Editor’s note: This week, we continue a brief four-week excursion to some popular campgrounds (and, of course, all are popular these days). Camping has boomed in recent years, particularly since COVID-19 eliminated many vacation options. This series will, hopefully, provide encouragement to get on the road and enjoy life outdoors – whether you’re pitching a tent or “glamping” in a luxurious motor home.
This series began last week with a look at Cape Disappointment State Park, just a few minutes from Ilwaco on the Washington coast. This week’s outing features Maryhill State Park on the Columbia River near Goldendale; following weeks will look at Alder Lake Campground, operated by Tacoma Power near Eatonville; and Grayland State Park, just a bit south of Westport.
These four sites were visited in recent months by the author, his wife and two dogs. The foursome aren’t exactly “roughing it” in their travel trailer.
With cliffs of columnar basalt serving as a backdrop and a pleasant stretch of the Columbia River out front, Maryhill State Park provides a scenic spot for campers and other adventurers.
While the natural beauty of the southern portion of Klickitat County is the primary calling card, visitors cannot ignore the significant history of the area and easy access to nearby destinations.
The wide-open park allows little in the way of personal privacy, but the grassy expanse provides opportunities for casual strolls or a place for rambunctious kids to burn off some of their endless energy. There’s easy access to the river and places to safely splash around. The Columbia is a big draw for the fishing crowd and there’s adequate boat-launching facilities. The waters are mostly calm, essentially a reservoir between John Day Dam not too many miles upstream and The Dalles Dam a bit downstream.
One reminder for anyone unfamiliar with the Columbia River Gorge: it’s windy much of the time. Pop-up tents can become tumbling objects in the Gorge.
A second reminder is that Maryhill sits near railroad tracks. The chugging of the trains and the roar of the whistles is calming to some; to others, not so much.
THE PARK, BY THE NUMBERS
Maryhill State Park is relatively small, covering 89 acres, but boasts 4,700 feet of Columbia River shoreline.
There are 50 full-hookup campsites, 20 standard campsites and even a couple “primitive” sites. The Maryhill bonus is that most have views of the river; many are just steps from the riverbank.
From the park it’s about a 20-minute drive north to Goldendale or 20-minute drive west (after crossing the river) to the Oregon city of The Dalles. Taking the Sam Hill bridge across the river lands travelers in Biggs Junction, a rest-and-refuel stop for long-haul truckers (really, anyone traveling Interstate 84).
PLENTY TO DO NEARBY
Without burning too much gasoline, Maryhill campers can reach a few must-see attractions. Here’s just a sampling.
Just a mile uphill from the park is the full-scale replica of Stonehenge, built by the remarkable Sam Hill and dedicated in 1918.
Hill built the monument to honor local soldiers killed during World War II. It’s open to the public and there’s no admission fee. More at: www.maryhillmuseum.org/outside/stonehenge-memorial.
Not too far away is Maryhill Museum that – despite its remote location – houses an art collection that attracts visitors from all over the world. It, too, was developed by Sam Hill, an entrepreneur who shaped the destiny of the region. More at: maryhillmuseum.org.
Perhaps a half-hour from the state park is the Goldendale Observatory, a stargazer’s delight (www.goldendaleobservatory.com). Traveling about 20 miles west of the park lands visitors at Columbia Hills Historical State Park, home to hiking, climbing and seasonal guided walks (by park rangers).
More at: www.parks.wa.gov/489/Columbia-Hills.
Also in the immediate vicinity is the popular Maryhill Winery (not connected to the museum).