In our family, summer time is all about Washington state camping. Despite our busy summer schedules, we try to make time for at least a few camping trips each summer. And over the years, we’ve come across some of the best camping in Washington state, in our opinion.
We’ve had some wonderful memories camping in Washington state. Some of them are from weekend trips to Deception Pass State Park or a visits to Orcas Island. And other memories are coming across underrated parks, like North Cascades National Park.
No matter what, we love spending time in the outdoors. And we love sharing our favorite places to camp in Washington state with others.
This post was updated on April 21, 2020.
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Basics about Washington state camping
Before going into the best camping in Washington state, it’s good to cover the basics. Families have a lot of options when it comes to camping in Washington. Most family-friendly campsites have potable water. But if you find yourself in a site without drinking water, you can bring along a GRAYL bottle, which has a built in water filter and purifier.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has over 16 million acres of public lands available for camping. Kampgrounds of America (KOA) also has fifteen camping options within the state. Additionally, there’s also Hipcamp, which allows campers to find sites on people’s private property. We haven’t camped at BLM sites, but we have used KOA and the Hipcamp app while camping around the United States.
For the purposes of this post however, I’m only going to focus on camping at national parks and state parks. Camping reservations for national parks can be done at Recreation.gov. For reservations at state parks, visit the Washington state parks website.
Finding the best camping in Washington state for families
As many Washington state families may know, we live in a pretty amazing state. The diversity in climate and geography of the state allows for some wonderful state and national parks.
Most of our explorations have focused on the Western part of the state, mainly because we live in Western Washington. But there are plenty of great camping in Washington along the eastern part of the state as well.
The campgrounds I mention are mainly for car camping, so make sure you have all your car camping essentials. Here are our favorite picks for the best camping in Washington state.
National parks with the best camping in Washington state
Washington state is home to three national parks: Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park. All of these parks are open to visitors, and offer both car-camping and back country camping. Entrance into the national park is included in your camping reservation.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is located in Western Washington, south of Seattle. This is a popular park to visit for Washingtonians, as well as people outside of the state. Mount Rainier is an active volcano. But people can enjoy hiking around the mountain and exploring the trails. There are even some easy Mount Rainier hikes for families with young kids!
There are four main campgrounds at Mount Rainier National Park: Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, White River, and Mowich Lake. Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh are open from late May to late September, while White River is open from late June to late September. Mowich Lake is open from early July to early October. Except for Mowich Lake, individual site fees are $20.
Olympic National Park
Along the Western coast of Washington state is Olympic National Park. The park spans the northwestern peninsula of Washington state, and contains mountains, rainforests, and lakes. The park is open all year.
There are 14 campgrounds at Olympic National Park. For our family, the best camping in Washington state for Olympic National Park are found at Kalaloch Campground, Hoh Campground, and Sol Duc Campground. Site fees at the park range from $15-$22, depending on the campground.
North Cascades National Park
One of our favorite national parks in Washington state is North Cascades National Park. Located in central Washington, this national park has mountains and lakes, as well as family-friendly hikes. We like this park because it’s the least visited national park in Washington state. That means the trails and campgrounds are less crowded!
There are three campgrounds at North Cascades National Park that have individual sites for camping: Newhalem Creek Campground, Gorge Lake Campground, and Colonial Creek Campground. Peak season is from mid-May to mid-September. Site fees range from $16-$40 per night.
State parks with the best camping in Washington state
There are over 100 state parks in Washington state. Not all of them have sites for camping. The majority of the state parks we’ve explored have been in Western Washington state, but we do hope to explore state parks in Eastern Washington in the future.
One day passes to enter a state park is $10, and is usually included in your camping reservations. Alternatively, you can purchase a Discover Pass, which is an annual fee of $30. This grants you entrance into any state park, regardless of whether you have camping reservations.
Moran State Park
This state park is located on Orcas Island, one of the collection of islands in the Puget Sound known as the San Juan Islands. You’ll need to take a ferry to get to this Washington state camping spot, but once on the island, you’ll be rewarded with some wonderful ocean views.
Being on an island means you’re not really at risk of coming across any large animals, and the small towns on the island are fun to explore. There are three main camping areas, centered around Cascade Lake, but there is also a camping area located near Mountain Lake, to the west of Cascade Lake. The highlight of Moran State Park is Mount Constitution, which allows you to see a panoramic view of the San Juan Islands.
Deception Pass State Park
A great option for camping near Seattle, Deception Pass State Park is an easy few hours drive from the city. The state park itself is located on two islands: Whidbey Island on the south and Fidalgo Island on the north.
You can access the park by ferry boat from Mukilteo on the mainland to the town of Clinton on Whidbey Island. Otherwise, you can drive north to Burlington (a much cheaper option!), and then head west on Route 20 to Fidalgo Island. This will take you across the Deception Pass bridge, which offers scenic views of the Puget Sound. The park has campsites on both Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island, and has several miles of beaches.
Cape Disappointment State Park
For those interested in a bit of history, head to Cape Disappointment State Park, located in the southwestern corner of Washington state. Cape Disappointment was where Lewis and Clark spent their final days of their expedition across the American continent.
The state park is located at the point where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, and one of the highlights of the park is their lighthouse. There are campsites available, as well as yurts and cabins. Next to the lighthouse are light-keeper residences that have been converted to vacation houses.
A helpful tip for visitors to Cape Disappointment: bring a windbreaker or a jacket. Even in the summer months, the wind can get pretty strong next to the water, so it’s good to wear layers. I like taking along my Columbia jacket when I go to Cape Disappointment.
Lake Wenatchee State Park
One of the things I enjoy about camping in Washington is the opportunity to experience the tranquility of camping in the mountains. Lake Wenatchee State Park is located within the Cascade Mountain Range, just north of the town of Leavenworth.
There are two camping areas, located near the eastern banks of the lake. There are trails throughout the park that you can hike or ride your bike through. When it comes to the best camping in Washington state, Lake Wenatchee can’t be beat. I loved seeing the sunrise over the mountains reflecting in the clear blue waters of the lake. What a sight!
Manchester State Park
A few years ago, I did my first solo camping trip with my son. We headed over to Manchester State Park on the Kitsap Peninsula for a night, and had a fun time exploring the former fort site turned state park.
The park itself is not that big. It only covers 111 acres and has just 2 miles of hiking trails. There is only one camping area with 35 tent sites and 15 utility sites. But the thing I like about the park is that many of the former military structures are there, including a torpedo warehouse that now serves as a picnic area. Manchester State Park is a great spot for camping near Seattle, and nearby Port Orchard is a nice town to visit for a lunch or breakfast.
Finding the best camping in Washington state for your family
We love exploring as a family the best camping in Washington state. We’re lucky that our state has a fair number of national and state parks available for us to enjoy. It makes camping in Washington so accessible. Not only is it a great excuse to be outdoors, but it also lets us get to know our state better.
If you live in Washington state, or you’re planning a visit to Washington state, consider camping at one of these parks with your family. You’ll get to enjoy the beautiful nature of Washington state!
Have you gone camping in Washington? What are your picks for best camping in Washington state? Share them in the comments below!
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