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Elle Ossello | 05.19.2016

Though it’s hard to be exact, it’s estimated that there’s over 70,439 miles of river that winds, tumbles, and careens its way though the state of Washington. Couple that with over 8,000 lakes, and the highest rainfall in the contiguous Unites States and you’ve got yourself an impressive number of waterside camping options to explore.

Washington is renowned for high alpine lakes tucked away in the North Cascades, lush, loamy placid campsites adjacent to surging rapids, and abundant opportunities to wake up next to fishing that’s second-to-none. Even the most dedicated explorer could spend her whole life discovering new waterside camping. We’ve assembled a starter list below; you'll find a sampling of sites in each region (for a more comprehensive list, see the "Featured Adventures" section below):

Western Olympic Peninsula

  • Lake Crescent, Fairholme Campground – A super easy to get to ONP camp spot that’s shrouded by towering old-growth forest and situated on the banks of the lake.
  • Hoh Oxbow Campground – Riverside camping with immediate access to excellent fishing and an expansive network of trails.
  • Lake Quinault, Gatton Creek Campground – This small, secluded campground features on-the-water campsites amid lush old-growth forests.
  • Lyre River Campground – A quiet, little-known campground with few amenities and excellent access to Murdock Beach, which is typically speckled with agates and beach rocks.
  • Sol Duc Campground – A usually bustling and clean site situated on the Sol Duc River with great access to the Sol Duc Hot Springs.

Hood Canal + Eastern Olympic Peninsula

Seattle/Tacoma Greater Area

  • Snoqualmie River, John MacDonald Memorial Campground – In our opinion, this is the best camping spot for kids (or anyone) in the Seattle metro area. It offers a number of different camping/lodging options and is within close proximity of good hiking trail networks.

Mount Baker Area

North Cascades

  • Diablo Lake, Colonial Creek Campground – Lakeside, creekside, and forestside sites are all available and are situated near to hiking trails, a fishing pier, docks, and a boat launch.
  • Beckler River Campground – Convenience plus utility make this fishing campsite an excellent choice as a base camp for Stevens Pass and Alpine Lakes Wilderness adventures.
  • South Fork Stillaguamish River, Boardman Creek Group Campground – Perfect for big groups, this relatively private site provides great access to nearby hiking and waterfall-peeping.
  • Bridge Creek Campground – Just 9 miles from the town of Leavenworth, this site serves as a base camp for many who set off to tackle one of the myriad adventures to be had in the area.
  • Kachess Lake Campground - Even with 183 sites, great amenities, and perfect beach access, this campground is rarely full and is very popular with families.
  • Barclay Lake – A great choice for families, this charming lake is accessible with a gentle 2-mile hike through a scenic forest. Select your site from the many that line the shore, and enjoy the fantastic views of Baring Mountain.

Eastern Cascades

  • Nason Creek Campground - Nason Creek finds its confluence in Lake Wenatchee, and this campground is situated in the nook between the two. You'll find quiet, clean sites, and Lake Wenatchee State Park is just down the way.
  • Lake Wenatchee, Glacier View Campground - Tucked away on the south shore of the lake, this campground is surprisingly under utilized. A day use boat launch is nearby and serves both motorized and non-motorized watercraft.
  • Lake Wenatchee State Park South Campground - A playground, boat ramp, volleyball net, and plenty of amenities make this a popular site that is great for those with kids. 

Mount Rainier Area

Mount Adams Area

  • Cispus River Campsite - A 50-yard walk from the site brings campers to the banks of the pristine Cispus River—a haven for intermediate to advanced kayakers. This is a great halfway point between Seattle and Portland.
  • Walupt Lake Campground - Private, spacious camping with good amenities and excellent access to the lake and an impressive network of trails.
  • Trout Lake Creek Campground - This campground is primitive, quiet, and small, but it offers a surprising number of amenities, great access to the creek, and bountiful fishing.

If you're going to camp in a national forest or wilderness area, you must set your camp at least 100 feet from any water source and always remember to Leave No Trace.


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