Recently, a reader requested an article on family-friendly Washington campgrounds. You ask and I deliver! I pestered the Washington State Parks Department for insider hints and tips on finding great Washington State kid-friendly campgrounds.
Of course, all Washington campgrounds welcome families. But we want the best campgrounds for kids in Washington. Campsites that the kids will remember, and beg you to reserve next summer — even if the mosquitoes ate you alive and the water was too cold to swim in. (Photo at right, our family’s annual campground destination, Penrose Point State Park)
Here’s our Q & A with Linda Burnett of the Washington State Parks. Please note, these are car-camping sites.
Best campsites with kids in Washington State:
Q: Are there any unique family-friendly features at Washington State campgrounds?
Burnett: We have several parks that offer a Junior Ranger Program in the summer. Junior Ranger Programs include campfire stories, beach walks, nature walks, art activities and wildlife talks. The Junior Ranger Program is an interactive activity between park staff, volunteers and visitors. Kids have fun and learn to be good park stewards in the process. Activities and awards are the central feature of the program. The Junior Ranger Program is for kids as well as parents and guardians.
Q: Can you suggest a destination near Seattle that would be a great choice when camping with kids?
Cama Beach State Park offers visitors a chance to step back in time to a 1930s-era Puget Sound fishing resort complete with waterfront cedar cabins and bungalows. These have been refurbished, with modern conveniences added, and are available for rent year round to individuals and groups. Call (360) 387-1550 for reservations. (Lora’s note: These cabins are a stunning $31-82 for waterfront views!)
Within a 90-minute drive of Seattle, Cama Beach offers day and overnight visitors alike a “time capsule” experience. The historic fishing resort was a favorite summer getaway for families for more than 50 years. The area, used for centuries by Native Americans for fishing and hunting, looks out on sweeping views of the Sound, with Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains beyond.
Camano Island State Park is a short drive from Cama Beach for the families that prefer camping. It is connected by a mile-long trail to Cama Beach. Both parks are open for day use or overnight stays year round. This is a first-come, first-serve park.
Both parks offer an active Junior Ranger Program.
Q: Can you suggest a family campground along the Washington Coast?
A wonderful kid and family friendly park on the Washington Coast is Cape Disappointment State Park. Don’t let the name fool you, this park is anything but a disappointment.
This park is a 1,882-acre camping park on the Long Beach Peninsula, fronted by the Pacific Ocean. The park offers two miles of ocean beach, two lighthouses, an interpretive center and hiking trails. Visitors enjoy beachcombing and exploring the area’s rich natural and cultural history. The nearby coastal towns of Ilwaco and Long Beach feature special events and festivals spring through fall.
The park has old-growth forest, lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as streams and tidelands along the ocean. Three vacation house rentals are available.
Interpretive opportunities include the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center tells the story of Lewis and Clark on their journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. The North Head Lighthouse is also open to visitors (tours cost $2.50 per adult, free ages 7 to 17). Call the center at (360) 642-3029 for hours and tour information.
Campsite and vacation house reservations can be made online www.parks.wa.gov or by calling (888) CAMPOUT.
Q: There are no guarantees, but is there a location known as a calm, mellow Washington campground?
Twanoh State Park, situated on the shoreline of Hood Canal, features one of the warmest saltwater beaches in Washington state. This is because Hood Canal is one of the warmest saltwater bodies in Puget Sound. The 182-acre marine, camping park has 3,167 feet of saltwater shoreline. The name of the park derives from the Native American Twana tribes, better known as the Skokomish, who made their home in the area.
Twanoh is popular for shellfish harvesting. Oyster beds are seeded annually, providing for ample harvests. Clam season usually is open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30 each year, while the park is open to oyster harvesting year round. Visitors also enjoy other recreational activities, including hiking, fishing, swimming, water skiing, wildlife viewing and the kids will enjoy the Junior Ranger program offered every weekend in the summer.
This is a first-come, first serve park, an the park offers a Junior Ranger Program every weekend throughout the summer.
Q: When all campgrounds are booked on popular weekends, where’s an overlooked Washington State campground, still typically offering spots? Where can families go when it seems like nothing is left?
I would recommend making reservations for popular weekends some of our most popular parks are booked nine months to a year in advance of the holiday weekends. All the reservation campgrounds are booked every weekend through the summer (folks start making reservations for their favorite campgrounds 9 – 12 months in advance). There are still openings for the middle of the week or for fall/winter camping. Here are the first-come, first-served parks where camping groups are able to just show up:
Non Reservation Washington State Camping Parks
1. Beacon Rock State Park
2. Blake Island State Park
3. Bogachiel State Park
4. Bridgeport State Park
5. Brooks Memorial State Park
6. Camano Island State Park
7. Conconully State Park
8. Columbia Hills State Park
9. Curlew Lake State Park
10. Daroga State Park
11. Fay Bainbridge State Park
12. Fields Spring State Park
13. Fort Casey State Park
14. Hope Island State Park
15. Illahee State Park
16. Iron Horse State Park
17. Joemma Beach State Park
18. Kopachuck State Park
19. Lewis and Clark State Park
20. Lewis and Clark Trail State Park
21. Mount Spokane State Park
22. Old Fort Townsend State Park
23. Palouse Falls State Park
24. Rainbow Falls State Park
25. Rockport State Park
26. Saltwater State Park
27. Schafer State Park
28. Twanoh State Park
29. Wallace Falls State / Park 2 Tent Sites
Q: Any other favorite family campgrounds along a lake or on one of Washington’s islands?
Battle Ground Lake State Park is a beautiful camping park that lies in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Southwest Washington. The lake’s origin is volcanic and is believed to be a caldera, a basin formed when the cone of a volcano collapses.
This 280-acre camping park is popular with anglers with its spring-fed lake that is stocked annually with rainbow trout for fishing. Other fish found in the lake include cutthroat trout, small-mouth bass and catfish.
Visitors may explore ten miles of roads and trails, including a self-guided interpretive trail. The park also offers a variety of recreational activities including horseback riding, boating, swimming and scuba diving.
Another smaller quieter park that offers 25 standard campsites, six hookup sites that accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long and 15 primitive campsites. Campers using the primitive campsites should be prepared to walk a quarter-mile to a half-mile to the campsites.
An interpretive program is offered every Saturday from mid-June through Labor Day. This evening program includes night sky interpretation with a telescope, slide shows and guest speakers. There is a self-guided nature trail in the park.
Reservations for individual campsites and cabins may be made online at www.parks.wa.gov or by calling (888) CAMPOUT or (888) 226-7688.