One week from today, the day after Thanksgiving, you just might awaken to find yourself stiff, overstuffed and stir crazy. A change of scenery and a little outdoor exercise might freshen up that fading feeling of holiday gratitude.
Nov. 29 will be a free-admission day at all Washington state parks. Vehicle entry at those parks normally requires a Discover Pass, which costs $10 for one day or $30 for an annual pass. The latter in particular seems like a terrific bargain — $30 for admission to all state parks, all year long — but if you’re eager to sample a state park for free, Nov. 29 is your chance.
Here are a few recommendations for state park visits that will draw you outside of Clark County (where Battle Ground Lake is the only substantial state park), but not so far outside that you can’t make the trip in a day.
Willapa Hills State Park Trail and Rainbow Falls State Park
Bike-path explorers who thought they’d exhausted all the best byways in the region — from our own Salmon Creek and Burnt Bridge Creek greenway trails, all the way out to the epic Banks-Vernonia Trail, beyond Hillsboro, Ore. — simply must check out the lesser known Willapa Hills State Park Trail.
It’s a charming, rustic path that starts just west of Interstate 5 at Exit 77 and runs approximately 15 miles to Rainbow Falls State Park. New pavement gives way after the first few miles to compacted gravel, but that’s really no problem. The whole rail-to-trail bike path is pleasingly flat and easy. Farm fields, deep forests, tiny villages and a couple of impressive pedestrian bridges over the Chehalis River provide lots of diverse scenery.