Checking out the view from the interpretive center. Credit: Jennifer Johnson
Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, Vantage
Sometimes you just need a road trip east to escape the gloom of the Puget Sound region. East of sunny Ellensburg, on the banks above the Columbia River, sits a fascinating interpretive center at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. Note that this is not an afternoon outing: This destination is about a three-hour drive from Seattle.
Favorite trails: Take a 3-mile hike on the trails, seeing petrified logs in the ground and experiencing the desert in spring.
Indoor options: I recommend visiting the interpretive center before doing a hike, if possible. Kids can learn all about petrified wood, how it was formed and where it was found in the area. The interpretive center is open Friday–Sunday through mid-May. In summer, the center is open daily. Call 509-856-2290 or check the website for updates.
Logistics: You’ll need a Discover Pass to park here (and at any state park). It’s about three hours away from Seattle, so you might consider staying overnight in the area. There is camping at the state park on the banks of the Columbia River.
Extras: If you still have energy, head back west along the Old Vantage Highway to the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, where you’ll get to see giant wind turbines up close and learn how they work. The center is typically open April 1–Oct. 31; check the website to be certain on the day you want to go.
Any of these hikes will help lift your spirits, work out the wiggles and give everyone a dose of inspiration. Just pack your rain gear, mittens and a warm hat, plus a change of clothes for the car ride home, and you’ll be cozy enough. You’ll have great memories to carry you through until summer when you’ll be able to enjoy more sunny days and trails.
More nature adventures with kids around Puget Sound ...
Editor’s note: This article was originally published a few years ago and was most recently updated in March 2023.