Deception Pass State Park ushers in a new season of fun

— Created March 23, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

For the first time in its 100 -year history, Deception Pass State Park is hosting a competitive 5K race, a family fun 5K and a 10K scavenger hunt Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.

While the “Swing the Gates” event is technically new this year, the idea for the race is not, it has just been waiting for its debut.

“This event actually has a history before COVID,” explained Corinne Boroff, an Americorps interpretive naturalist at Deception Pass State Park. “It was scheduled to be the third weekend of March in 2020, and then the world shut down.”

During all the COVID shutdowns, when indoor activities were restricted, many people turned to state and national parks for safe, outdoor activities in which to participate. Deception Pass saw an average of about three million visitors each year of the pandemic, so even though parks have been open and busy, Boroff said the timing for this particular event signifies the start of a very special season.

“The reason we’re calling it ‘Swing the Gates’ is because it’s right around the time when the campground is opening, the lake store is opening and so we’re swinging the gates open for the season,” she said. “We felt like the name was fitting, because not only are we opening the park season in general, but this is the beginning of the 100th anniversary season.”

The original plans for Swing the Gates called for a 5K, but as it has drawn closer to coming to fruition, the plans have grown from one running event to three.

“Initially it was going to be one 5K, for the 100th anniversary, a special event,” Boroff said. “Now there are two different 5K events. We’ve broken it into categories. There’s a competitive 5K race for people who really want to run and get a time, but because we are a park and have space, we added the 5K family fun run for those who want to walk or run the course with a dog or a stroller. The competitive run starts at 9 a.m., the family fun run starts at 10 a.m.”

An additional element, the 10K team scavenger hunt, which begins at 9:15 a.m., has proven to be very popular and spots are going fast.

“We are so excited for it,” said Boroff. “Teams of two-to-four people sign up; one person will have a map of the park area, marked with the first location. Teams have to determine how to get to the first location, where they will receive their next challenge, or clue.

“These are mental challenges,” she continued. “You don’t need to study, you use your surroundings, maybe interpretive panels, a landmark or park trails to figure it out. Once a team gives the checkpoint person the correct location, they get the next clue. When teams complete all seven challenges, it’s back to the finish line.”

While the 5K runs use park roads, the 10K scavenger hunt is a little more free form, according to Boroff.

“Both 5Ks are on the same route,” she said. “All three runs begin at the Cranberry Lake parking lot. We’re closing that section of the park down so people will get to run down on the road along the lake and back through. For the 10K, all the check points are set, but it’s up to the teams to determine the best way to get there. The best way may actually be by using a park trail, which are in good shape for the most part. It’s really all about the fun.

“We’ve had people test run the 10K in particular and they have had a blast,” Boroff continued. “It’s a beautiful run through the park and a nice place for the community to come together after a couple of hard years.”

Swing the Gates is the first of 17 special events planned for the park’s 100th anniversary. Boroff said it also marks the beginning of a new phase for the Deception Pass Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization which helps supplement special projects and much more for the state park.

“Being the 100th anniversary, the foundation is starting to move into a new phase of fundraising for a new interpretive center,” she said. “They’re getting the Deception Pass State Park name and the foundation out into the community and making relationships with the community. Our foundation is so great about giving back to the park – they do a lot of background work and provide funding for educational programs, but the foundation hasn’t really taken center stage before, so this is a good introduction for people to everything it does.”

Swing the Gates is also a great way for newcomers to get to know the park a bit better and Boroff said it’s a great event for 5K newbies.

“I think it’s a great first race,” she said. “If someone has never done this before, this is a great route. There’s a little elevation, it’s such a beautiful area, and if you’re not interested in the competitive run there’s a great option. It’s welcoming to so many different types of people and different abilities. It’s a great place to start if you want to try out some distance.”

For those who don’t want to run but would be interested in participating in another way, volunteers are also welcome. Contact Boroff by email at or call 360-675-3767, ext. 231. Registration for any of the events closes at 5 p.m. Friday. Find information, see route maps or register online at