extremely strong currents, various conditions, and reduced visibility with waves. You can also swim on the East side, which is a bit more sheltered with soft sand, better visibility, and currents not as strong. Good walking area for spectators.
- Hurricane Ridge via Hurricane Hill (hike only – no water): Nice hike you can do with regular tennis shoes. Bring water, not a lot of shade past the first set of trees. Great overlook at the ridge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with good hiking beyond the main tourist viewpoint. National park pass or day fee required.
- Lake Crescent: Two main swim-from points, East Beach or Lake Crescent Lodge. Beautiful crystal clear water, be cautious of low water temperatures.
- Scenic Beach State Park: Beautiful park in Seabeck, WA with camping, walking, hiking, volleyball, swimming and activities for the family. State park pass or day use fee required. Know tide tables before you go.
Metro Seattle – Seattle & Suburbs
- Alki Beach, Constellation Park & Anchor Point: All in West Seattle, area offers exceptional swimming with accessible public beaches and places to eat.
- Golden Gardens: Great location for swimming, hiking and sailing. A little more remote during the winter months, not many ob-beach restaurant options.
- Houghton Beach & Juanita Beach on Lake Washington, Kirkland: Nice small beaches popular for triathletes. Warm in summer, be wary of boat traffic.
- Idylwood Park on Lake Sammamish: Great park to swim from, parking isn’t great during the summer unless you come early. Has a 50m swim lap course right in park. Be wary of boat traffic and know park swimming regulations.
- Lake Meridian & Area Lakes: Popular for the Friday Night Swim series, Lake Meridian is a great lake with large open area playground for the family. Boat traffic is permitted, but there are several other smaller lakes for swimming in the Kent/Auburn area with parks that do not permit motorized craft.
- Madison Park on Lake Washington: Great park with lots of shops in town and places to eat. Beautiful clear water with great routes to neighborhood parks, be wary of boat traffic, busy and warm in the summer.
- Mercer Island: Several parks to swim from, most not too busy. Warm in the summer, be wary of boat traffic.
- Owens Beach at Point Defiance Park – Tacoma: Great swim location with lots of starfish, marine life, and opportunities for hiking. Beware of strong currents.
- Penrose Point State Park: This are is recommended to swim at higher tides as it can be challenging at low tide with the bay, but a great surprise seeing Mount Rainier around the tip of Penrose Point. Overall sheltered and warmer compared to the rest of the sounds, bring water shoes.
- Pine & Beaver Lakes in Sammaish/Issaquah: No motorized craft permitted, smaller lakes. Pine lake very clear with nice park, Beaver lake a little darker in color, but also with good park for family.
- Seward Park on Lake Washington: Great place to swim around Seward Peninsula, be wary of boat traffic.
- Vashon Island: One of my favorite spots, several beaches bursting with marine life and small protected coves. Know the beaches before you go as some are privately owned or community owned. Be aware of strong currents, especially around Point Robinson Lighthouse.
Metro Seattle – Snoqualmie Pass Area
- Gold Creek Pond – Did Not Swim: This appears to be an idyllic place to swim, clear waters and an inviting background. However, upon further research, this was an old gravel pit for I-90 and may potentially still contain some hazardous material from the highway construction, lime, and mines. As a result, I did not swim and do not recommend swimming in this lake. Gravel pits are always potentially dangerous as you never know when shifting pockets may open up on in the bed.
- Lost Lake: Large lake with first-come first-serve camping. Great swimming and fishing, very secluded. Be cautious of changing weather conditions, opportunities for great hiking.
- Mirror Lake: Beautiful alpine lake via Mirror Lake Trailhead or PCT. Lake is hike-in only, some steep incline, moderately trafficked trail. Be wary of loose rock/sediment, changing mountain conditions, and low water temperatures.
- Rattlesnake Lake: Lake size varies significantly based on water level. Lots of stumps, especially end of summer, but fun to swim around. Great hiking to Rattlesnake Ledge via Cedar Falls Trailhead.
North Cascades & North Central Regions
- Chain Lakes Loop – Mount Baker: This loop has beautiful lakes all along the 7.1-mile hike, my favorites being Arbuthnot Lake, Hayes Lake, and Iceberg Lake. The hike can be hot and the water cold with snow well into summer, be prepared for the intensity of the hike and self-recovery and rewarming after your swim.
- Lake Chelan – Chelan: Several public beaches and parks with lifeguards. Accessible with benefits of shopping and restaurants.
- Lake Chelan – 25 Mile Creek State Park: Remote access point to lake, significantly colder than in Chelan, crystal clear water with mountain water feeding lake. Be cautious of low water temperatures and boat traffic. Day fee required.
- Lake Diablo: Remote yet popular reservoir with milky turquoise hue. Weather conditions can change rapidly. Opportunities for great camping and hiking within the National Park lands. Hike-in or drive-by access lake.
- Lake Minotaur: Remote hike-in alpine lake on a difficult trail with significant elevation gain. Beautiful views with overlook to Lake Theseus. Very rocky terrain in parts and sub-40 degree temps in lake.
- Rainy Lake: Easy accessible alpine lake with paved trail great for families, yet still remote. Low temps in lake with opportunities for hiking on the high trails to Ann Lake, backcountry camping, and access to the PCT.
Northeast & Southeast Regions
- The drive took me through, but a stop was not made!
The Volcanoes & The Gorge Regions
- Coldwater Lake: Remote and within the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, this is a new lake that was formed as a result of the blast on May 18, 1980. Because the lake’s flora and fauna is still recovering, swim entry is limited to designated areas. Enter only where permitted (see website maps for entry points).
Wine Country Region
- Have driven through, but not explored it it’s entirety. I’ll get there!
*** Please note the above is for informational purposes only. All swimming, pool or open water, should be considered at your own risk. Never swim alone, always use a visibility buoy, and have a support vessel if it is a larger body of water. Never swim if you are not comfortable, be aware of natural and man-made hazards in the area, talk to locals and lifeguards prior to entering any body of water. Be aware of water temperature especially in alpine areas, know your limits, pay attention to local weather and conditions. Check with city, state, and other local government officials for applicable swimming rules, regulations, and ordinances. Respect privately owned, community owned, and Native owned land. Pay all use fees as applicable or make sure to have the appropriate permits. Be safe, be knowledgeable. ***
Useful Tide Table Information: