The Best Places to Go Camping in Washington State

© Purestock / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Doug ONeill
20 July 2021

Pitch up on working Wagyu beef ranches and fourth-generation fruit farms in Washington State’s lake-studded, mountain-backed, river-carved Pacific Northwest hinterland.

With two major mountain ranges – the 7,000ft (2,134m) Olympic Mountains and the even more majestic 14,410ft (4,392m) Cascade Range – there’s no shortage of heart-stopping scenery and nature escapes in the Evergreen State. Let’s not forget the great waterway of the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River, either. Plus, there are state parks – North Cascades National Park and Mount Rainier National Park top the list – that are worth the back-country drive to reach your perfect pitch.

Kettle River Range

Natural Feature
Map View

The gold-rush mountain region of Kettle River Range forms a section of the Pacific Northwest Trail and lacks only one thing: crowds. Their absence makes this chunk of Washington hugely appealing. The 1.5 million-acre (607,028ha) Colville National Forest, for instance, offers hikers and mountain bikers solitude and freedom. Fewer people equals greater chance of wildlife sightings, including caribou, a rarity in the United States.

Bear Rock

Camping
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Colville National Forest.
Colville National Forest. | © Sam Judy / Alamy Stock Photo
Fancy camping at a working Wagyu beef ranch in the Kettle mountains? One that’s an easy 9mi (14.48km) drive to the Kettle River for kayaking or a river float? Look no further than Bear Rock. Its other draw is it’s adjacent to the sprawling Colville National Forest for hiking and mountain biking. If you’re aiming for a more relaxed camping getaway, the historic trail town of Republic is about 12 miles (19.31km) away on low-traffic country roads. Guests can pay extra for a Cowboy Cook dinner.

Spokane County

Architectural Landmark
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Spokane River at Bowl & Pitcher area of Riverside State Park; Spokane, Washington.
© Greg Vaughn / Alamy Stock Photo
With 70-plus lakes (some of them alpine) within a one-hour drive of Spokane City, the surrounding county is popular with outdoorsy folks for boating, fishing, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and relaxed picnicking. You have your pick of half a dozen state parks, including Riverside State Park, which boasts 200,000ft (60,960m) of riverine shoreline.

Hidden Acres Orchards

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Hidden Acres Orchards
Courtesy of Tentrr Signature Site - Hidden Acres Orchards / Expedia
Bed down in your platform-pitched tent on a fourth-generation fruit farm where you can pick (depending on the season) peaches, apples, pears, pumpkins and other produce. Scheduled activities can include a hayrack ride, tire maze and cider-making. There’s also a petting zoo. If your camping getaway coincides with a special celebration, order fresh-baked fruit pies and flower bouquets with a bottle of press cider. Who says romance is dead?

Snoqualmie Valley

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Snoqualmie Valley Trail in East King County passing under summer trees along a former railroad track in Washington State
© Ian Dewar / Alamy Stock Photo
About 96 percent of Snoqualmie River Valley is rural, so expect a rush-free escape in this laidback destination between Seattle and the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Large swathes of the valley are conserved forest, which pairs well for visitors aiming for crowd-free hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing.

Cascade Rose Alpaca Farm Stay

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Courtesy of Tentrr Signature Site - Cascade Rose Alpaca Farm Stay / Expedia
Active types will have plenty of options (kayaking, hiking, inner-tubing) at this woodland campsite. The challenge will be tearing yourself away from the alpacas. Situated near the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, this alpaca farm-cum-campsite offers a private tour during which you can learn about raising the goofy-looking South American camelids, feed them by hand and, hopefully, take a selfie with the babies – known as crias. Birders will be drawn to the nearby wetland. For hikers, an easy option is the old Snoqualmie Railroad Trail.

Grant County

Architectural Landmark
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It may be the nation’s leading potato producing county but Grant offers plenty for non-tater-fans, such as fishing, hiking and camping at the county’s 140 lakes and reservoirs. Then there’s the famous Dry Falls, 3.5mi (5.63km) of sheer cliffs, and the 2,899ft (883.62m) Ulysses S Grant Peak.

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  • The Oasis

    Camping
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    The Oasis
    Courtesy of The Oasis / Tentrr.com
    This barebones campsite (bring your own tent and camping gear) is on an off-grid working farm, located a 20-minute drive from Soap Lake, valued for its healing waters. There are plenty of other nearby lakes (many with boat rentals) for swimming and fishing. Factor in an outing to the popular Dry Falls. Expect a pindrop-quiet camping getaway, as the Oasis adheres to Quiet Time from 8pm-8am.

    Lake Scanewa Get Away

    Camping
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    Lake Scanewa Get Away
    Courtesy of Lake Scanewa Get Away / Tentrr.com
    The spacious backcountry sites at Lake Scanewa Get Away require you to bring your own tent and gear; though, you can purchase firewood onsite. Spend your days lakeside fishing, gawping at the mountain scenery, or stealthily eyeing the eagles and osprey that frequent the area. You’re only minutes from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and an hour to Mount St Helens or Mount Rainer. The hosts are happy to supply canoes, fishing poles and tips on where to hike.

    Lake Chelan

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    The town of Chelan on Lake Chelan in Washington State
    © Dave Blackey / All Canada Photos / Alamy Stock Photo
    Some argue that the 51m (82.07)-long Lake Chelan (the third deepest in the country) is actually a fjord. The namesake town touches the North Cascade Mountain Range, so expect plenty of outdoor activities. Chelan Valley is also a major apple- and grape-growing region, with 30 attendant wineries to visit along the lakeshore. With so much to see, it’s perhaps no surprise that in summer Lake Chelan’s population jumps from 4,000 to 25,000.

    Sky Kist

    Camping
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    Sky Kist
    Courtesy of Sky Kist / Tentrr.com
    At Sky Kist you’ll get smart amenities (Adirondack chairs, grill, camp table, propane heat and memory-foam mattresses) alongside nature-provided extras (staggering mountain views). The site is only 5mi (8.05km) from Lake Chelan for swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking and other paddling adventures. Look to the nearby mountains for land-based hiking and mountain biking diversions. Camp here during harvest season and you can pick your own blueberries, cherries and apples at neighbouring farms.

    This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Kathryn Beeson.

    These recommendations were updated on July 20, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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