Washington State is filled with temperate rainforests, rolling valleys and towering, ice-covered volcanoes, so the kinds of environments that you can experience on a Washington state camping trip are quite varied. Washington camping facilities can be found virtually anywhere, from the shores of an alpine lake to a lush rainforest setting. Considering the many types of climate and weather conditions that you might experience on a Washington hiking trip, it is recommended that you pack insulated, lightweight waterproof camping gear. Another thing that might be needed is a camping permit. This will ultimately depend on where you decide to camp in Washington, with national parks and other protected areas being the most common places that require permits. Be sure to check on this before you venture out for your Washington camping adventure.
North Cascades Camping
Found in the north central part of the state, North Cascades National Park protects some of Washington’s most scenic mountain terrain. Jagged peaks that are capped with hundreds of glaciers figure among the landscape features. This scenic wonderland is only about a three-hour drive from Seattle, and a full range of camping options await for those who wish to stay overnight within the park boundaries. These options include car, RV, boat, and back-country wilderness camping. North Cascades National Park campgrounds that can be accessed by car and/or RV include the Goodell Creek Campground, the Newhalem Creek Campground, the Gorge Lake Campground, the Colonial Creek Campground, and the Hozomeen Campground. For boat campers, Diablo Lake, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan rank among the top spots. Arrival to the lake campsites by way of canoe is common. Backcountry (wilderness) camping can be enjoyed at nearly 140 back-country campsites, provided that campers obtain a free permit at one of the area ranger stations.
Lyman Lakes (Lake Chelan)
Lyman Lake Camping
A few miles west of Lake Chelan is where you will find the Lyman Lakes area. To reach the trailhead that leads to this area, many people boat up Lake Chelan to Holden Village aboard the Lady of the Lake. From the boat landing, it is common to hop on a bus, which climbs the rather steep switchbacks up to Holden Village. At Holden Village, there is a Lutheran summer camp. Other camping options are available for those who don’t have overnight stays at the Lutheran camp in mind. An example is the Lyman Lake Campground, which is next to the lake and features four single campsites. It is a good idea to contact the USDA Forest Service for more detailed info on Lyman Lakes camping.
Mt. Baker Camping
Found to the near west of North Cascades National Park and approximately 30 miles east of the city of Bellingham are the Mt. Baker Wilderness Area and the Mt. Baker National Recreation Area. Another feature of the general region is the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. These protected areas take their names from a lofty peak that rises 10,781 feet into the Pacific Northwest sky. Of all the volcanic mountains in the Cascade Range, only Mount Rainier is more heavily glaciated than Mount Baker, so plenty of alpine glacier vistas abound. For campers, there are established campgrounds with various amenities to choose from in the general region. Campers can also find dispersed campsites in the wilderness with no amenities at all. If a cabin is the preferred accommodation, you might try the Suiattle Guard Station cabin, which is found approximately 26 miles northeast of Darrington in the national forest.
Tuck and Robin Lakes
Tuck and Robin Lakes Camping
Lake and mountain scenery doesn't get much better than what you will find if you trek into the Tuck and Robin Lakes area of Washington. Sure, it is a bit of a hike along a fairly difficult trail to get there, but the views certainly justify the effort. Many visitors to the Tuck and Robin Lakes area take the opportunity to camp at least one night to break it all up and to fully enjoy their time out in nature. Several established campsites are found in the area and offer back-country bliss. Also worth noting are the forest campgrounds that are found along the Cle Elum Lake road before you actually arrive at the Tuck and Robin Lakes trailhead. To get to the Tuck and Robin Lake trailhead, you take Interstate 90 to Exit 80, which is the Roslyn/Salmon La Sac exit. This exit is found approximately 65 miles southeast of Seattle as the crow flies.
Camp Muir Camping
Mountain climbers can find their bliss in the state of Washington. And, since many mountaineering adventures in the Evergreen State last more than a day, camping is often a requirement. An example of a place to camp when mountain climbing in Washington is Camp Muir. Named after the famous naturalist, John Muir, Camp Muir is a high-altitude refuge that can be found at an elevation of 10,080 feet on Mount Rainier. This is the most-used base camp for climbers who are attempting to reach the summit of Mount Rainier, and it features a rather impressive 12-foot by 25-foot one-room shelter that is complemented by a couple of outbuildings and toilets. Camp Muir is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and its shelter is a first-come, first-served facility. In the event that the shelter is full, climbers typically end up pitching their tents on the snow.
Summerland Trail Camping
You don’t have to spend the night at a high-altitude base camp if you want to go camping within the scenic environs of Mt. Rainier National Park. Along the Summerland Trail, for example, trekkers can find campsites. These campsites are situated among trees near the subalpine meadows of Summerland. Permits are required, and since the Summerland Trail is quite popular, the campsites can fill up fast, especially on summer weekends. You can obtain Summerland camping permits and general information on trail conditions at the wilderness information centers, the ranger stations and the visitor centers that are found throughout Mt. Rainier National Park.
Seven Lakes Basin
Seven Lakes Basin Camping
The Olympic Peninsula is not to be overlooked when trying to plan Washington camping adventures. Take the Seven Lakes Basin area, for example. Located within the boundaries of Olympic National Park, this basin boasts lovely alpine lake and mountain vistas, as well as some rather barren, almost lunar-like landscapes. Camping is allowed at designated sites in the Seven Lakes Basin, and approximately half of these sites can be reserved in advance. Permits for camping at Seven Lakes Basin can be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles.
Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach Camping
If staying overnight on or near a beach is what you have in mind for your Washington camping trip, there are options there as well. One such option is Shi Shi Beach. Found north of La Push up towards the northwestern-most point of the Olympic Peninsula, Shi Shi Beach has sites that are located either in the forest or scattered along the beach itself. Permits for camping at Shi Shi Beach can be obtained in person at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles or at the Forks Recreation and Information Center. It can get pretty crowded at Shi Shi Beach during the summer, so warm weather visitors should expect company, especially on the weekends.