Already dreaming of that first spring camping trip? According to Sunset Magazine, these are the best places to camp in the state. (And if you need an RV, here’s our website.)
1. Cape Disappointment State Park, Southwest of Ilwaco
The campground launches you into 1,880 pristine acres at the end of the Long Beach Peninsula. Wander 27 miles of beach, or go clamming or fishing. Sites 104 and 105 have great beach access. 360/902-8844; book at parks.wa.gov/reserve.asp
2. Lone Fir Campground, Okanogan National Forest, Northwest of Winthrop
A wooded spot along Early Winters Creek offers a cool base for exploring the northern Methow Valley. On hot days, head to the swimming beach at Pearrygin Lake State Park, near Winthrop. No reservations; 509/996-4003.
3. White River Campground, Mt. Rainier National Park
Keep an eye out for mountain goats near this campground (accessed from the White River entrance) on Mt. Rainier. For wildflowers, hike 3 miles to Glacier Basin or 4.2 miles up, up, up to Summerland via the Wonderland Trail. No reservations; 360/569-2211.
4. Curlew Lake State Park, Northeast of Republic
This 5.5-mile-long lake in the state’s northeastern corner is famous for its trout fishing and swimming. Bring your passport and take a day trip to the historic mining and railroad town of Grand Forks, British Columbia, 27 miles north. Book online at washington.goingtocamp.com; 360/902-8844.
5. Moran State Park, on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands
After you summit 2,400-foot Mt. Constitution or conquer the park’s bike trails, cool off by Cascade Lake at this shaded campground. Skip the long car-ferry lines and walk on with your gear; the Orcas Island Shuttle ($5 one-way; www.orcasislandshuttle.com) runs all summer long. 360/902-8844; book at parks.wa.gov/reserve.asp
The jewel of Washington’s state park system, with 5,252 acres of forests, lakes, and waterfalls. The view from Mt. Constitution is world-class and well worth the trek upward.
6. Penrose Point State Park, Southwest of Purdy
On the Key Peninsula, Penrose is the best of two worlds ― Northwest forest and Puget Sound beach, with a Frisbee-perfect lawn connecting the two. The group campsite near the playfield and beach can sleep up to 50 people. 360/902-8844; book at parks.state.wa.us (group site: 888/226-7688).
7. Salt Creek Recreation Area, West of Port Angeles
Awe-inspiring views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and colorful tidepools at Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary make this a standout. Choose a spot with a view over the strait―we like site 63. clallam.net or 360/928-3441; book by mail (details on clallam.net).
8. Doe Bay Resort, on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands
The best spot at the eclectic, 38-acre Doe Bay Resort with its 27 sites on Orcas Island isn’t a crunchy cabin, one of the yurts, or a Buckminster Fuller–like dome. It’s a simple tent site called Seal Landing: The grassy bluff on the point of Otter Cove has a front seat to sunrise, and it’s just steps from the new soaking tubs, a sauna, and a cafe serving organic, locally sourced food, from scallops to foraged nettles. doebay.com
9. Second Beach, Olympic National Park
Hemmed in by rugged headlands and bookended by natural arches with keyhole views, Olympic National Park’s broad Second Beach—reachable by a quick 0.7-mile hike—is the coast’s crown jewel. Pitch your tent on the sand and unzip to views of seals, bald eagles, and the Quillayute Needles, a half-dozen surf-battered islets. No potable water; nps.gov/olym
10. Bridge Creek Campground, Leavenworth
On the border of the Enchantment Area Wilderness, Bridge Creek Campground’s falling leaves flash from mustard to maroon. www.fs.usda.gov. Make time for the 8-mile round-trip to Colchuck Lake, a turquoise glacial gem set against neon larches and craggy peaks. recreation.gov
Okay, it’s obvious. But that’s the point: Rising to 14,410 feet, a mile and change above everything around it, Rainier is the only mountain in the Cascades that locals call “The Mountain.” (We know it’s a perfect summer day when “The Mountain is out.”) The intrepid climb it; the athletic hike the trails that make a necklace around it; everyone else drives up close to its glacial flanks, rolling wildflower fields, and cliffs to soak in the sensation of feeling very, very small. nps.gov/mora.
11. Deer Park, Olympic National Park
Get a true backcountry feeling without ditching your car. At the meadowed 14 sites of the highest campground in Olympic (at 5,400 feet), you’ll likely be outnumbered by ungulates. The short jaunt up nearby Blue Mountain nets 360° views of jawbone peaks and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And summer stargazing doesn’t get much better. No potable water; vault toilets; no reservations; nps.gov/olym
12. Wilderness Camping, Mt. Rainer National Park
It’s easier than ever to snag an overnight among the lowland forests and sub-alpine areas along the Wonderland Trail in Mt. Rainer National Park, thanks to a new online reservation system. nps.gov/mora
13. Jones Island State Park
Want San Juan Islands beachfront, all to yourself? The two rustic sites on the west side of this 188-acre island are set aside for human- or wind-powered arrivals only, so they’re perfectly quiet (except for the bark of sea lions). And the firepit—on a bluff, with logs for benches—is like a box seat for spectacular sunsets. Open year-round (potable water May–Sep); vault toilets; no reservations; parks.state.wa.us