Step into 2021 with the First Day Hike

— Created December 30, 2020 by Kacie Jo Voeller

By Kacie Jo Voeller

            Start the new year off on the right foot with the First Day Hike on New Year’s Day, which is a free day at Washington’s state parks. The Deception Pass Park Foundation will offer a number of self-guided hiking and other options throughout Deception Pass State Park, including a scavenger hunt and Junior Ranger activities. 

Elizabeth Bentz, AmeriCorps interpretive naturalist at Deception Pass State Park, said while the event is usually a group hike, in light of safety concerns due to COVID-19, this year self-guided options focused on allowing hikers to social distance will be incorporated. To begin an adventure, park visitors can stop by the East Cranberry Lake parking area to pick up materials between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday.

“We chose things that would spread people out throughout the park but still give them something more than just the hikes we have at the park that they could do on their own,” she said.

Bentz said the park will also be introducing the First Day Hike photo contest. To enter, participants can post a picture at the park on Facebook with the hashtag #HikingDeception2021. Bentz said the winners will be randomly selected for prizes provided by The Lake Store. She said the event’s organizers wanted to include the photo sharing in an effort to allow people to connect, even without being able to gather for a large, in-person group hike.

“We love when people share their time that they spent at the park,” she said.

Bentz said she felt it was important for the First Day Hike tradition to happen in 2021 because the event has been growing in popularity in recent years and will allow people a chance to get out of the house for a safe excursion.

“We wanted to continue it, that way people know that although it has been a crazy year, we are still thinking of them,” she said. “And we want them to be able to get out in nature and explore and have fun, just so long as they do it in a safe way.”

The event will focus on safety, with reminders to social distance and other precautions taken, Bentz said. The hike will also spread people throughout the area, with activities for both the Fidalgo and Whidbey Island side of the park. Visitors can visit Cranberry Lake, West Beach, or explore interpretive hikes via the Sand Dunes Interpretive Trail or take a walk through the trees of the Upland Forest Trail. 

            “We were trying to do a little bit of everything for people,” she said. “With that, we have the Junior Ranger Book, which can be for all ages but it is generally for ages 4 to 12, and then we have different options like our scavenger hunt, with easy, medium and hard versions so people of all ages can do that as well as any of the hikes.”

            For those unable to make it to the park on New Year’s Day, Bentz said there will also be a virtual hike option offered on the Washington State Parks YouTube channel. The video will offer a deeper look into the Cranberry Lake area.

“This year, I chose to do a program on the history of Cranberry Lake and how it has really shaped our park today,” she said. “I think it is a cool program because it is something that not a lot of people may have known about before.” 

Throughout 2020, Bentz said there have been efforts to continue outreach and allow people to learn more about the Deception Pass area. 

“Our interpretive program was able to do some virtual field trips,” she said. “When I first came in, [the interpretive program team] was working on virtual tide pool field trips which I know had a ton of interest from teachers. They were able to show these tide pool field trips to people not only from Whidbey Island but show it to people from all over who had never seen a tide pool before as well.”

            Bentz said the Deception Pass Park Foundation looks forward to being able to welcome visitors to the park for the First Day Hike festivities.

“Everybody who has been working on the event has been really excited that we are able to offer something because it looks like people have really been wanting a way to get outdoors and find events happening near them,” she said.

For more information on the First Day Hike, visit Prior to visiting the park, it is recommended to refer to the updated COVID Safety Guidelines, which can be found at