Best Places for Camping in Washington State
by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)
Whether you’re going in your RV or camping old-school, my favorite spots are at Mount Rainier and in the San Juans... but I have more on this list of my fave places. You can make reservations online for these favorite family vacation spots.
When I was a kid, we used to go camping all the time because it was cheap and it was fun. I don't camp anymore because my hubster dislikes it, but I would go if I could find someone to help me pitch the tent... or if someone wanted to loan me their caravan.
Families in Washington State are spoiled because they have so many options for affordable family vacations. When you keep recreation close to home, you avoid all the Mickey-Mouse gimmicky souvenir shops, the cost of airfare, and the boredom of sitting in airports. Washington State camping is as good as it gets, so find a campsite in the San Juans or Mount Rainier.
Mount Rainier Campgrounds
There are around 2 million visitors to Mount Rainier every year. People come from faraway places like Asia and Europe, spending big bucks to fly into our state, but Washingtonians can get to Mount Rainier National Park in a few hours. There are lots of fun things for adults as well as for kids at Mount Rainier. Both Ohanapecosh and Cougar Rock campgrounds take online reservations… and they are my two favorite campgrounds.
Ohanapecosh Campground at Mount Rainier:
- Open late May to early October
- Southeast corner of the park - drier and sunnier
If you’re coming to Seattle to see your grandkids, you should consider taking them to Ohanapecosh. Of course, if you’re too old and creaky for camping, you can always visit Ohanapecosh during the day and sleep at Paradise Lodge or the Lodge at Longmire. (Technically Longmire is called National Park Inn, but it has always been called “Longmire” by older locals.) And, Longmire is open year round for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking.
Ohanapecosh campground is in the middle of an old growth forest with a roaring river in a chasm below. There are always plenty of kids available for acting out imaginary pioneer or Indian scenarios. (If you click on the photo of the gorge with the waterfall, you will see some people from the Ohanapecosh campground who have hiked down to the river. And, boy oh boy... that river is cold. It comes straight off the glacier.)
- For adults, Ohanapecosh is a space for spiritual communing.
- For children, it’s a big playground with pinecones and campfires for roasting marshmallows.
Cougar Rock Campground at Mount Rainier:
- Open late May to early October
- Southwest corner of the park
This campground has an in-camp amphitheater where fun classes are given by kid-friendly park rangers. Sometimes "Ranger Talks" teach kids to “hug a tree” if they wander off into the woods. And, that’s good advice because that means the children won’t go far. There is a steep, but spectacular, hike from the camp to Comet Falls. Cougar Rock is great for kids, but Ohanapecosh often fills up first, so I would keep Cougar Rock as my second choice. I've also camped at White River and it's not bad either.
Here’s the link: Mount Rainier camping and basic information. Reservations are recommended for campsites. See RV length restrictions at bottom of page. (article continues...)
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