Eastern Washington Kid-Friendly Campgrounds

These Washington campgrounds east of the Cascades welcome families with playgrounds of all types, including tiny one-swing facilities and giant slide-swing-and-balance-toy contraptions. Eastern Washington’s weather tends to be predictably dry and hot, which makes it a great place camp with kids until winter sets in. Worried about the heat? Many campgrounds are near lakes and rivers — plan to slip in for a dip.

Central and Eastern Washington Kid-Friendly Campgrounds

Alta Lake State Park. Pateros, Washington. Families will find a playground great for preschool-aged kids with a corkscrew slide at this 91-site campground near Alta Lake.

Bridgeport State Park. Bridgeport, Washington. Just a few camping spaces here (14), and a small playground, but next to the freshwater shores of Rufus Woods Lake.

Conconully State Park. Conconully, Washington. Families will find slides, a plastic climbing wall and monkey bars at this shower-equipped North-Central Washington playground, along with 39 tent spaces and five cabins.

Eastern Washington Kid-Friendly Playgrounds

Eastern Washington kid-friendly playgrounds: Conconcully Campground. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks

Daroga State Park. Orondo, Washington. Sleep in one of 17 tent spaces at night at this Washington campground with showers; kids can play on the petite play equipment (and slides) during the day.

Lake Chelan State Park. Chelan, Washington. These very popular 109 campsites can be reserved in advance; let the kids scramble on the playground, which features climbing platforms, monkey bars, slides, standing swings and more.

Lake Easton State Park. Easton, Washington. Families will find 90 tent spaces at this campground on the (sunny, dry) eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, just off I-90. Bring the bikes — there are more than six miles of bike trails here, along with a lakeside  playground featuring toddler- and kid-friendly climbing structures, monkey bars and slides.

Lake Wenatchee. Leavenworth, Washington. A fun preschool- and toddler-age playground with a triple slide, monkey bars and climbing platforms plus 155 tent spaces and 42 water and electricity hookup sites.

Lincoln Rock State Park. East Wenatchee, Washington. A larger children’s playground, including wide climbing walls, a bridge, slides and a variety of monkey bars alongside deluxe family-friendly cabins and 27 reservable tent spaces.

Riverside State Park. Nine Mile Falls, Washington (near Spokane). A smaller campground with just 16 campsites, but this state park does offer rentable canoes ($25) and a small playground.

Eastern Washington kid-friendly campgrounds:  Lake Easton

Eastern Washington kid-friendly campgrounds: Lake Easton State Park. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks.

Steamboat Rock State Park. Electric City, Washington. This campground offers a toddler- and preschool-aged kid playground with slides, mini-climbing wall and a bridge. Three family-friendly cabins can be reserved, along with 26 tent spaces, 136 utility sites, and 44 primitive sites north of the main park.

Sun Lakes Dry Falls State Park. Coulee City, Washington. Families will find 152 campsites along with a small, partially-shaded play structure featuring bridges, slides, wheels and monkey bars.

Wenatchee Confluence. Leavenworth, Washington. A miniature playground with slide, rock wall and climbing structure near this larger campground; reserve one of 155 tent spaces or 42 RV hookup sites.

Southeast Washington Kid-Friendly Campgrounds with Playgrounds

Lewis and Clark Trail State Park. Dayton, Washington. Just a few swings at this 24-site campground, which is also constructing teepees for overnight stays.

Potholes State Park. Othello, Washington. More than 60 tent sites here, along with 60 utility spaces, and five family-friendly cabins and a small playground.

 

 

Western Washington State Campgrounds with Playgrounds

Campgrounds offer many natural playthings to entertain kids: sticks, stones, spiders (OK, maybe not spiders). But one of my favorite childhood memories featured a Washington campground decked out with swings, slides and other fun play equipment. Here’s a quick list of Western Washington kid-friendly campgrounds that roll out the green carpet.

 

Kid-Friendly Washington State Campgrounds:  Scenic Beach State Park. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks.

Kid-Friendly Washington State Campgrounds:
Scenic Beach State Park. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks.

Northwest Washington Kid-Friendly Campgrounds

Belfair State Park. Belfair, Washington. Sleep in one of 120 campsites and let the kids play at the nearby beach or on the simple playground, which has swings, toddler-ready slides and a small climbing structure.

Blake Island Marine State Park. Blake Island, Washington. Only reachable by boat (no roads!), this kid-friendly campground features 44 campsites and petite, older wooden playground with slides and a tire swing.

Cama Beach State Park. Camano Island, Washington. The draw at this location? The family-ready cabins. As for the playground, only a small kid-sized boat and a solitary swing.

Rasar State Park. Concrete, Washington. Kids will enjoy the wood-and-plastic climbing structure with slides and monkey bars over woodchips, and parents enjoy the variety of sleeping options, including walk-in tent sites, lean-to shelters and reservable bunk-bed equipped cabins ready for families of five.

Deception Pass. Oak Harbor, Washington. Reserve one of 167 campsites or the one cabin (requires a boat for access), and let the kids climb on the small playground.

Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Nordland, Washington. Not one but two playgrounds are available at Fort Flagler: at one playground, swing on one of four swings, including infant swings and two tire swings; at the lower campground, kids slide and scramble on the climbing walls and monkey bars. Tired yet? Tuck into one of the 100 sites, including tent-only, full hookup/RV and primitive campsites.

Illahee State Park. Bremerton, Washington. A small saltwater campground with 23 tent sites and a smaller toddler- and preschooler-friendly playground.

Kitsap Memorial State Park. Poulsbo, Washington. When you’re done spotting marine life in the tidepools, head back to your five-person bunk-bed cabin or one of 21 campsites. A wooden play structure keeps kids busy, although better suited for older children.

Lake Sylvia State Park. Montesano, Washington. This campground’s semi-shaded, newer, and fenced-off playground sits below towering firs, and features multi-level climbing facilities and a small tunnel-slide, and benches for parents to rest with babies or toddlers. Just 31 tent spaces here, perfect for families.

Larabee State Park. Bellingham, Washington. Count sea-stars on the beach, then head to the newer playground with balance-boosting equipment, a wide slide, rock-climbing walls (plastic, but OK), ladders and a standing swing. Sleep well in one of the 51 standard tent sites, 26 utility sites or eight primitive sites.

Moran State Park. Olga, Washington. Take the ferry to Orcas Island for 151 campsites and a small playground for the kids.

Saltwater State Park. Des Moines,Washington. Camp out with the kids in one of 47 campsites near the beach, and an older wooden playground with a chain-ladder, slides, monkey bars and platforms.

Kid-Friendly Washington Campgrounds: Scenic Beach Playground

Kid-Friendly Washington Campgrounds: Scenic Beach Playground

Scenic Beach. Seabeck, Washington. A larger Western Washington campground with 52 reservable sites, tidepools and two well-shaded playgrounds featuring a tire swing, climbing and slide equipment, ladders and slides.

Sequim Bay. Sequim, Washington. Lay down stakes at this 49-site campground in the Olympic Peninsula. The playground has a few swings, including one toddler swing.

Spencer Spit. Lopez Island, Washington. A more rustic family campground with 37 spaces but no showers or hookups, so maybe not great for long-term camping stays. Small playground.

kid-friendly campgrounds in washington state

Blake Island State Park Playground. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks.

Southwest Washington Kid-Friendly Campgrounds

Battle Ground State Park. Battle Ground, Washington. Slip down the tunnel slide or corkscrew slide, scramble across the monkey bars and jump from platform to platform at this kid-friendly campground, which also provides 25 campsites and four cabins that accommodate five people (perfect for families with three kids).

Ike Kinswa State Park. Silver Lake, Washington. A giant 101-site and nine-cabin campground situated near a large freshwater lake, offering year-round camping and an older wooden playset with corkscrew slide, tall platforms and tire features.

Rainbow Falls. Chehalis, Washington. The petite playground will entertain kids for a few minutes — just a toddler-approved slide, a few small wooden platforms and hang bar. All sites here are first-come, first-served: 53 campsites, including a few hiker/biker only (walk-in) sites.

Seaquest State Park. Castle Rock, Washington. Yurts! This Mt. St. Helens campground offers five yurts (suitable for families of six), 55 tent spots and 33 utility spaces, along with a small vintage playground featuring metal ladders and wooden platforms.

 ***

Did I miss something? Get something wrong? Can you recommend another playground? Do you have photos of any of these playgrounds? Please e-mail me at lora AT cascadiakids.com. I will also add photos as I receive them from state parks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Strange Natural Wonders in the Pacific Northwest and BC

These odd Oregon, British Columbia and Washington State destinations can compete with even the best video game or smartphone and win. Don’t tell kids the science behind the weird natural wonder’s unusual nature — at least not right away — and see what interesting and creative explanations they might come up with, then explain the science.

1. Mima Mounds. The Mima Mounds seem like something out of a sci-fi movie — a meadow of grassy mounds in a repeated pattern, as if carved or created intentionally. In the past, locals thought perhaps “pocket gophers” created these little bumps. Turns out that the mounds are generated by plant growth — but aliens indeed would’ve been more fun.

2. Oregon Vortex. Dare your Wicked-loving daughter or son to belt out “Defying Gravity” here. Things seem to roll uphill at the Oregon Vortex, and nothing is quite as it seems. Turns out the vortex is part of a “gravity hill optical illusion.” There are many in the U.S., but this is the Northwest’s own.

3. John Day Fossil Beds. Spread out geographically over three “units,” spectacular reds, yellows and greens seem etched into The Painted Hills Unit, and the Clarno Unit looks like a cathedral for space-men (but is only viewable from below, along the highway). I recommend the Painted Hills over all others, thanks to easy-going paths that wind through super-vivid hills. But watch out for snakes!

Painted Hills Cove Trail, Oregon

Painted Hills Cove Trail, Oregon

4. Gingko Petrified Forest. I know you’re imagining a standing forest made of stone, but the Gingko Petrified Forest is not that cool. This is a dry, mountainous area with more than 50 fossilized tree species, along with a park museum center that shows off fossils in funky shapes. Read more about the Gingko Petrified Forest. 

5. Lost Lake. When is a lake not a lake? When it’s a Lost Lake. Every winter, the lake basin fills up, and every spring, it leaks down a giant hole that’s actually a dried-up lava tube! — sort of like your tub’s drain. Also, families can camp here at Lost Lake, in Oregon.

6. Beacon Rock. The Northern Hemisphere’s second largest free-standing monolith! A hiking trail winds around Beacon Rock to the top; keep an eye on impulsive children next to the barely-guardrails on this 722-foot monster of Southwest Washington. Other unusual rocks include Hat Rock in Eastern Oregon and Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast.

7. Soap Lake. It’s like a giant bubble bath…kinda. Washington’s Soap Lake contains more than 20 minerals that give the lake a sloppy, soapy texture (complete with a brownish froth), and make the water buoyant. Oily ichthyols also float in the lake; Europeans believe these help heal skin issues. Fun gross-out kid fact: these ichthyols come from decomposing shrimp. Ew!

8. The Octopus Tree. A 250-year old Sitka spruce with branches that grow out and up, in a many-legged octopus pattern. Located at the Cape Meares Lighthouse along the Oregon Coast.

Octopus Tree Oregon Coast

Octopus Tree: Oregon Coast

9. Spotted Lake. In Eastern British Columbia, Spotted Lake (Kliluk Lake) is covered in blue and yellow circles of varying sizes, thanks to colorful mineral deposits and summer’s evaporation. Located just west of the Washington-BC border town of Osoyoos.

10. Sea Lion Caves. Billed as the “America’s Largest Sea Cave,” this Oregon attraction is full of sea lions and pretty rank sea lion breath. But it is actually probably the largest sea lion cave in America. Take that for what you will, and the attraction will take $14 (adults) and $8 (ages 5-12).

11. Oregon Caves. These dark batcaves are the”marble halls of Oregon.”  They bear 15,000 feet winding of marble, formed by underground cave women. No — just lava made it long ago. The Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve’s excellent tour is recommended for big kids only: at least 42 inches tall (107 centimeters) and able to climb steep stairs without help. You can’t carry little ones. And yes, there are bats,but don’t worry they don’t bite. Another tunnel: Horne Lake Caves.

12. Oregon Dunes. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offers 40 miles of Tattooine-like mountains of sand that can reach up to 500 feet tall, and rapidly overtaking local businesses. Wear serious hiking boots or comfortable shoes, bring a sled or snowboard for slipping down hills of sand. Sunglasses help prevent sand in your eyes.

Skateboarding kid at Oregon Dunes in Florence, Oregon

Sandboarding at Oregon Dunes in Florence, Oregon

I think we can agree that Oregon is definitely one of the odder regions of our area, due to the diversity of natural oddities left behind by Earth’s evolution. I left volcanoes off this list, although they’re also extremely terrifying and fun.

Camping Grub That Kids Will Love: Kid-Friendly Camping Food

Cardamom donut holes

Cardamom donut holes

Recently, I had the good fortune to interview Emily Trudeau, a veteran camper and one of the three cofounders of the camping-food blog Dirty Gourmet, along with Aimee Trudeau and Katherine Kwan. She encourages first-time campers to get out there — even if you’re not typically comfortable with sticks, dirt and bugs. “Being outdoors is a healing experience,” she says, whether you’re sitting around a campfire, counting stars in the night sky or watching your kids play (with sticks, dirt and bugs).

Camping doesn’t mean you have to leave the comfort foods of home at home — particularly with kids. Yet, if you’re sick of hotdogs by the summer’s end, I’m with you. With Emily’s help, here’s a quick rundown of popular camping meals for families that everyone will enjoy.

Dirty Gourmet Girls

Dirty Gourmet Writers

Kid-friendly camping meals (links to Dirty Gourmet site): 

Great kid-friendly camping snacks:

Camping with kids in Washington, Oregon and BC

Prepping for S’mores

Top this! New twists on s’mores: 

Emily Trudeau calls S’mores the “all-American quintessential campfire delicacy.” That doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun, though. Stack your s’more in a new way:

  • Pepperidge Farm Geneva cookies, marshmallows and dulce de leche
  • Shortbread cookies, marshmallows, chocolate and raspberry jam
  • Graham crackers, peanut butter, chocolate and marshmallow
  • Graham crackers, marshmallows, bacon, chocolate
  • Graham crackers, fresh strawberries, chocolate, marshmallows

Don’t forget:

  • Your awesome cooler
  • Cooking oil
  • Foil
  • Dish soap and cleanup
  • Cooking utensils
  • Mixing bowls
  • Silverware
  • A sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Plates & silverware
  • A knife for kids to “help” (you could bring bananas, etc).
  • Easy snacks for the kids (goldfish crackers, pre-sliced fruit, Trader Joe trail mix etc)

For more fun recipes, check out the Cascadia Kids “Camp Cuisine” board on Pinterest. Do you have a favorite camping snack or recipe to share?

Long Family Camping Trips in Washington State

Seattle-based parenting consultant Jenni Pertuset and her 8-year old daughter Meg like camping. No, scratch that – they love camping. The duo have camped for thousands of miles around Washington State for the past three years. Each year, they wrap a different theme around their two-week camping trips.

The first year, mother and daughter toured Olympic Peninsula destinations Jenni visited with her parents, when Jenni was a child. She revisited these places, in part, to remember her father, who had recently passed away.

The second year followed Lewis and Clark’s westward water route in Washington by road, starting from Canoe Camp in Idaho, following the land along Washington’s Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers, and ending at Cape Disappointment  on the Washington coast.

Camping with Kids at Cape Disappointment in Washington State

Camping with Kids at West Beach, Deception Pass in Washington State

In year three, the two camped for the entire month of June, with occasional overnight returns to Seattle to connect with loved ones and to wash up. The third camping year focused on water-centric campsites in Washington State, where they could swim. “We stayed at eight campsites, all on bodies of water,” she says. “Considering that my girl will immerse herself in the Puget Sound even in the coldest months, in effect this meant I could pick anywhere with water, as long as it moved slowly enough not to whoosh her away.”

So yes, they love camping in Washington State. Here’s a quick interview to find out how one expert mom camps with her kid.

1. Your Washington State camping trip in year two (following the Lewis & Clark trail) sounds amazing. What was your favorite part of Year Two?

We visited cultural sites, museums, interpretive centers, and Confluence Project installations learning more about the Corps of Discovery and the Native people whose lands they crossed. With a couple of notable exceptions, most were interesting and engaging. We especially enjoyed the Interpretive Center at Sacajawea State Park in Washington State and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in Oregon.

But far and away the highlight of the trip was the interpretive center at Fort Clatsop (near Astoria) where the Corps wintered on the south side of the mouth of the Columbia. The museum itself is nothing special, but the replica of the fort and the living history guides there are remarkable. My then-6-year-old and I engaged with one man in period dress for over two hours, both of us fascinated the entire time while he told us stories and answered questions, offering interesting facts and considered opinions remarkably well-informed by his studies of the Lewis and Clark journals. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

2. What’s your favorite type of campsite?

I love camping on the salt water best. Whether it’s a sandy beach on the coast or a rocky one on the Puget Sound, my girl and I are content to spend hours toe-dipping, seal-watching, pit-digging, fort-building, crab-hunting, and sun-soaking. I don’t think you can go wrong with a beach.

Meg’s favorite spot was Rainbow Falls State Park, because the Doty General Store nearby sold penny candy.

3. Any tips for multi-night camping stays, particularly for parents trying it for the first time?

Go to one or two sites, and stay put. Stay to see the details of one place. Decide what you care about, and relax about the rest. I love cooking over the fire, and it suits us to spend a few hours a day at the campsite to prepare meals. But you might prefer to pack super easy food so you can get out on a trail.

Expect everything to take a long time. Linger. Let it slow you down.

4. Which Washington State campsite would you recommend for first-time camping with kids?

I think Deception Pass  State Park is a great choice for first time campers. It’s astonishingly beautiful, with beaches and trails for miles, and it’s still close to civilization in case you’ve forgotten something or just need to escape from unexpected rain in a public library for a couple of hours. For Seattleites, it’s a quick trip out of town, and if you go mid-week (or on the spur of the moment early in the season as we just did to catch the pre-summer sun) there are plenty of spaces available. Don’t try to go on a weekend in August without a reservation made well in advance, though. And make sure you get a spot inside the main park, rather than across the road at Quarry Pond.

Deception Pass State Park with Kids

Swimming at Deception Pass State Park

5. Anything you always bring on camping trips that you would miss if you forgot it?

Apart from the essentials required to shelter, clothe, and feed ourselves, I’d be disappointed if I forgot a book. Reading by the fire or in the tent before sleep is one of my pleasures while camping. As for tools, my two favorite things are telescoping roasting forks with a knob on the handle that allows you to rotate the fork (you can get them for a few dollars at Fred Meyer OR Lora’s example: Coghlan’s 9670 Telescoping Fork) and battery powered LED holiday lights for the inside of the tent.

Rain paints! Rain pants are the best invention ever, ever, ever. I’ve spent plenty of days out in a canoe or exploring a beach, or even sitting at the campfire, totally comfortable because my backside wasn’t soaking wet.

Two things I’ve stopped bringing: my camp stove, because I cook every meal over the fire, and my camp lantern, because as retro cool as it is and as much as it reminds me of camping with my dad, it’s a hassle to light and it’s blindingly bright.

6. Which games, activities and songs you both enjoy while camping?

We often drive long distances to campgrounds, so we usually have an audio book going in the car.

I usually bring a handful of things to do — art materials, a card game — and we never use them. We mostly poke around at and around the campsite, often literally. Meg dedicates hours to digging a “pit trap” at almost every camp site.

Columbia River Gorge Camping with Kids

Jumping into the Columbia River Gorge

7. Any favorite camping foods?

I usually plan for one night of very easily prepared food — sausages and raw fruits and veggies — for every couple of nights of food that takes a bit more effort. We still get to enjoy the fire, but it allows for more flexibility to stay longer at the beach or hike an extra mile or get the tent up before dark.

I tend to keep it fairly simple, but I cook anything that I could make on the stove or grill at home, using a cast iron pan, foil on the grate, or roasting forks. I haven’t taken my cast iron dutch oven recently, but in the past I’ve taken that along to make stews, soups, and cobblers. (An example of a Dutch oven: Esschert Design USA FF117 Fire Pit Dutch Oven)

One important camping tip: Put a big pan of water on to heat while you cook and you’ll have hot water for dishes and for a post-marshmallow washcloth.

Jenni Pertuset and Meg

Jenni and Meg

Thanks, Jenni & Meg!

Readers, what would you bring on a long family camping trip?

***

Camping Reservations with Kids in Washington, Oregon and BC

How long in advance should you make camping reservations? Now is the time to reserve your camping spot for many Pacific Northwest locations. Don’t wait until late spring or summer, if you want a prime, secluded tent site or one of the much-desired yurts, cabins or fire lookouts. Here’s a quick guide and how-to.

Camping Reservations in Oregon

Half of Oregon´s state park campgrounds accept campsite reservations; the other half are first-come, first-served. Whether you call or go online, you may make reservations 2 days to 9 months in advance of your first night´s stay. “Nine months in advance” counts back to the nearest business day.

You can make Oregon campsite, yurt, cabin and teepee reservations with a Visa or MasterCard through ReserveAmerica’s Oregon page. You can make reservations for national forests, like Mt. Hood National Forest and Siuslaw National Forest at Recreation.gov, but there aren’t many listed.

Read more about Oregon Campground Reservations.

Camping Reservations in Washington

At the campgrounds that accept reservations, you can reserve Washington campsites, yurts, cabins and houses through the Washington State website. Right now, they’re accepting reservations about 10 months in advance – so they’re taking reservations up until the first week of October. You can use a Visa or Mastercard to reserve.

You can make reservations for over 100 National Park Service and US Forest Services destinations, like Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest at Recreation.gov.

Or make Washington State camping reservations at Reserve America, which includes listings from KOA, Thousand Trails, USDA Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.

The county parks system is more challenging to navigate — you’ll need to research the specific county you want to stay in. Popular camping destinations in Washington State include San Juan County Parks, Salt Creek Recreation Area and Dungeness Recreation Area in Clallam County, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation and Wenatchee River County Park.

Camping Reservations in British Columbia 

Frontcountry reservations open at 7:00 am (PST) on March 15. Reservations for family campsites can be made up to three months in advance of your arrival date, and you can make up to three reservations per transaction. Book your tent site at the BC Parks website, read about backcountry camping at Recreation Sites and Trails,  and about Western camping destinations at Parks Canada. Here’s a quick rundown comparing all the BC camping options.

Ew, Camping! Alternatives to tent camping to reserve NOW

Camping isn’t for everyone.  These options will get you out into nature and the outdoors — but you won’t wake to mud sloshing around your tent.

Alternatives to tent camping in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia:

Yurts. At Washington’s 412-acre oceanfront Grayland State Park, sleep in a 16-foot-diameter heated yurt outfitted with a queen-size futon, an end table and heater (a fine choice for a first camping trip with a baby or toddler). Or try Cape Disappointment’s yurts, which offer bunk beds that sleep three, a heater, floor lamp and an end table — and you’re never far from spectacular Washington Coast views of the Pacific Ocean. Read more about renting a Washington State Parks yurt. Or research on the BC Parks yurt page and the Oregon State Parks homepage. Renting a yurt on the Oregon Coast is the best of all worlds, and locals know it — these round-a-bouts are booked up fast.

U.S. Forest Service cabin, cottage, guard station or lookout. Some are more like mountainside or prairie chalets, complete with running water and flush toilets (but look carefully — some of the running-water perks are only available in summer). Others are more vintage-Victorian or pioneer days (complete with outhouse) but offer propane cookstoves, fridges, heat and light.

Airstream trailer. Silver Cottages offers a unique (although expensive) stay. Prices start at $849/three nights but includes delivery, setup, sleep spots for four occupants (i.e. two adults, two kids or one adult, three kids) in 31-foot silver Airstream trailer, complete with kitchenette, fridge, microwave, dinette, heat and air. Sleep in Bellingham, San Juan Islands and Lakedale Resort.


Officers’ Quarters. Take shelter in one of the dozen homes lined up in a row, tidy and upright. As they were once officers’ quarters of the early 1900s, you’ll find lovely crown molding, bannisters and loads of vintage touches. Read more about Washington vacation houses on the Washington State Parks website, which also lists lighthouse keepers’ quarters.

Teepee. Fields Spring State Park offers the only two teepees in Washington State, and one even offers an indoor/outdoor carpet floor. Yes, you have to bring your own sleeping bags and pads, but you don’t have to set up the tent! Oregon offers teepees at Owyhee park.

Log cabin. Sleep pioneer-style in a real log cabin — right on the Oregon Trail. Read more about the Emigrant Springs Totem cabins.

Beach house. Once a 1930s fishing resort, the Cama Beach cottages are now rented out by the Washington State Parks. Snore inside a retro cedar bungalow that overlooks the Puget Sound and Whidbey Island. Only a 90-minute drive from Seattle, this is a sweet nearby getaway. However, unless you book a bungalow rental, you’ll still cook outdoors. The upside from your kids’ perspective? That means s’mores for sure.

Treehouse. Want to sleep IN the trees, not under the trees? Check out Vertical Horizons Treehouse Resort for a B&B in a tree. Parents of teens (16 and over) can look into Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island — these orbs float in the trees, like little alien pods. Pretty cool. Here’s a YouTube video about staying in a sphere treehouse.

Camping in the Rain with Kids

You’ve got your reservations in hand, but the forecast is for rain. Should you go?

Alaska-based mom Jennifer Aist, author of Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping & Boating with Babies and Young Children, has plenty of experience with family camping in the rain. “Last summer we had 43 days in a row of rain, “ she says. Instead of getting wet and miserable, Aist got prepared.

The first hint? Bring drop-proof rain gear. Aist specifically recommends Oaki Wear clothing: “It is well built and holds up beautifully to lots and lots of rain and puddle stomping,” she says. If it’s chilly out, she brings rainboots for the kids, along with extra socks. “Nothing dries out well in rainy conditions,” she says. Stuff sacks (example: Granite Gear Toughsack)help keep a change of clothes protected from the elements.

If you’re car camping near pavement, Aist suggests packing sidewalk chalk. “It looks cool on wet pavement,” she says.

Those handy blue tarps offer respite from rain, plus a dry(ish) place to cook, read or play board games. Aist recommends that parents learn the knot best for tying tarps: the taut line. (here’s a YouTube link on how to tie the knot — love this guy’s moustache). On a sloping site, sure your tent’s opening faces downhil, not uphill, as you don’t want rain to flow into your tent.


It might seem counterintuitive, but Aist suggests avoiding the tent, at least during the day. “Tents are for sleeping,” Aist says. “Everything gets wet when you are in and out all day. It gets a bit claustrophobic too. Embrace the rain, because it can really be lots of fun to play in — just keep moving. Even hiking in the rain isn’t so bad.”

Michelle Tice would agree. Tice, a Vancouver-based mom who blogs at savvymom.ca, booked a stay months ago for Vancouver Island’s Parksville, along with friends. A total of 14 kids and 25 adults had planned the weekend, and weren’t going to be deterred by rain in the forecast.

The downpour set in.

“We had to shower the kids each night,” Tice says, but it was worth a little extra work. Croc-style shoes let water pass through, so feet got dirty and wet, but not cold (no waterlogged socks). They brought lots of extra clothing, and bikes for mud-puddle splashing.

“Exploring beaches, forests and puddles, can be done in the rain too.” They also explored local-area kids’ activities for “a change of scenery,” she says, including Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Coombs Country Market.

“The kids did not care about the rain, only the adults did,” Tice says. “So the faster the adults cope, the better for all.”

With a mug of steaming hot chocolate in your hand, could you really disagree?

More tips for setting up camp in the rain:

Your-Camping-Guidebook.Com (funny name, good site).

A good video on setting up a tent in the rain, made by TrailPeak.com.

Family Travel! Bobbi Sue camps with kids in British Columbia

bobbisue2Bobbi-Sue Menard kicks butt at camping. This Kelowna-based freelance journalist and mom of five kids knows a LOT about camping in every type of weather and condition. She goes on 10-day camping trips, she’s experienced 12-hour drives, she copes with torrential rainstorms, she’s even gone canoe camping. Wow. Sort of puts the one-night outing in perspective. Let’s hear more:

Why do you love camping with your kids?

I love camping with my kids because we do it together with abandon.  Once we are out there, while we might have adventures, and it might not work out, life is kind of simple.  We’re camping and that’s it.

Do you have a favorite BC family camping spot?

We were at Shuswap Lake Provincial Park three weeks ago and loved camping in the middle of a cedar forest, just beautiful.  The sites seem like they are set up in a fairy glen forest.  We also have fond memories of the Lakes District around Burns Lake.

What’s the longest camping trip you’ve been on in British Columbia?

We did 10 days in two stages. The first spot was in Syringa Provincial Park, which we loved, although it doesn’t have showers. We were there for three days before moving on to our true destination, Waterton Lakes National Park.

We looked at the map and despite the fact we are experienced mountain drivers we estimated the second leg of the trip to be 7-8 hours drive; we were wrong about the travel distance, it was closer to 12 hours with traffic, plus we had a late start as we had had truck problems so we left late.

When we arrived at 11 p.m., we set up in Waterton at our reserved site on the flats at the end of the lake. It was the pitch dark, with the torrential rain driven by 60-90 km/hr wind gusts.  We pitched the brand new, 8-person dome tent in the shelter of our Expedition SUV, yet the wind was so strong, the tent would inwardly flex so the roof would touch our faces.

The next morning we tore down camp again and waited in line at the non-reservable campsite on the mountain side where the wind was still strong but bearable. After a morning blessedly free of rain, it turns out it was just saving up…it sheeted rain for the next two days.

Eventually it eased off into a steady drizzle for the remaining two days of our trip and we got in some hiking and went paddle boating. Nonetheless we considered the trip a triumph.  The kids were aged 9, 8, 5, 3 and 1 — and none of them were sick, everyone kept good spirits and we were able to tell some really fun stories.

Wow, that is hardcore. Is there a point at which you know you need to pack up the tent, call it off and go home?

Serious vomiting or diarrhea, significant equipment failure that we can’t reasonably replace and puts us in real discomfort or possible danger. For example, when the last kid to go pee doesn’t shut the tent properly and the sleeping bags at that end of the tent get wet beyond reason with no way to dry the bags — we go home.

We have canoe camped with young kids, despite tons of planning, the right gear, and short trips, it generally sucked.  Time in a canoe is rarely fun after the first half hour or so with small kids.

Any general tips on camping with babies or toddlers?

With babies or toddlers, divide and conquer. Take turns with the kid(s) while the other parent accomplishes the basic tasks.  Bring the portable play pen, put the toddler in it whenever necessary.  If you aren’t too tired, use your child backpack or baby carrier liberally.

If you are hiking to the most gorgeous waterfalls you’ll ever see and they are at the end of a 7 km trail, with a 7 km hike back, make certain you have had toddler in a backpack for a 14 km hike more than once.

Love the environment, but don’t be a fanatic, bring stacks of baby wipes, STACKS. (Lora says: And bring even more baby wipes! An unending supply of baby wipes! Or 1000 cloth washcloths, if you must).

I am in awe of anyone who manages cloth diapers on a camping trip.  Make certain you have a good system, because those diapers will either be locked in your vehicle overnight because of bears or in your hard sided, possibly un-air-conditioned car with you.

Invest in a box of large Glad freezer bags, they’ll fit a wet, soiled outfit perfectly and keep the mess safely stowed until you get home to your laundry.  When I said invest I meant it, handling liquids on a camping trip can be a hassle, with kids you could be relying on the sealing power of quality bags more than you think.

What’s the most difficult thing, in your opinion, about camping with infants and toddlers? How do you overcome that problem?

Accepting how infants/toddlers sleep schedule is going undergo a big shift and you will be at its beck and call.  Depending on your kid, day two or three could see a parent quietly sitting in camp while your darling naps away an entire afternoon while the other parent takes older siblings on an outing. Plan to keep your child well rested; that will cut down on accidents (trips and falls), keep the hot afternoon whining down, and your child’s eating more regular.

So, what’s your never-leave-behind item that you feel like every family should pack on a camping trip? Anything special when you’re camping with toddlers?

Never leave behind prescription meds, a photocopy of ID, emergency contacts and medical insurance, and $100 cash. That’s the civilized list.  For physical emergency, never forget a first aid kit, or rain gear.  Bring pull-ups/overnight diapers for any toddler night trained for less than a year.  It gets cold in a tent and when kids are TIRED, accidents are more common than you would like to believe.

Is there anything that you think a family COULD leave at home?

You COULD leave home your dog on the first trip ever.  The first time can be a bit overwhelming and a dog can be a lot of stress.  You could also leave home everything electronic. Try the trip without a DVD player — play ‘I spy’ or ‘Simon Says’ in the car.

Any tricks for preparing for a camping trip with five kids?

For me the big thing is to think through solutions to situations before I leave so that my expectations are managed.  Then I tell the family how we are going to handle things when they go wrong.  For example: We now bring on board game for vehicle breakdowns.  We laugh about it, “This trip Monopoly only gets played it the truck dies…” etc.

For little kids we go over our expectations each day, “We are camping, we are here to have a good time, but as a person although you are small, you must remember please and thank-you, no whining and you wash your hands with the baby wipes before you eat anything.”

Writers’ Round-up: Camping in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia with kids

Reading a first-person online camping story is excellent way to feel out a possible campsite – before you’ve even arrived! Here’s a quick round-up of sites (and sights) around the blogosphere, along with great takeaways. If you’d like me to include your camping related-post, leave a comment.

Northwest Cheapsleeps: I love this Seattle-based mom’s car camping checklist.
Takeaway: StingEze takes the bite out of mosquito nibbles. You don’t know how badly I needed this information.

Weelife: What’s a roof-top tent? Let BC-based camping expert weelife tell you all about this new way to camp, then let her tell you about kid fun on camping trips, and then how her hubby MADE A CAMPING SHOWER (yes, that deserves all caps). I think she married MacGyver, but without all the explody parts. After that, check out all her posts under the “wee camp” tag for recipes, crafts and more.
Takeaway: I’m going camping with Weelife.

Royal BC Museum: How did families camp in the olden days? Check out these photos. As archivist Ann ten Cate says of one photo, “This group seems to be the living embodiment of the phrase ‘happy campers’… they’ve got a guitar, a fiddle, a paddle and a rifle. What more do you need?”
Takeaway: Name your tent or RV. Artist Emily Carr named her caravan … “The Elephant.”

PDX Family Adventures: Learn about camping near Portland at Oxbow State Park or camping the Oregon Coast at Cape Perpetua.
Takeaway: Our region has become a confusing morass of day-use fees and annual passes, and the rules change all the time. Call your campground in advance to see what you need to bring with you – or pay up.

Growing Up Green: Vancouver-based mom Tovah from Gumboot Adventures tips us off to natural bug protection, a holistic first-aid kit and even solar-powered heat for your tent trailer.
Takeaway: A little research reveals worthy green alternatives to traditional camping equipment.

Kids in the Woods: Camping with a baby at Rialto Beach in the Olympic Peninsula.
Takeaway: “Bring plenty of burp cloths.  Staying dry is a worthwhile effort on the trail, and spit up is just as wet as (and much more predictable than) rain!”

Calico Garden: Inspired by tales of kid-friendly Washington State campgrounds? Check out Calico Garden’s photo-rich post on Penrose Point (one of our family favorites) and Middle Fork.
Takeaway: Don’t let a little rain scare you away from the campground.

Mad Hatter Mom: There are 10 Reasons to Camp with Kids from this Oregon-based mom.
Takeaway: Even if you don’t like camping, camping with kids is fun.

Sunset Magazine: Not a blog, but this story on car camping on the Oregon Coast is told from a mom’s perspective.
Takeaway: Don’t leave the French press at home, and don’t book a campground next to a highway.

The Travelling Mom: The best campgrounds in British Columbia.
Takeaway: Book BC spots up to three months advance at Discover Camping.

Sillimanians in British Columbia: A photo-only post about camping at Cultus Lake, BC.
Takeaway: Camping is more fun with music.

Otownmommy: Camp in Revelstoke, BC alongside the amusing Otownmommy and then read her “Rules of Camping.”
Takeaway: If you’re in bear country, wear “tent clothes” and “day clothes” so the bears don’t think you’re dinner.

Play Outdoors: Survive tent camping with kids in Central Oregon.
Takeaway: Embrace dirt!

Life with the Boo: Find out what it’s like to stay at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Campground with a toddler.
Takeaway: Bring a bike or ride-on toy for little ones’ entertainment.

Savvymom: Sleep peacefully at Alice Lake with Michelle.
Takeaway: Book a campground near enough to civilization to make a marshmallow run if you forgot yours at home.

The Urban Momtographer: Another Alice Lake Post, with a set of wet-weather pictures in documentary style. You can almost taste the Jiffy Pop and feel the rain.
Takeaway: Don’t leave your camera at home!

The Pleasants: Beach camping might be the best of all worlds for kids – see this family’s post about camping in Long Beach, Wash.
Takeaway: When going to the beach, plan for every type of weather.

Bike Portland: Combining camping with a 41-mile family bike trip? Why not? (Great photos!)
Takeaway: After a 41-mile bike trip, you may want to sleep in a cabin.