Sun Peaks with Kids: Five Reasons to Love BC’s Sun Peaks Resort

For Presidents’ Day Weekend, Joanna Veldhuisen’s family of four (plus two teen friends) headed north to Sun Peaks Resort in Interior BC for several days of snow play and skiing. The entire family agreed this ski resort makes for a fantastic weekend. I asked Joanna what she loved so much about the destination. She sent me some great photos, and this is what she said:

Size. Sun Peaks is the second biggest resort in BC, but it’s a fraction of the size of Whistler and as a result it’s very family-friendly. Many parents of older kids (12+) feel comfortable turning the kids loose to ski or at least lunch on their own in the one-horse village. You can’t get lost, and most condos and hotel rooms are just a few minutes’ walk from the village center and chairlifts. Even over President’s Day Weekend, the resort had a relaxed, un-crowded vibe.

Sun Peaks main street

Sun Peaks: Main Street

Awesome alpine skiing. Although the village is small, the ski slopes are not, and BC’s Interior snow is reliably good. Three mountains surround the village in a 360-degree layout of 124 long runs that terminate near or at the village. Getting from one chairlift to another is easy and the lifts are fast, so you can’t help but do a ton of skiing in a day. This British Columbia ski resort is particularly good for beginner and intermediate skiers, but also offers plenty of black diamond terrain for advanced runs. While I was busy on the green runs, the kids headed off to the harder stuff and everyone was happy. Here’s a map of the alpine runs.

 

Sun Peaks with Kids

A ski run at Sun Peaks Resort

Nordic skiing at Sun Peaks. For those who would rather get away from it all, Sun Peaks has miles of trails for Nordic and skate skiing as well as snowshoeing. My crew hit the slopes on the first day, and I hit the Nordic trails on my own, bumping into other friendly solo skiers whose families were on the alpine runs.

Kid-friendly activities at Sun Peaks. My kids didn’t take much time off the slopes, but Sun Peaks has plenty of other fun for youngsters, including a year-round, outdoor heated pool at the Sports & Aquatic Centre, a tube park, a terrain park, a bungee trampoline, ice skating, and dog sled tours. Many of the condos and rental houses come with a hot tub for added fun, and playing in the snow just outside the door has never been so easy.

A walk through Sun Peaks BC

A walk through Sun Peaks BC

Sun Peaks Village amenities. Like Whistler, Sun Peaks is laid out like a walkable alpine village. It contains a few clothing shops, boutiques, and restaurants and cafes for all tastes, enough to be interesting without being overwhelming. You’ll also find rental shops for any ski equipment you need, and lessons for all ages and ski styles.

Tips on accommodation and groceries at Sun Peaks Resort:

Sun Peaks offers condos, rental homes, and a variety of hotel lodgings. The hotels are conveniently located right in the heart of the village, but a condo’s fully equipped kitchen is unbeatable, as restaurant eating adds up quickly. Many kids will be too tired to go out for dinner, after a day in the snow.

Americans, I suggest doing your grocery shopping stateside and stop for fruits and veggies in Hope or Kamloops. Sun Peaks has a small general market for incidentals.

Getting there: Sun Peaks is the closest ski resort in BC’s Interior to the Lower Mainland and Seattle. The resort is located 45 minutes north of Kamloops, approximately 4½ hours north of Bellingham, 6 hours from Seattle via the Sumas/Abbotsford border crossing and 4 hours east of Vancouver. The Sun Peaks website says 5½ hours from Seattle, but that’s optimistic when accounting for possible road conditions, border waits, and shopping for fruits and veggies. Plan for an hour longer, and the drive home will pass a little quicker.

The resort’s website provides more information about taking the kids to Sun Peaks, including ski lessons. The Sundance Kids Centre is a daycare facility that entertains children from 18 months through 5 years.

Photo at right courtesy of Adam Stein/ Sun Peaks.

No-Cry Tips for Camping with Babies and Toddlers

OK, I’m sure half of you are laughing at the very title of this article – camping?! With an infant, crawler or toddler? The little humans that are nothing if not predictably unpredictable? Noooothankyou.

Wait, wait…come back. We’ll break this down and I’ll see if I can convince you. Because maybe there’s some little part of your pre-baby self that does want to sleep beneath the towering evergreens, the scent of fir and campfire enveloping your soul.

(I know, I said the word “campfire” and now all you can think about is your toddler playing with the embers.)

We took both kids camping at an early age – my daughter at 8 months on Mt. Rainier and my son starting at 12 months, on the Hood Canal. I’ve compiled a list of recommendations and tips from myself and Jennifer Aist, blogger at Wilderness for Kids and author of the excellent Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping & Boating with Babies and Young Children.

1. Try the tent. Camp in the glory of your own backyard, just to give your family a trial run. Some children have easy-to-transition personalities that won’t screech at a new sleeping spot. Others – well – let’s hear a story from Kelowna, BC-based mom Bobbie-Sue Menard, whose first four kids slept well in tents between 12-24 months. Then her fifth child put the established pattern to the test.

“My last baby pitched a high- frequency panicked fit at the top of his lungs on our first camping trip – at 3. a.m.,” Menard says. “Since we were surrounded by hundreds of tenters in Banff national park who were being woken up to the sound of screaming baby at 3 a.m., Baby and I slept sitting up with babe sprawled across my chest inside the van for the next three nights.” It happens. (We’ll hear more from Menard later in the week — this woman rocks the camping trip)

2. Pick the perfect campground. “If you are unsure about this whole camping thing, choose a campground that has resources nearby like a grocery store, restaurant or maybe even a hotel,” says Aist. I recommend staying no more than an hour from home, only so you can beat a hasty retreat if necessary (see point #1 above).


Even if you were an avid, hardcore backpacker before kids, don’t beat yourself up for taking the car-camping or “glamping” route with little ones. I hold off on the backpacking, at least until kids can help carry items back and forth to the car. However, other families certainly pull can this off with panache. (If you’re a backpacking-with-babies family, I’d love to hear from you)

Aist points out that busy campgrounds can be stressful; smaller campgrounds offer a calmer environment for young children. I prefer campgrounds stocked with additional attractions, such as a lake, beachfront or easy hiking trails. My other must-haves include running water — it makes for easier clean-up of easy-mess infants — and modern flush toilets. Pit toilets can be intimidating (and mega stinky) for adults, much less a potty-training toddler.

3. Select your site carefully. Avoid sites near rivers or lakes (to prevent wandering catastrophes), entrance/exit points for the campground (too much car traffic), or even a site without much privacy.  “Pick a site that backs up to the woods rather than another campsite so you won’t fret over keeping your neighbors up all night with a fussing baby,” Aist says.

If you’re with a potty-training kid, sites near the bathroom and running water are solid options; bringing along a portable potty isn’t such a bad idea either (we brought a Babybjorn Potty Chair).

4. Pack right. “Toddlers are very sensitive to their routines,” Aist says. “Keep the routines going even when you are camping,” and incorporate expected customs around sleep, comfort, food and play. Pack favorite snacks (Cheerios, Goldfish crackers), beloved stuffed animals, books they can practically recite from memory, Tylenol for teething infants and a camping lamp that can run all night (if your child loves his bedroom nightlight). One note — if you do use cloth diapers, you might think about switching to disposable or Gdiapers for the duration of your camping trip. Or figure out a good solution for dealing with dirty dipes (stay-dry stuff sacks are a good option).

To keep baby out of the fire or food prep area, use a pack ‘n’ play-type playpen from home, which can double as a nap and nighttime solution. “Daytime naps are critical to good night sleep,” Aist says, so don’t skimp on this part. With a baby monitor, you can listen in on your tent-napping babe, while you relax with a book by the fire.

5. Sleep tight. “For small tents, the pea pods (example: KidCo PeaPod Portable Self Inflating Travel Bed – Lime) are popular,” Aist says. She also recommends bag doubles like the Functional DesignSleeping Bag Expander for co-sleepers — the expanders make one parent’s sleeping bag wider, so baby can snuggle in with you.

Another option (our family’s choice) was to cosleep on a queen-size air mattress, bringing sheets, pillows and a lightweight-but-superwarm blanket along with us (I love our wool Pendleton Blanket— 10 years old and often all we need on a camping trip). We dressed ourselves warmly and outfitted our daughter in a fleece bunting, (like this Columbia Snowtop II Bunting) so she stayed warm all night — even after kicking off the covers. The bunting also served as a warm romper during a chilly alpine morning.

Before bedtime, remember what we mentioned about routines. “Look at your home bedtime routine and see how you can modify it in the field,” Aist says. “For example, if you read a book before bed at home, do it in the tent too. If you use a white noise machine at home, download a white noise app for your iPod and play it in the tent.” Don’t skimp on the pre-bedtime snack or feeding, and don’t keep your baby up late hoping they’ll be so pooped they’ll pass out. “Put them down for bed before they are overtired,” Aist suggests.

6. Reframe “camping.” The pace is slower, and there won’t be as much sitting around, reading magazines and books or chilling out by the fire — except during naptime. You may have to plan activities for your toddler or spend more time entertaining them, as on an airplane — but without someone glaring from the seat in front.

Order a book on local flora and fauna (we use National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest), as toddlers enjoy identifying and naming objects — why not the stinging nettle (ouch) or huckleberry? A few more fun toddler-ready ideas: Heading out on a trail ramble, looking for crabs (under rocks) at the beach, using a magnifying glass to get up-close to bugs, throwing rocks into the lake and collecting seashells. Playing with some of the food-prep equipment is always a great option – a toddler, a small fry pan, a tin cup and a spoon can last longer than you’d think. You could even bring a few toy trucks from home for hauling pebbles.

7.  Worst case scenario. We know what this looks like. Your infant or toddler hates camping. She hates being cold, she hates the weird noises and she really, really hates that icky campfire smell. You have a few options – pack it up and go home (we know people who’ve done this), sit in the car with your baby until she calms down or….pack it up and go home.

But don’t give up on the idea yet. There’s always next year, when the kids are a little older and more flexible.

“The benefits of getting kids outside far outweigh a bad night’s sleep,” Aist says.

Readers, do you have any tips for camping with babies or toddlers? Any favorite toys, campsites, must-bring items from home?

Families Travel! Okanagan with Kids

Amy and Mike Sztupovsky live in semi-arid Oliver, British Columbia (about halfway between Pentiction, BC and the US-Canadian border). This couple are real travel aficionados – something made easier by the fact that they unschool their two kids, Lan (5) and Kayden (3).

“When our oldest was coming closer to school age we started to research homeschooling options,” Amy says. “I had never heard of unschooling before but when I started to learn about it, the method really spoke to my heart.”

So this family doesn’t need to worry about pulling the kids out of preschool or school to travel, and travel becomes part of the kids’ schooling. Naturally, Amy’s own website is called Worldschool Adventures. Let’s find out why unschooling and traveling fit together, and what to do in the Okanagan with kids.

(All photos courtesy Amy Sztupovsky: at right, Tuc-El-Nuit Lake)

How did you decide to unschool? What is unschooling?

Unschooling is best described as interest-led learning. We watch for the sparks of curiosity in our children and then we expand upon their interests so that they’re always engaged, involved and curious.

Mike and I have been planning on doing long-term traveling with our children since before they were even born!  The more I read and learned the more excited I became about the unschooling philosophy and I started to attend homeschooling meet-ups in our area.  I questioned mothers who were already doing it and began to get more and more comfortable with how it would work with our family.  We dove into unschooling head first and haven’t looked back since!

Like any type of homeschooling approach, unschooling allows us to take advantage of the off season (and off season prices!) We also like to do many of our outings on weekdays when things are less crowded.

What’s it like to live in Oliver, British Columbia and unschool?

Oliver is a very rural area, which offers both pros and cons for unschooling.  One of the cons is that our town is just too small to offer many of the amenities and programs that a larger center would offer.  But of course, there are many advantages to growing and learning in the rural Okanagan community.  We know where much of our food comes from and take an active roll in the process by supporting farmers markets and u-pick orchards.

Oliver has a fabulous paved pathway along the Okanagan River and we can ride our bikes into town and to Oliver’s fantastic water park, Kinsmen Water Park, near the Kinsmen Playground. We attend local festivals like The Festival of the Grape held every September.

Riding bikes in the Okanagan

Much of our learning stems from observations in our environment and the South Okanagan provides ample opportunities for hiking, biking, and swimming in the summer, and in the winter Mount Baldy Ski Resort is only a half hour drive away where one can ski, snowboard, snowshoe or cross country ski.

Do you go camping with kids in the Okanagan, in British Columbia?  How early do you have to reserve a spot?

There are so many campsites in the Okanagan. The summer months see many tourists passing through and camping on our many beautiful lakes and rivers.  We, however, like to head for the hills when the camping season starts.  Our best resources are a Back roads Map and a Camp Free in BC book.

Almost every mountain lake will have a forestry campsite on it with groomed sites, picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets.  They are beautiful and best of all they are free!  Most can be reached within a half hour to an hour drive of the towns but try to get there early as many will fill up on a Friday night. Our favorites are Isintok Lake and Idleback Lake near Penticton.

Do you have a favorite kid-friendly restaurant (or restaurants) in the Okanagan region?

Our favourite restaurant in Oliver is the Fire Hall Bistro.  This old converted Fire Hall has memorabilia and photos of its glory days. What kid wouldn’t want to eat in an old fire hall?

When is the best time to visit the Okanagan?

Many tourists come for skiing in the winter but most of our visitors come in the summer months.  We get very hot weather in July and August and people flock here for our lakes and beaches.  If I were to recommend a time of year though, I would say come in June or September.  Things won’t be so crowded but the weather is still great!

Read more about Oliver, British Columbia at the Oliver Tourism website.

Book Giveaway: Camping British Columbia

This week, I’m pleased to give away a free copy of Camping British Columbia by Jayne Seagrave to one lucky, random reader. It’s never too early to start planning next year’s summer camping vacation (although I don’t suggest buying the hot dogs quite yet).

If you remember, several weeks ago we spoke with Seagrave to discover the best BC camping spots for families. This book expands on the theme, although “Camping British Columbia” is not family-specific. Seagrave’s book offers photos (black and white and full-color) of every BC region’s provincial and national park campgrounds and includes the facilities, rec activities and any additional info that may sway you one way or another. One campsite has fresh fruit stands nearby — while another offers a sandy beach.

There’s a short section with tips on camping with kids, suggested camping tours (21 days in BC campgrounds? Yes!) and cool tidbits of info, such as where to pan for gold in BC’s campgrounds.

Would you like this book? Of course you do! Just leave a comment below (make sure your address is accurate) by Tuesday, October 12, 2010 and I’ll draw ONE random winner on Wednesday the 13th of October. Be patient though, I have to hand-approve all messages to slow down the sp*mmers. If you don’t see your message posted after a day, try posting it again.

Hot Springs in Oregon and Washington with Kids

Northwest hot springs with kids

Northwest hot springs with kids

If you were a miner back in the 1880s, how did you get really clean? You planned a trip to the closest hot springs.

Hot spring trips have long been a traditional pastime in the BC-Washington-Oregon region, says Jeff Birkby, author of Touring Washington and Oregon Hot Springs, a history-rich guidebook to hot springs in the Pacific Northwest. Hot springs are formed when ground and rain water sinks below the Earth’s surface, then heats in volcanic pots deep below the surface. The mineral-infused water springs back out once it’s at a boiling point, then cools in pools.

“Hot springs were social centers,” Birkby says of olden-days hot spring spots. The hotter the springs ran, the more popular they became in winter. Posh ladies booked a room for a week or more to shake the chill and recover from a host of maladies. And back in pre-plumbing days, hot springs (whether in a resort, in a simple a-frame building or on undeveloped property) were the only clean-up spot available to miners.

Unfortunately, few of the grand resorts still stand today. Most (constructed of wood) burned to the ground long ago. However, families looking to enjoy the magical heat of warming waters find plenty of places to soak their bones.

And with an extra-cold winter approaching, you may want to reserve your getaway now.

Hot spring resorts

For families, an established resort offers the most amenities and secure surroundings. Differing pool temps mean that you can get your extra-hot tub experience while the kids enjoy cooler pools.

In Washington State, Bonneville Hot Springs Resort provides a family-friendly atmosphere and spa treatments. It’s located about 40 minutes east of Portland, Oregon. If you continue east along the Washington side, Carson Hot Springs is a historic property — but a little ragged around the edges.

Near the Seattle area, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is Birkby’s pick. The resort, nestled in the Olympic National Park, offers a retreat for all ages and waters between 94-104 F. “Sol Duc has really nice campground,” Birkby says, “It’s great for kids, great waterfall, cabins and a restaurant.” However, Sol Duc closes on October 23 and reopens in May 6, 2011; the nearest year-round hot springs is Harrison Hot Springs, located about three hours north in British Columbia.


Oregonians can try central Oregon’s Kah-nee-tah Resort, just over Mt. Hood (about two hours from Portland). “There are a lot of wonderful kid-friendly pools,” Birkby says, such as one with bear statues spouting mouthfuls of water.

The new-agey Breitenbush Hot Springs is two hours southeast from Portland, and offers vegetarian meals in a forest setting. Birkby says it’s a fine resort if you don’t mind the clothing-optional tubs, and as long as parents check out the workshops going on. Don’t bring kids when there’s a couples-only weekend retreat.

And finally, Belknap Hot Springs, Lodge and Gardens offers day-use passes and overnight stays (lodge rooms, RV, cabins or tent sites). There are several affordable options at this central Oregon resort, where rooms range from $65-$250 in dreary November.

Undeveloped hot springs

Of course, there’s also the age-old tradition of jumping into a “wild” hot springs – the kind that bubble up in the midst of a forest, clearing or rocky scrub. These undeveloped hot springs, whether on public or private land, don’t come with a lifeguard or resort atmosphere. In exchange, the only price paid is the day-use pass. There aren’t mobs of tourists in these springs, often only known to locals.

Families can ease into the Cougar Hot Springs at Terwilliger, which offers a changing area and an alcohol-free atmosphere.

At Terwilliger — and most undeveloped hot springs — there’s an interesting dilemma: “Birthday suit or bathing suit?” Most established hot spring resorts in the Pacific Northwest ask everyone to keep their clothes on, with the exception of Breitenbush. But in undeveloped hot springs, you’ll often find a liberal, back-to-nature attitude toward clothing. What’s the expectation? First one in the pool sets the standard, says Birkby. If you arrive and everyone’s in a bathing suit, that’s the dress code (for now). However, it’s unlikely that anyone would look askew at someone wishing to wear a suit (particularly if it’s your kid).

Undeveloped springs can attract car theft. Just don’t leave valuables in sight. If you’ve gone hiking or camping, you already know this. At some hot springs, there may be drug or alcohol use; read up on the springs via online sites like Hot Springs of Oregon or in Birkby’s book and make sure you’re comfortable with the scene.

Family considerations at hot springs

“At any major resort, the big pools are comfortable, but the smaller, hotter indoor pools I’d be cautious about,” Birkby says. A comfortable zone is around 100 to 104, but anything over 104 feels too toasty, he adds. Ask at check-in for the pool temps and stay aware, particularly with younger children under age 12. Keep a cool head – don’t let anyone in your party submerge in hot springs water.

Parents of young children should also ask about the swim-diaper scene. Some resorts required children to be toilet-trained and do not allow swim dipes, ever.

And finally, in undeveloped hot springs, bring flip-flops or aquasox (to protect against jagged rocks), never let the kids drink unchlorinated natural hot springs water (blech) and stay close to children, as the water can be murky.

But your feet will finally feel warm.

Have you visited a Washington or Oregon hot spring destination with kids? What’s your favorite way to warm up in rainy, cold weather?

Camping with Kids in British Columbia

Looking for a BC vacation deal? British Columbia offers pitch-perfect camping options for every family: seven national parks, 900 provincial parks and hundreds of private campgrounds and RV parks. BC’s provincial parks typically only charge between $10 to $24 per site for car campers.

Jayne Seagrave is an expert on BC camping, and a mom to two boys (aged 10 and 11) — two lucky boys who’ve been camping since birth. She’s also the author of Camping British Columbia and Camping With Kids: The Best Campgrounds in British Columbia and Alberta.

Let’s find out what Jayne recommends for BC family camping.

1. For families visiting Vancouver, can you recommend a close-in campsite with a playground or other kid-friendly features?

There are no provincial park campgrounds within Vancouver. The nearest is Porteau Cove, about a 30 minute drive away. There is a small beach here (on the road to Whistler – Highway 99). (Lora’s note: I love the dramatic viewpoint at Porteau Cove — check out the photo at right).

Better to drive 90 minutes up to Alice Lake. Alice Lake is near Vancouver and the town of Squamish, so if it rains or you decide you don’t like camping, a Squamish motel is only 10 minutes away. Alice Lake offers a great kids play park, very safe beach, easy hiking trails, and a play park.

2. If a family wanted to take advantage of Whistler’s fun but didn’t want to pay for a hotel, what would you suggest?

Nairn Falls Provincial Park is fine and is the nearest to Whistler and there is a great 30 minute return trail to the falls, but no flush toilets, nor kids play area (although they can cycle around the campground). Nairn is about a 20 minute drive from Whistler, Alice Lake about 40 minutes, and there is so much more to do at Alice with children.


3. Can you recommend a campground on Vancouver Island for families? Why is it fantastic?

Rathtrevor Beach has everything for families and is close to the popular town of Parksville. You’ll find a huge beach, showers, easy paved roads to cycle upon, nature house and programs.

4. Any other favorite BC campgrounds for families with kids?

All campgrounds offer own personal attributes, below is a list of those I feature in Camping With Kids as they are the better ones for children, in that they might provide playparks, showers, flush toilets and kids’ programs.

Lower Mainland campsites:

1. Alice Lake Provincial Park
2. Porpoise Bay
3. E C Manning Park

Vancouver Island campsites:

1. Rathtrevor Beach
2. Gordon Bay
3. Miracle Beach

Okanagan campsites:

1. Ellison Provincial Park
2. Bear Creek
3. Haynes Point

Northern BC/Rockies campsites:

1. Kokanee Creek
2. Lalelse
3. Kikomun Creek

5. Why is camping in BC such a great experience for both BC families and visitors to BC?

Larger provincial parks have Jerry’s Rangers Programs specifically for kids which teaches nature courses, safety outsides, talks on bears and insects and frogs and fish and beaches, depending where the park is located. Only the larger parks offer these.

There are also evening talks and interpretive programs suitable for all age groups. Most of the campgrounds I recommend will have the talks but only in peak summer months and some only on certain days. I’ve attended loads, the evening ones are an easy way to pass an hour in the early evening and usually involve audience participation, which kids really like.

At a BC campground, you can get away from electronic devices and can explore in a very safe environment. Camping is also very reasonably priced in BC. Make sure to use the reservation system to avoid disappointment at www.discovercamping.ca. You can reserve most of the best family campgrounds.

6. And I understand that you suggest new-to-camping families might try taking a spin in an RV first. What was your experience with an RV rental?

I used Go-West Campers, we flew to Calgary and “delivered” an RV back to Vancouver. When the kids were under 2 you are only paying for adult flights to Calgary and the Camper was free as we were delivering it back for rental company. BUT the gas was VERY VERY expensive. There are millions of RV Rental companies. Cruise Canada RV Rental and Sales and Fraserway RV are both well-known.

Thanks, Jayne! I can’t wait to make my reservations for a BC camping vacation with my kids.

Read more about camping in BC with kids at The Travelling Mom’s The Best Campgrounds in British Columbia.

Camping with Kids in Washington State

camping with kids in washington state

Camping with kids in Washington state

 

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.

Other interpretive opportunities, such as the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center and the Fort Columbia Commanding Officer’s House Museum, also are in the vicinity.

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.

Check out the cool park-finder form and the map of Washington State campgrounds, read about camping sites with kids in Oregon, tips for camping with babies and young children,  and camping with kids in BC.

Readers, do you have a favorite family-friendly camping spot in Washington State? Care to share your secret? Leave it below!

Brand new! Western Washington State Campgrounds with Playgrounds.

Great American Campout & REI’s Family Adventure Program

This Saturday, June 26 marks the Great American Backyard Campout, sponsored by the National Wildlife Foundation. It’s a great excuse to open up the musty tent and fluff the sleeping bags. A backyard campout can help get kids ready for a real overnighter (if they haven’t gone yet), and the Great American Campout raises money for a great cause.

We’ve taken the kids camping since babyhood, so they’ve always been used to a pitch-black tent and strange noises around the campsite (Don’t worry, that’s not a bear, it’s just a grown-up snoring. Probably). I’m a big fan of being comfortable, so our packing list always includes an air mattress, a fluffy duvet and…brie cheese.

Whether you’re a family of pros or first-time campers, Pacific Northwest retailer REI is offering some wonderful incentives for families preparing to get outside. Their Family Adventure Program provides pocket-sized “kids’ adventure journals,” available for free at any REI or online at REI.com. Families can also find detailed descriptions of family-friendly hikes and bike rides at the link above, and a travel-photo sweepstakes.

After completing at least one outdoor activity, kids can send in the tear-off postcard from their journal to receive a certificate.

Families can also take advantage of advice from REI’s local experts to plan fun and budget-friendly ways to spend time outdoors. REI offers online checklists, tips and videos to help you plan campouts and day trips.

They also have some upcoming workshops that you might find interesting:

Portland

  • REI’s Family Adventure Party | Celebrate REI’s Family Adventure program and find out how you and your family can get the most out of summer. This celebration is at our REI Portland and Clackamas stores only. 6/26/2010, 10:00 AM

Spokane

  • Saturday Climbing | Adventure Climbing is a fun and exciting family activity. Co-op members climb for free. 7/31/2010, 1:00 PM

Bend

  • Cycling Ready 101 | Join REI for an introductory clinic on preparing you for any touring ride. The clinic will cover what you need to know before, during, and after your ride. 7/6/2010, 6:00 PM


Camping with Kids in Oregon

An Oregon yurt

An Oregon yurt

I loved e-mailing back and forth with the knowledgeable Paul Gerald, author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland. After I looked over his bio a little more, I discovered that he’d also written Best Tent Camping in Oregon (you can order both books from Paul Gerald’s site). So it was obviously time to ask Paul about family-friendly campsites in Oregon!

1. What’s the best thing about camping in Oregon? Why do you love it?

I love it because I love being outdoors: hearing the birds first thing in the morning, sleeping to the sound of a stream, seeing the stars, and being away from electronics and cars. And Oregon is easy to love because of the variety. Within a few hours of Portland we can sleep on the beach, in old-growth forests, way up in the mountains, in a desert, by a trout-filled stream, or a deep blue lake.

2. Can you recommend a great kid-friendly campground along the Oregon Coast?

Cape Lookout State Park has it all: yurts, ranger programs, a fine beach, some easy and scenic hiking trails, showers … and it’s even close enough to Tillamook that you can head into town if you want.
Location: 90 minutes west of Portland.

3. Can you recommend a great kid-friendly campground in a forested area?

I think Lost Lake Resort & Campground can be a great place for family camping. It’s a paved road all the way there, and the lake is beautiful, with an amazing view of Mount Hood. It’s a Forest Service “resort,” which just means it has a store and boat rentals, and the lake is stocked with fish. There’s even a quiet, walk-in tent camping area near the Old Growth Interpretive Trail, and another trail that goes all the way around the lake. Location: About two hours east of Portland, Oregon.

4. How about a family campsite in Central or Eastern Oregon? Anything near Bend?

Try Tumalo State Park. It’s right on the edge of Bend, and it has both yurts and camping, but it’s also a quiet retreat along the Deschutes River, and close to everything Central Oregon has to offer: access to the Three Sisters, the desert, lava beds, and Newberry Crater.

Location: About 15 minutes north of downtown Bend.

5. Are there any other Oregon campgrounds that stand out as being particularly family-friendly?

For quiet, low-tech camping, I really like Riverside along the Clackamas River. A lot of the campsites along the Clackamas get busy and crowded, but Riverside is an exception. It’s only got 16 spots, and you can’t get a big RV in there. And it’s right on the river, with an easy hiking trail leaving from one end of the camp.

Location: About an hour east from Portland, Oregon.

Find more great information about traveling in Oregon from Travel Oregon.

Thanks, Paul!

Kid-Friendly Hikes Near Victoria, BC

To find out more about family-friendly hiking and camping near Victoria, BC I interviewed Kari Jones, a mom to one son and the author of the book “Hiking Adventures with Children: Southern Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula” which you can order from Kari’s blog or from Amazon.com.

Q: Is there a kid-friendly hike within Victoria’s city limits that you recommend? What do you like about it?

There are so many walks within Victoria; it’s hard to choose just one. But if I have to, I’d say Mystic Vale is my favourite. The walk starts at the University of Victoria, which is easily accessible by car or bus, but once you are in the Vale, it’s hard to remember you’re in the middle of the city. It’s a little bit of wilderness.

Mystic Vale (This photo and one at right — also Mystic Vale — courtesy of Sarah Pugh)

There are tall trees, wildflowers, and a little stream that runs its length. With small children, going to Mystic Vale can be a whole morning’s outing. The best place to park is along Cedar Hill Cross Road, and if you go by bus, you have to walk across the campus to Cedar Hill Cross Road (not far, about 5 minutes of walking). The Vale itself is probably only one kilometer or so, but I will see if I can get a specific length. If you look at the map at this link, the vale is the red line. As you can see, you can make a loop out of it by walking on the red line, which is up above the vale (in the valley).There is no cost, and it is always open, though I wouldn’t recommend visiting it in the dark. It would be easy to trip.

Can you recommend a hike (within 45 minutes of downtown Victoria) that’s good for families with toddlers? Is there a spot accessible via public transportation?

Francis/King Regional Park is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Victoria, and is a fantastic place for toddlers. There are several hikes, the easiest of which is the Elsie King Trail. This park is inland, so it’s drier than some of the coast walks.

Francis/King park, photo courtesy Marci Zoretich

The area is home to so many species of plants and animals I can’t name them all.  In the spring there are wildflowers all along the trails, and we have seen newts, moles, owls, and other hard-to-see creatures there.

If you are on a bus, Beaver Lake is a nice place to walk. It’s flat, and the trail is well defined. It’s less “wild” than Francis King, but there is still a lot of wildlife to entertain a toddler with.

Q: Can you recommend a hike (within 45 minutes of downtown Victoria) that’s good for elementary-age kids — children who can go a little further without complaint?

Witty’s Lagoon is a fantastic place for families with kids of any age. It’s a bit of a hike from the road to the beach, so be prepared to carry toddlers. Any kid will enjoy watching the water cascade down the waterfall and running along the lagoon. Once you reach the end of the trail, the beach opens up and you can spend a whole day amusing yourself in the sand and water. On a sunny day the water warms up on the sandy flats, and many people enjoy swimming when the tide is high.

Q: Where is your favorite kid-friendly hiking spot mid-island? What do you like about it? Who is it good for (age-wise)?

In the winter, people visit the ski resort at Strathcona Provincial Park, but many aren’t familiar with the great summer hiking. This park is really best in mid-summer, once all the snow has melted. There are lakes to swim in, mountains to climb, and alpine meadows to walk through and camping platforms to erect your tent on. It is a wilderness destination, so you have to carry in everything you need and carry it all back out again. It’s great for families with children small enough to carry or old enough to carry a small pack.

Q: Do you have a favorite Victoria post-hike spot to take your kid for treats?

After a hike we often stop in at Demmitasse (1320 Blanshard Street, Victoria) in Oak Bay for a baked treat and a hot chocolate or coffee (depending on your age!). It’s a family-run bakery on McNeil Avenue, which has seats outside where you can sit, even if you are stinky from hiking, and sip at lattes, cappuccinos or hot chocolates. My son always chooses a popsicle, even when the rest of us are having hot drinks. They cater to all our needs.

Q: How about camping? Can you recommend a great car-camping location not too far from Victoria, with trails or a lake (or similar) nearby?

My favourite car camping location is Ruckle Park. It’s on Saltspring Island, and what I love about it is that you drive to a parking lot, park the car, and walk to your campsite a few meters away. So when you’re camping, you have easy access to your car, but your view consists of ocean and trees. There’s a lovely hike from the campground to a small beach where kids can safely wade or play in the sand or search for purple shore crabs. The campsite is very near to a working sheep farm, which you can also walk around if you want a longer hike.

Thanks, Kari! Readers, can you suggest any hikes?