Camping in Washington This Summer: What You Need to Know
Not sure how and where to go camping this year? We spoke to land managers across the state and gathered information to make your planning easier.
Not sure how and where to go camping this year? We spoke to land managers across the state and gathered information to make your planning easier. Here are answer to some of the most common question you're likely to have.
Can I go camping in Washington this weekend?
The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is “You’ll need to do more research and planning than usual to find a spot and follow the guidelines of the county you’re in.”
If you’re new to camping in Washington or haven’t done it in awhile, we recommend you check out our Camping 101 tips.
How is camping this year different than years prior?
- Advanced reservations and permits are more important than ever.
- We recommend you avoid making stops in rural communities on the way to your destination. Fill up your gas tank and buy supplies near home before hitting the road.
- Don’t forget your face coverings and extra hand sanitizer, in addition to the usual camping gear. While masks are not required in outdoor spaces where you are far from other people, you’ll need to wear one when entering any indoor areas or when physical distancing is not possible with other campers or hikers.
“We’re strongly encouraging making reservations first to ensure visitors have someplace to stay, should the campground be full or running at diminished capacity.” —Meryl Lassen of Washington State Parks
Make reservations and review up-to-date information
Information on what camping is allowed and available is changing quickly, so we recommend confirming your plans and double-checking for the latest information before you leave home.
Here’s where to search for for reservable campsites:
- State Parks campgrounds
- Department of Natural Resources campgrounds
- U.S. Forest Service and National Park campgrounds can be reserved on recreation.gov
- Mount Rainier National Park Alerts
- North Cascades National Park Alerts
- Olympic National Park Alerts
If your first question is “What’s dispersed camping?” — check out our dispersed camping how-to to learn more. Dispersed camping is allowed in certain locations in national forests and on Bureau of Land Management lands. To find out where you can participate in dispersed camping, it is best to contact the land manager directly. In the case of national forest land, contact the nearest Forest Service office. While dispersed camping is currently allowed in many areas, sites often fill up quickly on weekends. Have a few backup plans or consider visiting during the week to avoid crowds.
What about backpacking?
Like with car camping, you’ll want to go directly to the land manager of the area you’re interested in going backpacking. We’ve linked several popular destinations below.
How is backpacking different this year than years prior?
- Getting permits in advance will be critical in areas where they are needed. For example, Mount Rainier National Park won’t be offering any walk-up permits this year. Do your research online (see links below) before you go.
- Play it safe: This isn’t the year for your biggest adventure to-date. Slow down and opt-in to lower risk activities and routes while search and rescue and healthcare facilities are under additional strain. The mountains will still be there next year!
- We recommend you avoid making stops in rural communities on the way to your destination. Fill up your gas tank and buy your supplies near home before hitting the road.
Wilderness permits and up-to-date information
Mount Rainier National Park: Permits are required for any overnight camping in wilderness areas of Mount Rainier. Learn more about this process on the park’s website. Please note that no walk-up permits will be issued this year. You must get your permits in advance.
North Cascades National Park: Wilderness camping is now allowed in the park but a wilderness permit is required. You can check the status of available backcountry permits on the website here and then obtain a permit in person at the Wilderness Information Center.
Olympic National Park: You can visit recreation.gov to reserve wilderness permits for backpacking trips in Olympic National Park. Note that popular destination, Shi Shi Beach, is currently not accessible.
National forests in Washington: Visit the website of the national forest you plan to visit to see the most up-to-date restrictions and guidance on backpacking.
"In some ways, little has changed at Mount Rainier. Our wilderness remains open, and remains a place of beauty and refuge. At the same time, it's more important than ever that people plan and prepare carefully. Recreate responsibly. Pack the ten essentials, be self-sufficient, be ready for any kind of weather, and have an emergency strategy. Trails may be a little wilder, campsites and backcountry toilets less maintained or even closed. Have a backup plan for everything. Embrace the wildness and have a great time." — Kevin Bacher, Volunteer and Outreach Program Manager, Mount Rainier National Park
What other questions do you have about camping in Washington right now? Ask them in the comments and we’ll get you answers ASAP!