The Best Washington Camping
Three Great Campgrounds
Pitch a tent and build a campfire! We’re thinking about sleeping under the stars. Dreaming about building fires and roasting marshmallows. Some of the best things about camping. One of the other best things about camping is that it won’t break the bank, either. Where else can you sleep on waterfront property for $15 a night?
Of course, you’re probably wondering where to pitch your tent. Choosing a great campground in Washington is kind of like choosing a great Beatles song–there are just too many! I can help you narrow down the greatness just a bit, at least on the campground front. All of my picks are public campgrounds – no KOA on my list. After searching deep in my soul for some of my favorite camping memories in this state, I had a nice little list going. I sampled a handful of camp-loving friends and the list grew longer. The result is below, and I made sure there is truly something on this list for everyone.
What makes a great campground? A special view or setting, a unique experience, spacious campsites with some privacy surrounded by nature, nearby attractions and things to do, and sometimes–just very great memories.
Looking for a more comprehensive guide to Washington camping? I recommend Ron Judd’s Camping Washington : The Best Public Campgrounds for Tents and RVs–Rated and Reviewed published by The Mountaineers Books. Ron is well-versed with RV camping in addition to tents (I am not) and his writing is punctuated with his signature humor.
Need camping gear? The best one-stop shop for all things camping, from cookstoves to sleeping bags, is REI. Looking for campgrounds in Oregon? We reveal our favorite campgrounds on the Oregon Coast right here. We’ve also dished on Washington’s best lakefront campgrounds here.
Enjoy, and happy camping!
Ohanapecosh, Mount Rainier National Park
There are three stunning campgrounds in Mount Rainier National Park, and each is wonderful, beautiful and… popular. Ohanapecosh is usually the least crowded of the three, away from the hustle and bustle of the summer crowds at Paradise and Sunrise. The main reason it tops my list is for its magical old-growth forests and the wild river that runs right through the middle of the campground. Hike the little .5 mile nature loop trail out of the campground through enormous Doug firs and hemlocks to the bubbling waters of the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs. Up the road a bit is the famed Grove of the Patriarchs trail, also an easy, flat loop to see (and hug) some of the biggest trees on earth.
The campground, on the southeast side of Mount Rainier National Park, is closet to popular hikes to Silver Falls and the Grove of the Patriarchs.
The main attraction at Mount Rainier National Park is the mountain itself, a glacier-clad volcano of immense proportions. At 14,411 ft., it dominates the skyline for hundreds of miles. Visitors travel through majestic old-growth forests, past tumbling waterfalls and historic buildings to reach sub-alpine meadows, where world-famous wildflower displays are seen in July and August. Popular activities in the park include sight-seeing, hiking, climbing and camping.
Number of sites: 188, 2 group sites
Cost: $15 a night for a single site
Season: Late May thru early October
Extras: Water and flush toilets
Ohanapecosh campground has an elevation of 1,914 feet. Weather is dry, cool and sunny in the summer with daytime temperatures in the 60 to 80-degree range. Even though the eastern side of the park can be sunnier than other areas, weather can be variable and visitors should come prepared.
Ohanapecosh is convenient to both the Paradise and Sunrise areas. Numerous hiking trails originate both in and nearby the facility, including the Grove of the Patriarchs trail, which leads hikers through stands of old growth forest, and several trails that lead to Silver Falls waterfall.
For visitors who would like to learn more about natural and cultural history, the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center is close by as well.
This large campground has 188 individual sites for RV or tent camping situated among the ancient trees. RVs up to 32 feet. There is drinking water, but no electric hookups. Visitors must use extra caution with food storage, as bear and other animals inhabit the area around the campground. About half the sites can be reserved in advance (recommended) and half are first-come, first-serve.
Getting There: Year-round access to the park is via SR 706 to the Nisqually Entrance in the southwest corner of the park. The road from the entrance to Longmire remains open throughout winter except during extreme weather. The road from Longmire to Paradise closes nightly from November 1 through winter. It reopens the following morning dependent upon snow removal. Even though roads will be open, some facilities may not be available.
Directions to the Southwest Entrance of the park from Seattle: South on I-5 to SR 512 (exit 127). East on SR 512 to SR 7. South on SR 7 to SR 706 in Elbe. East on SR 706 through Ashford to the Nisqually Entrance.
Contacts: Recreation.gov: www.recreation.gov Information Number: 360-569-2211 x6627
Nason Creek, Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Wenatchee
Number of sites: 73 sites, 2 groups sites
Cost: $17 a night for a single site
Season: Late June thru early October
Extras: Water and flush toilets
Getting There: From Leavenworth, WA head southwest on US-2 toward 9th street and go about 15 miles. Turn right onto WA-207 N for 3.4 miles and the campground will be on the left hand side.
Contacts: US Forest Service: www.fs.usda.gov Information Number: (509)763-7020
Moran State Park, Orcas Island, San Juan Islands
Number of sites: 166 sites
Cost: $12-$25 a night for a single site
Season: Late May thru early September
Extras: Water and Flush Toilets, no showers
Getting There: From the Orcas Island Ferry Terminal: follow Orcas Road for 9 miles to Eastsound Village. Continue driving through town and after approximately 1 more mile take a right onto Olga road. The entrance to Moran State Park will be 3 miles ahead.
Contacts: Washington State Parks: www.washington.goingtocamp.com Information Number: 1-888-226-7688