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Go Camping (And Hiking) In Washington With Your Kids

Car camping is a great way to spend time outdoors with children. While on your next camping trip take a family hike and explore the trails nearby.

Washington offers a huge variety of camping experiences, from developed campgrounds with showers and electrical hook-ups to primitive campgrounds with pit toilets and few neighbors. Some need to be booked months in advance to secure a spot; others are first-come, first-served.

15372969059_a4e8b728cb_k.jpgTwo young girls play in a hammock at Curlew Lake State Park. State Parks are perfect for starter campsites with family. Photo by Rachel McLary. 

Near the major metropolitan areas of the Western Cascades, reservations are almost imperative for summer weekends. Nearly all of the campgrounds on the west slope of the Cascades are on the reservation system. The Olympics, however, are mostly non-reservable, so it is best to do some planning in advance to know which is which. WTA has put together acomprehensive guide to the reservation systemto help you plan.

Looking to be more spontaneous? We suggest embarking on your trip midweek (Thursday arrival at the latest) or going farther afield and a explore a new place. Car camping is also a great way to spend time outdoors with children. While on your next camping trip, take a family hike to explore nearby trails. Many campgrounds in Washington offer plenty of opportunities to hike within a short distance, but we've highlighted some favorites here.

And be sure to take a look at our other excellent resources to make your trip easy.


Central Washington

Steamboat Rock State Park

Location: Grand Coulee
Logistics: Reservations necessary in summer
Sites:162 sites
Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, showers, garbage service, dump service, firewood
Best Seasons: Year-round
Directions: Drive east on I-90. Take exit 151 for Ephrata/Soap Lake and drive to SR 17 in Soap Lake. Drive SR 17 for 21 miles then turn right onto Hwy 2. Continue for 4.3 miles, then merge onto Hwy 155. 15 miles from the Y junction, turn left onto Steamboat Rock Park Entrance Road.
Learn More: 
Washington State Parks

Three of five deer we saw along the park road as we were returning to our campsite.
Kids heading out for a day of hiking at Steamboat Rock. Photo by surgataz. 

In the spring and fall, this is a fairly quiet getaway along the Grand Coulee, but in summer this campground is a hub of water activity. Fishing, canoeing and boating take the stage, with the majestic Steamboat Rock beckoning hikers.

Hike It:

  • Steamboat Rock (4 miles; 600 feet gain): Steamboat Rock sits like the prow of a ship in Banks Lake. From the campground climb the sometimes steep trail to the flat-topped butte for some wonderful rambling and views.
  • Lenore Lake Caves (1.5 miles; 200 feet gain): Just outside of Soap Lake, along the prettiest section of Grand Coulee, are a series of caves set in the basalt. Easy to get to, fun to explore and not to be missed.

Northwest

DECEPTION PASS STATE PARK

Location: Whidbey Island
Logistics: Reservations essential during summer
Sites: 167 tent sites, 143 utility spaces, 5 hiker/biker sites
Amenities: Drinking water, flush toilets, showers, garbage, hook-ups, dump service, firewood
Open: Year-round
Learn More: Washington State Parks

30415129135_9349a62d06_k.jpg"Little friends enjoying some hammock time at the campsite. Hearing them laugh in there, about whatever they were talking about, was one of the highlights of my summer." Photo by Beth Easton.

Puget Sound tidepools, a lake and miles of hiking welcome visitors to one of Washington's finest state parks. Campsites are large and mostly private, and the kids are likely to make fast friends among their neighbors.

Hike It:

  • West Beach Sand Dunes (1.2 miles; no elevation gain): Aside from the fact that sand is just plain fun for kids young and old, this interpretive trail offers a chance to study the vegetation on the dunes and discuss how it protects Cranberry Lake from sand blowing in off of West Beach.
  • Goose Rock (2.5 miles; 300 feet gain): Witness the swirling currents of Deception Pass from one of the highest points on Whidbey Island. Clear days offer views of the San Juan Islands, the Olympics and Mount Rainier.
  • Ebey's Landing (3.5 mile loop; 240 feet gain):  From this bluff, kids will be delighted to watch the shipping traffic along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, admire the occasional bald eagle flying overhead and gape at the views of the Olympics so close they could be touched.

North Cascades

Rasar State Park

Location: North Cascades National Park
Logistics: Reservations recommended
Sites: 18 sites
Amenities: Drinking water, flush toilets, park store
Open: Year-round
Learn More: Washington State Parks

Rasar state park_TAW1963.jpegKids filtering water on a Scout outing at Rasar State Park. Photo by TAW1963.

On the west edge of the North Cascades, Rasar State Park offers hiking, river exploration, and gorgeous mountain views from a wide-open meadow trail. The perfect low-country location to go camping when the higher parks are still under snow. 

Hike it: 

  • Shadow of the Sentinels (0.5 miles; 50 feet gain): This kid and stroller friendly trail provides a short but impressive introduction to the giant trees that are part of the forest here. 
  • Skagit-Sauk Reach Trail (8.0 miles; 300 feet): Though it's 8 miles roundtrip, this meandering, gentle trail is a great way to let the kids explore along a mighty river for as long (or as short) as they want. 

Central Cascades

LAKE WENATCHEE STATE PARK

Location: Leavenworth area
Logistics: Reservations essential during summer
Sites: 155 tent spaces, 42 water and electric sites
Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, showers, garbage service, dump service, firewood
Open: Year-round
Learn More: Washington State Parks

lake wenatchee state park_loren drummond.jpegGlacier lilies make springtime a joy at Lake Wenatchee State Park. Photo by Loren Drummond.

You may not be able to persuade the kids to leave the beach at Lake Wenatchee, but if you do, there is a whole world to explore in this area -- and even a chance to grab some restaurant grub at the 59er Diner or in Leavenworth.

Hike It:

  • Hidden Lake (1.2 miles; 200 feet gain): The easiest of trails leads to a pretty little lake above Lake Wenatchee. It's so short, you could even haul in an inflatable boat to extend your visit.
  • Tumwater Pipeline (2.4 miles; 100 feet gain): This trail is way better than it sounds, taking hikers over an interesting bridge, through Tumwater Canyon and along the mighty Wenatchee River.

Olympic Peninsula

FORT FLAGLER STATE PARK

Location: near Port Townsend
Logistics: Reservations essential during summer
Sites: 115 sites
Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, showers, garbage service, dump service, firewood, playground
Open: March - October
Learn More: Washington State Parks

Fort Flagler_desiree sauve.jpgA little hiker and his dog venture on a morning walk at Fort Flagler State Park. Photo by Desiree Sauve.

The well-appointed campground aside, this is one of the most geologically varied state parks in Washington. You could spend a week exploring the area and keep everyone happy. From the saltwater shoreline to huge artillery guns, there is something for everyone.

Hike It:

  • Fort Flagler Loop (5 miles; 150 feet gain): Sample the park with this route, or bite off a bit with the kids.
  • South Indian Island (4 miles; 50 feet gain): There's a good chance to see seals and bird life on this trail.

Dosewallips State Park Campground

Location: Hood Canal
Logistics: Camping fee required; reservations for platform tents required
Sites: 75 tent sites
Amenities: restrooms, showers, dump site
Best Seasons: year-round

dose_joe hendricks.pngHikers cross a bridge in the forest of Dosewallips State Park. Photo by Joe Hendricks.

Dosewallips (or Dosey, as it's known by people who frequent it) is the perfect park for people new to camping or hiking. Explore the forested area near the campground (which features trailer hookups, rustic camping, and even platform tents!) or head to the beach across Highway 101 to explore at low tide.

Hike It:

  • Maple Valley Loop (1.5 miles; negligible elevation gain) Waterfalls, bigleaf maples, and logging artifacts -- this trail has plenty of entertaining distractions for young kids. 
  • Ranger Hole - Interrorem (2.1 miles; 200 feet gain) Hike from an historic ranger station to the fishing hole where Ranger Emery Finch used to fish for his dinner. 

Mount Rainier

Ohanapecosh Campground

Location: Mount Rainier National Park
Logistics: Reservations available recreation.gov
Sites: 
188 sites
Amenities: 
Picnic tables, flush toilets, water, garbage service
Open: Late June through September
Learn More: Mount Rainier National Park

Ohanapecosh by Chen Yen Goh.jpg
Campers fill out Junior Ranger booklets at Ohanapecosh Campground. Photo by Chen Yen Goh.

On the parks quieter southeast side, Ohanapecosh comes complete with an excellent Visitor Center, short hikes that leave from the campground, a rushing river, and beautiful campsites. Make a day of it and head to Paradise to visit other trails at this gorgeous national park. 

Hike It:

  • Ohanapecosh Hot Springs (0.4 miles; 50 feet gain): This short loop leaves from the camping area and visits a tiny hot springs. Along the way, learn a little about the history of this place.
  • Silver Falls Loop (3.0 miles, 600 feet gain): Head upstream on the Ohanapecosh River and visit a crashing waterfall. Cross a high bridge and wander through the forest nearby. 

Southwest Washington

SEAQUEST STATE PARK

Location: Mount St. Helens area
Logistics: Reservations recommended
Sites: 88 sites; 5 yurts
Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, showers, garbage service, dump service, firewood
Open: Year-round
Learn More: Washington State Parks

Hummocks Trail by Family Hikers.jpeg
The Hummocks Trail is only a short distance away from Seaquest State Park. Photo by Family Hikers.

With no campgrounds or lodging facilities at Mount St. Helens National Monument, Seaquest State Park is the best place to launch your visit to Washington's most volatile volcano. The campground is even within walking distance from one of the numerous visitor centers along Highway 504.

Hike It:

  • Silver Lake (3 miles; 100 feet gain): The boardwalk loop just across the road from the state park campground pairs nicely with the visitor center nearby as a hike you can do without loading your kids into the car!
  • Hummocks Trail (2.3 miles; 100 feet gain): A delightful loop among towering mounds and amidst ponds and brush, the Hummocks Trail is an easy trail with intriguing views of the volcano and the Toutle River rushing far below.

Cape Disappointment State Park

Location: Long Beach Area
Logistics: Reservations recommended
Sites: 137 sites (plus yurts and cabins as well)
Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, showers, garbage service, park store
Open: Year-round
Learn More: Washington State Parks

family at cape d_amishgirl.jpegThere's plenty to do for the whole family at Cape Disappointment State Park. Photo by amishgirl.

Cape Disappointment has lots of options for families. Visit one of the many trails in the park, bike along the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail, or head across the Columbia to the town of Astoria in Oregon for a day of sightseeing. 

Hike It:

  • North Head Lighthouse (0.75 miles; 25 feet gain): The iconic North Head lighthouse is a short, stroller-friendly walk to a headland overlooking the crashing Pacific. If you have time, head to Bell's Overlook, another nearby paved trail that winds through coastal forest. 
  • Fort Columbia State Park (2.8 miles; 630 feet gain): Just east of Cape Disappointment is one of Washington's original forts, complete with old buildings kids will love to explore. Hike Scarborough Hill to burn off that extra energy.

Northeastern Washington

Sullivan Lake

Location: north of Spokane
Logistics: reservations
Sites: 
48 sites
Amenities: 
Potable water, pit toilets, garbage service, firewood
Open: Mid-May through August
Learn More: Reserve America

sullivan lake_saylah leu.jpegSullivan Lake is gorgeous in fall, and refreshing in summer! Photo by Saylah Leu. 

East Sullivan Campground is perched along the north shore of Sullivan Lake near the town of Metaline Falls, Washington. The campground provides a unique environment where campers can enjoy swimming, fishing, sailing and whitewater paddling.

Hike It:

  • Sullivan Lake (4 miles; 700 feet gain): A shoreline trail that becomes resplendent with fall color (even larches!) in fall, it departs right from the East Sullivan Campground.
  • Crawford State Park - Gardner Cave (1 mile; 200 feet gain): If you're there in summer, make plans to visit this cave, just about as close to Canada as you can get. Call ahead -- rangers want to know if you're going to be visiting.

Southeast Washington

Lewis and Clark Trail State Park

Location: Near Walla Walla
Logistics: Sites available 4/1 - 10/31; reservable 5/15 - 9/15.
Sites: 24 sites
Amenities:
flush toilets
Open: April - October
Learn More: Washington State Parks

2633349458_675a773876_b.jpgFlowers alongside the Touchet River can be a fascinating trailside distraction. Photo courtesy Scott Butner/Creative Commons. 

This tiny state park tucked off of Highway 12 is a nice place to stop on a family road trip, though you'll want to plan ahead and pack supplies. When you've cooled off (and maybe taken a dip in the Touchet River), press onward to  

Hike it:

  • Field Springs State Park - Puffer Butte (4.4 miles roundtrip; negligible elevation gain). The views from Puffer Butte in Fields Spring State Park are some of the best around, and best of all, you won't have to work terribly hard to get them!
  • Bennington Lake (4.8 miles; negligible elevation gain). You'll likely have to go into Walla Walla for supplies, and when you do, make time for Bennington Lake, Walla Walla's water supply and local trails network.