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Camping in Washington State: What you REALLY want to know!

 Camping in Washington State is an incredible experience!  There are beautiful trees, great weather (although a bit wet sometimes).   It is beautiful! With 70 state parks and 3 national parks, there are so many places to explore!

I’m planning on visiting the state this coming summer, but until that happens, I’ve asked Donna, a fellow camper from Washington State (opens new window) to answer several questions about camping in Washington state.

Feel free to share your favorite camping destinations in Washington state at the bottom of the page.  It’s great to share! 


Lets get started...


1)    Donna, which is YOUR favorite park to go camping in Washington State?  If someone had time to visit only 1 park, which would you recommend?

The best place we have found for camping in Washington State is Deception Pass State Park in Oak Harbor.  It is just so beautiful and has so much to offer. The sites are well spaced.    The view from the bridge going into the park is spectacular with ocean and Mt. Baker on one side and the ocean and San Juan Islands on the other side! There is beach access and lots of hiking.  For more information on Deception Pass please look on my website.


2)    Which two parks for camping in Washington state are the most different from each other?

I guess we could look at this question a couple of ways.  One way would be the terrain.  In southern Washington you can go camping in an area that will remind you of Arizona!  Columbia Hills Campsite in Dallesport, WA is like this.  There is even a sign warning of rattle snakes!  Millersylvania State Park in Olympia, Wa is near a lake and surrounded by tall trees.  All this diversity in one State!

I also thought you might want to look at differences of camping in Washington State from the standpoint of quality.  Not all parks are the same in quality.  For example we weren’t too impressed with Twin Harbors State park in Westport, Wa.  The sites are too close and you loose the feel of being in the outdoors. Just 6 miles down the road is Grayland Beach State park.  The paved roadways snake through the beautiful greenery of the park.  Access to the ocean is clearly marked.  The beach is so expansive you can drive on it.  Camping is a pleasure here!

3)     What activities can you do when camping in Olympic National park?

Olympic National Park is so expansive being over 900,000 acres.    In Olympic National Park  weather conditions can change quickly especially in winter so check with the information center located at the main entrances of the park for road closures or even construction that may block your way.  You can go fishing in many areas but be sure to follow Washington State Fishing guidelines. There are self-guided nature trails, hiking, beach combing, Sol Duc Hot Springs for a hot mineral water soak, cycling, boating, canoeing, kayaking and snow shoeing.  Some activities are seasonal or have fees or regulations.      

4)    If I can't get out for an overnight, where would you recommend going for a day?

At Westhaven State Park in Westport, Wa. you can surf in Half Moon Bay, picnic, bike ride, beach comb and hike the wheel chair accessible path.  We loved this day use park. We recently stopped at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Wa and we pass this park all the time!  It is so cute and even has a rental Hall for parties.  So be sure to stop at your neighborhood park and you may be pleasantly surprised!

5)    Are there any parks or places that you would recommend for canoeing or kayaking? 

I know I have already mentioned Deception Pass State Park in Oak Harbor but this is a location I have first hand experience with friends who have kayaked here.  They really enjoyed it.  If you are careful not to go anywhere near the bridge due to dangerous currents and enter on West Beach you will enjoy the water.  Be sure to check with the park office before heading out for further instructions and precautions.  There are many power boats in this area too.

6)      What is the weather like in Washington state?  When is the best time to visit?

If you are tent camping and not too fond of cold weather I would book camping starting in June and as late as mid September.  Those four months you will have the best weather, but July and August are the warmest months. Western Washington State is a rain forest area so be sure to take rain gear always!  I have camped in May but we were rather cold sitting at night, even with the campfire.

7)    Do you have any secret or less known locations that you would recommend?

I wouldn’t just pick one park, but some of the best locations are day use parks.  They often have the best picnic locations and views.  Many have open areas for softball, frisbee, volleyball or whatever you wish!  One we visited was Doug’s Beach near Lyle, Wa with access to the Columbia River.  It has the smallest beach, only 15 - 20 ft plenty of room to get into the river to wind surf!  So be sure to use these day use parks!  Don’t forget to get your Discovery pass.

8)    What is a Discovery Pass?

Discovery Pass is for day use in all Washington State Parks. The pass is only $30.00 a year (or $10 for one day) and this money goes toward keeping our parks open and available for our enjoyment! It is money well spent.  If you are not camping you must have this pass to use the parks.  (When camping you are able to access the park as part of your payment for camping.)  You can pay for the pass at any park.

9)    Olympic National park is best for what kind of camping?

Primitive camping - which means you have no electricity, water, toilets or showers.  You have to bring everything you need with you!  There are many areas you can experience this type of camping at ONP.  Elwha, Graves Creek, North Fork and Queets campsites are all considered primitive campsites (I do believe they have pit toilets).  If this is the type of camping you like, this is the park for you.

10)  Any last advice for camping in Washington State?

Remember to take time to truly enjoy the view and get in rhythm with the slow pace of being in the great outdoors!  You can rejuvenate by looking across the ocean from a cliff, sitting by the campfire and watching the flames lick the air!  It sounds a bit basic but that is something we often forget to do in our busy lives!  Also enjoy the companions who are with you and have fun!


Check out other fantastic places to go camping!

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