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Originally published May 24, 2014 at 7:06 PM | Page modified May 30, 2014 at 6:32 PM

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Five favorite Northwest campgrounds

A look at some standout spots to pitch a tent or take the RV in parks and national forests of Western Washington and Oregon.


Seattle Times travel staff

If you go

Finding campgrounds

There’s an abundance of drive-to (or “front country”) campgrounds to choose from in Washington and Oregon, both on public and private lands.

Here’s how to start finding them:

National parks: Washington’s three large national parks (Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades) all have excellent campgrounds. See the federal government’s recreation.gov website to find them. You can also go to individual park websites at nps.gov.

National forests: Many campgrounds are scattered through Washington’s woods on national forestland, on both sides of the Cascades, including the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Olympic National Forest and Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Get info at recreation.gov or search for the home page of the national forest.

State parks: Washington and Oregon state parks have some of the most scenic campgrounds, scattered throughout both states. See parks.wa.gov and oregonstateparks.org.

County parks: Don’t forget county parks. Close to home, for example, King County offers camping in Tolt MacDonald park (40 minutes from downtown Seattle) for tents and RVs. Or stay in a park yurt or even a converted former shipping container. kingcounty.gov/recreation/parks/rentals/camping.aspx

Private campgrounds: There are hundreds of private RV parks in the Northwest. The Good Sam RV club has extensive listings; goodsamclub.com/travel/campgroundsandrvparks/,

Traveler's tips

• Study campground maps online so you can pick the right site to reserve — or make a beeline for it when you arrive (if it’s at a campground where reservations can’t be made).

• The guidebook “Camping Washington” by The Seattle Times’ own Ron Judd reviews public campgrounds for tent and RV campers throughout the state (Mountaineers Books).

• Want to go north? British Columbia has extensive campgrounds in its provincial parks; see env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks

• Going east? For Idaho parks, see parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/

Campgrounds

What’s your favorite?

Did we miss your favorite camping spot? Tell us about it, and we’ll publish some reader favorites. Add a comment to this story online at seattletimes.com/travel or email travel@seattletimes.com.

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It’s almost summertime, and that means it’s camping time.

Here are five of our favorite vehicle-accessible campgrounds around Washington and Oregon, places where you can stay relatively cheaply amid nature’s beauty.

1. CAPE DISAPPOINTMENT

This is a something-for-everyone campground in Cape Disappointment State Park at Washington’s southwest tip. It’s by a long, sandy beach, ideal for strolling and sunset-watching where the Pacific waves thunder in. Walking trails wind through the woods and up bluffs, leading to the park’s two lighthouses and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. A decadent touch I loved: A little general store will deliver tasty wood-fired pizza to your campsite.

The campground has more than 200 sites. Don’t have a tent? Rent a yurt or a camping cabin at the park. Rolling in the RV? Some sites have full hookups. Traveling by bike or hiking? Go for one of the walk-in campsites in the woods. parks.wa.gov/486/Cape-Disappointment

— Kristin Jackson

2. FORT STEVENS

While I love Cape Disappointment, this 4,200-acre Oregon state park just a gull’s swoop south across the Columbia River bar is hard to beat for diversity of activities. With almost 500 wooded campsites, the place absolutely hops with happy campers in midsummer. RVers love it here.

But if you want quiet time, just jump on a bike and tour the nine miles of flat, paved paths leading from the campground through dunes and marshes and out to a river-jetty viewing tower. Along with the usual beachcombing and surf-wading, there’s Coffenbury Lake for swimming. Need more? Head for the historic shipwreck, tour the military museum, or wander the many spooky old coast-artillery gun batteries or the only Civil War-era earthen fort on the West Coast. The fort has blue-and-gray encampments throughout summer, plus the Northwest’s biggest Civil War re-enactment, battles included, every Labor Day weekend. Bored? You’ve no excuse. bit.ly/1isGQgL

— Brian Cantwell

3. MORAN STATE PARK

My fondest memory of Moran is when I was 14 and hitchhiked with my brother, a buddy and our backpacks across Orcas Island to a lakefront campsite on scenic Cascade Lake, where we paddled a makeshift wooden raft, fly-cast for trout (be careful the evening bats don’t take your fly) and awakened at dawn to the burble of wild turkeys. The park is a 5,579-acre treasure of forest and lakes woven with 38 miles of hiking trails and topped out by a breathtaking San Juan Islands view from the top of Mount Constitution. The park’s 151 campsites are spread around Cascade Lake and more-remote Mountain Lake, a mile up the Mount Constitution road. No internal-combustion engines allowed on boats in either lake, so it’s just peaceful and pretty. parks.wa.gov/547/Moran

— Brian Cantwell

4. WHITE RIVER

If you’re a tent camper, as I am, it’s rather depressing to be surrounded by big RVs with everything from satellite TV to air-conditioning.

That’s why I head to the White River campground in Mount Rainier National Park. It draws a lot of tent campers (including Rainier climbers who head out at dawn) rather than RVs, since there are no hookups, no reservations and some of the 112 campsites tucked into the woods are compact. Still, there are plenty of happy campers in small trailers and camper vans, especially if they’ve been able to nab a site facing the tumbling White River.

The campground’s main attraction, beyond its peaceful forest setting, is that it’s the closest campground to Sunrise, a lovely visitor area in the park. It’s a 12-mile drive on a steep road up to Sunrise (the very energetic could hike there from the campground). For a much easier hike from the campground, take the relatively gentle Glacier Basin trail, which skirts the river, with glacier and mountain views. nps.gov/mora

— Kristin Jackson

5. LA WIS WIS

My family discovered La Wis Wis, a Gifford Pinchot National Forest camp, one Fourth of July when nearby Ohanapecosh Campground in Mount Rainier National Park was full up. We’ve made many trips back.

This lovely spot off Highway 12 in Lewis County is where a fishable fork of the Cowlitz meets the Ohanapecosh River to form the main Cowlitz River (“La Wis Wis” is either the name of an Indian princess or a Native term for “rivers running together,” depending on your source). It’s a shady haven of towering old-growth firs with the rushing Cowlitz edging the main campground. The so-called Hatchery Loop (used as a spot to release trout into the river) is a short amble from gorgeous Blue Hole, where the Ohanapecosh meanders through a mini-canyon and a rope swing has been known to be tied to a tree. There’s also a pretty little falls to walk to in this no-frills, 122-site camp where narrow roads limit the size of motor homes. (The Hatchery Loop, temporarily closed because of root rot in its large trees, has space for big RVs.) A nice base from which to visit Mount Rainier. 1.usa.gov/1neDXj6

— Brian Cantwell



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