Discover Pass

When you purchase an annual Discover Pass, you are buying much more than a parking pass, you are buying a ticket to adventure! Not only does the Discover Pass give you access to Washington’s beautiful state parks, it also provides year-round access to millions of acres of Washington State recreation lands, including:

  • More than 100 developed state parks

  • Over 350 primitive recreation sites across the state, including campgrounds and picnic areas

  • Nearly 700 water access sites

  • More than 80 natural areas

  • Over 30 wildlife areas

  • Nearly 2,000 miles of designated water and land recreation trailers via the land agencies listed above

Let's take a look at each of the opportunities listed above:

State Parks:  A Discover Pass provides access to over one hundred parks across Washington State. While a Discover Pass doesn’t negate camping fees, it does provide you with unlimited day use to parks throughout the park system. They come in very handy when you are camped outside of a state park, but want to enjoy the park during the day. Learn more about Washington State Parks here.

Primitive Recreation Sites: These sites are managed by the Washington DNR (Department of Natural Resources).  The DNR seeks to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to the public throughout Washington State. The agency provides trails and campgrounds in a primitive, natural setting. Most recreation on these lands takes place in the 2.2 million acres of forests that DNR manages as state trust lands. DNR manages 1,100 miles of trails, 143 recreation sites and a wide variety of landscapes across the state.  Depending on where you go, you will find trails for hiking, motorcycles, mountain biking, ATV riding, boating, horseback riding and four wheel drive enthusiasts allowing you to camp and enjoy your favorite form of recreation from one convenient location. Most DNR campgrounds offer a camping experience similar to national forest campgrounds offering a designated space with a picnic table and fire ring. Some DNR campgrounds are even equipped with a group shelter, potable water and accessorized to support designated trail users. (i.e. corrals for horse users, loading ramps for ATV users). As with most national forest service campgrounds, pack it in - pack it out applies regarding your trash.

Learn more about DNR Recreation sites here

Water Access Sites: WDFW (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) maintains Water Access Sites throughout Washington State offering boaters and bank fisherman access to lakes and waterways. This link will allow you to search for any water access points under WDFW jurisdiction. You can search by site name, body of water or county. By clicking on one of the sites listed from your search you will be provided with the following information: location (complete with coordinates and driving instructions), facilities (restrooms, boat ramps, docks, ADA access, etc), contact info and most importantly, if camping is permitted. Quite often there is even a picture of the access site.

Natural Areas: Washington DNR manages Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resource Conservation Areas to conserve and restore special state-managed lands.

Natural Area Preserves protect the finest remaining examples of many ecological communities in the state including rare plant and animal habitats. The system of preserves represents a legacy for future generations. The preserves presently include more than 38,474 acres in 56 sites throughout the state. The preserves offer hiking and opportunities to view wildlife.

Natural Resource Conservation Areas protect exceptional examples of native ecosystems, habitat for endangered, threatened and sensitive plants along with animals and scenic landscapes. The areas are appropriate for environmental education and low-impact public use where they do not impair the protected features. Conservation areas include coastal and high elevation forests, alpine lakes, wetlands, scenic vistas, nesting birds of prey, rocky headlands and more. Conservation areas also protect geologic, cultural, historical, and archeological sites. Currently more than 119,196 acres are conserved in 36 conservation areas.

Wildlife areas:  Washington’s 33 Wildlife Areas provide habitat for fish and wildlife as well as land for outdoor recreation. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people visit these areas to camp, hike, fish and enjoy other outdoor activities compatible with fish and wildlife stewardship. These activities, in turn, support local economies and contribute to Washington’s wildlife-related recreation industry. To find a wildlife area click here. At the bottom of the page you will come across the "Find a Wildlife Area" box where you can search for a wildlife area by name, county or region. If camping is not specifically listed at the wildlife area you plan to visit, contact the area manager. Contact information is listed in the left hand margin.

Your purchase of a Discover Pass not only provides you with access to millions of acres of recreation opportunities, but you are also directly supporting the preservation of public lands.


Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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