Nicknamed the “Chinook State”, Washington is a gorgeous destination for campers in America’s Pacific Northwest. Given its location above Oregon on the West Coast, temperatures typically stay above freezing closest to the Pacific Ocean, so enough campgrounds remain open year-round to accommodate the more adventurous travelers. Though spring, summer and fall are the top seasons for RV-goers and tent pitchers.
Camping near Seattle, Washington is actually a little more difficult than visitors might suspect. Though you can still find numerous campgrounds suitable for tents and RVs within a reasonable driving distance to the city center. Seattle proper is a series of seven hills divided into urban districts and sprawling suburbs. While Washington State is home …
Top Washington Campgrounds by City
Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Olympia are the largest cities by population and are home to an abundant amount of campgrounds. And with a stunning coastline, home to numerous cool beach towns, along with high peaks like Mount Rainier, there’s something for every kind of camper. Consider adding one of these top campgrounds to your itinerary, they are destinations in and of themselves.
Where To Go Camping in Washington
Washington is a sweet spot to go hiking and camping because of its lush greenery, strong park system, and outdoor-friendly lifestyle. There’s something for every type of camper here, from secluded tent camping in its eight national forests to a glamorous site to park your travel trailer near one of its bustling cities.
Travelers here shouldn’t be scared of the Pacific Northwest raining on their parade; in terms of annual rainfall, Washington is actually in the middle of all US states.
Best Times to Go Camping in Washington
Washington is divided into two distinct sections: east and west. Eastern Washington is quite different from the idea of the state most people have. The eastern side actually has some deserts and tends to be drier and get into the 80s and 90s during the summertime. Whereas the western portion of the state has the most comfortable summer weather, especially in areas on the water.
In the fall, all of Washington is fair game, but the western side is still more popular. The moderate temperatures are inviting, making for pleasant hiking and camping. While known as the “Evergreen State”, Washington actually gets a good showing of fall colors, and places like Mount Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula are some of the most amazing places to see them.
Spring operates in a similar manner to fall, with the entirety of the state being fairly comfortable. This can be a terrific time of year to get in longer hikes, though the highest points in the state will still have snow. Once again, western Washington is a delightful destination in the spring for its mild year-round temperatures.
Winters here tend to be dark, cold, and damp. While you can enjoy the lack of crowds in the off-season, December through March isn’t really the ideal time to go camping here. For snowsports lovers, Washington has several great winter destinations, but the weather isn’t conducive to camping unless you have the proper gear and don’t mind the bone-chilling, damp cold.
National Park Service Sites in Washington
Washington state has 17 National Park Service sites (NPS), though only five of them offer camping. NPS sites here are mainly historical, with several national historic parks, trails, and sites. Still, the Evergreen State makes up for its lack of quantity with quality.
The parks here are all spectacular places to get outdoors. For those looking to get away from it all, North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited spots in the NPS system.
- Ebby’s Landing National Historical Reserve (campgrounds run by Fort Ebey State Park,
- Rhododendron Park, and Fort Casey State Park)
- Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
- Mount Rainier National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Olympic National Park
National Forests in Washington
As one might expect, there are several national forests in Washington, eight total here, though three of them cross into neighboring states. National forests make up the majority of all federal land in the state (more on that in a moment) and account for more than nine million acres.
- Colville National Forest
- Gifford Pinchot National Forest
- Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
- Olympic National Forest
- Okanogan & Wenatchee National Forests (formerly separate forests, now managed as one)
- Idaho Panhandle National Forest (small extension into eastern Washington)
- Kaniksu National Forest (shared with Idaho and Montana)
- Umatilla National Forest (shared with northeast Oregon)
Best Free Camping in Washington
Unlike many states in the western portion of the US, Washington has very little land run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In fact, the BLM manages just 3.5% of all of Washington’s public land. However, there is still plenty of public land to enjoy. 29% of the Evergreen State is federal land, with the US Forest Service managing the significant majority of it at 76%.
The most popular sites for free camping in Washington are all in national forests. These include Forest Road 29 near Sappho, Campbell Tree Grove Campground in the Olympic National Forest, and the Cowlitz Wildlife Area in southwest Washington.
Washington State and Public Parks
While there aren’t many NPS sites that offer camping in Washington, it’s more than made up for by the state parks. There are 124 state parks here and 93 offer camping. While any of these are worth your time, these 10 are some of the best.
- Deception Pass State Park
- Lake Wenatchee State Park
- Millersylvania State Park
- Palouse Falls State Park
- Ginkgo Petrified Forest State park
- Birch Bay State Park
- Rasar State Park
- Camano Island State Park
- Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park
- Twanoh State Park
RV Resorts and Unique Stays
Washington sees many outdoor-focused travelers and has the glamping and RV resorts to prove it. While it’s easy to get away from it all here and enjoy the ruggedness of the Pacific Northwest, those looking for something more focused on amenities will not be disappointed. Here are six of the best comfort-oriented stays in the Evergreen State.
- Smokiam RV Resort
- BaseGlamp ReVivify: Eastern Cascades
- Cascades RV Resort
- La Conner RV & Camping Resort
- Harmony Lakeside RV & Cabins Resort
- Skamania Lodge
The Pacific Northwest has long been a popular outdoor destination, especially when the weather is warm. Washington is a place many go to enjoy moderately cool summers and terrific hiking, but don’t let the crowds dissuade you from visiting. Every minute in the Evergreen State is time well spent.