Our Family’s Favorite Washington Campgrounds

Originally published in March 2021. Last updated in October 2021 to include Summer 2021 trip updates

We weren’t huge campers before kids, but perks like tons of outdoor time and dirt to dig in have made us fans of camping with little ones (except camping sleep, that’s still terrible). We typically camp two weekends a month during the summer and once or twice during the spring and fall shoulder seasons (although usually in a cabin).

Different phases of parenthood bring peaks and valleys to camping — we haven’t really camped with newborns, for example, and have enjoyed cabin camping in the shoulder season or when I’ve camped on my own with the kids. I’ve written before about our camping plans, but got some requests for campground recommendations that I wanted to compile into one post.

Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of campgrounds we’ve stayed at over the years, generally organized by region. State Parks need to be booked at Washington GoingtoCamp (9 months in advance), whereas national forest/national parks are booked at Recreation.Gov (6 months in advance). I’m a planner and haven’t stayed anywhere with first-come, first-serve camping before because the amount of effort to pack up and potentially not have a spot is too high for me.

Be sure to let me know if there’s a campground missing that we should look into next year

Whidbey/Camano/Orcas Islands

Deception Pass State Park (N. Whidbey Island)

Season stayed: Summer 2020
Site: C4 (Cabin); Quarry Pond Campground
Drive time from Seattle: 1.5 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: Sites are small and cabin keypad access can be tricky (make sure to go to the park entrance on the other side of the highway for your code; it won’t be in your confirmation e-mail or onsite), but you can’t beat the location for access to the great hikes and beach around Deception Pass. I camped here solo with the kids and wrote a blog post here.

Exploring the Rosario Beach tidepools at Deception Pass State Park

Camano Island State Park (Camano Island)

Season stayed: Summer 2020, Summer 2021
Site: 62, 13
Drive time from Seattle: Just over 1 hour
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: The first site we stayed in was quite small and surrounded by blackberry bushes, but we booked late because of the pandemic and it was fine for last-minute camping. Campsites around the outside of the upper and lower campgrounds generally have more space. In 2021, we stayed in the lower loop and had water views at site 13. That said, it was still a small spot and it was close to the road to the beach, so we heard the fisherpeople headed out to the water in their noisy trucks at 5 a.m. There is great beach access via a short trail, especially from the lower campground, as well as family-friendly trails throughout the park and nearby Cama Beach State Park. See blog post here for more details.

Small but functional campsite at Camano Island State Park

Cama Beach State Park (Camano Island)

Season stayed: Winter 2020
Site: C40 (Deluxe Cabin)
Drive time from Seattle: Just over 1 hour
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: While trekking kids and gear down to the beach from an uphill parking lot is tough, it was worth it for the car-free waterfront area. There are several trails in the park that are family-friendly in addition to a small playground, outdoor giant chess set and a seasonally open general store. During pre-pandemic times, the Center for Wooden Boats often hosts events that are fun for kids (like boat building and crafts). The Cama Beach cabins finally transitioned to the online reservation system in the last year or two (you used to have to call and wait on hold forever). See my Seattle’s Child article here for more details.

Moran State Park (Orcas Island)

Season stayed: Spring 2018
Site: 79
Drive time from Seattle: 3 hours (assuming you time the ferry perfectly)
Would we stay again?: Yes, but not during the pandemic (rural community with low access to medical facilities and a long ferry ride and drive with limited restroom access).
General thoughts: The San Juans require some time investment (a 2 hr drive from N. Seattle + a 1 hr ferry that should be reserved in advance), but we loved this campground when we only had one kid to schlep (Julia is a better car traveler than James). There’s a small lake where you can play by the beach, buy ice cream from a little stand and rent canoes and kayaks. The loop trail around the lake is also family-friendly and pretty, plus you can scout out other campgrounds. Mt. Constitution is a beautiful hike with a lookout (which might be closed due to COVID, but a quick search didn’t specify) and you can drive all or part of the way up to adjust the hike length for little legs. Blog post here for more details.

Enjoying a pre-COVID ice cream cone by the lake at Moran State Park

Highway 2

Wallace Falls State Park (Gold Bar)

Season stayed: Fall 2015 (I was pregnant with Julia), Fall 2017
Site: C1 and C2 (cabins)
Drive time from Seattle: 1 hour
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: The cabins at Wallace Falls are great with much more privacy than at other state parks. The restrooms were also extremely clean when we visited. The parking area is small though and while there are spots dedicated to cabin campers, I could see summer visitors ignoring them. There aren’t as many trails in the immediate vicinity (besides the obvious Wallace Falls) as other parks, so that’s a limiting factor. The nearby town of Gold Bar has several restaurants if you don’t feel like cooking — I really miss the previous owners of the Gold Bar Cafe who made amazing Mi Quang Pho (it was good enough for me to drive out from Seattle once or twice while pregnant).

Wallace Falls – a great day trip or cabin stay!

Beckler River (Skykomish)

Season stayed: Summer 2020
Site: 22
Drive time from Seattle: 1.5 hours
Would we stay again?: Probably not
General thoughts: The sites at this campground are pretty large and private and the camp host is delightful and does her best to keep everything clean. That said, there were some unanticipated problems with this campground that make me hesitant to go back. The biggest one is that the neighbors like to have their happy hour shooting parties, so you should expect loud gunfire particularly on weekends. There was also no running water while we were there due to a pipe damaged the previous year that hadn’t been fixed, and the river had changed course so it wasn’t safe to play in. If you go in with these expectations, you’ll be fine, but I’m a camping wimp and I like things like running water and natural noise. This campground is near some cool hikes, like the Wellington Ghost Town trail. More details are in this blog post.

Back side of our large campsite at Beckler River (no gunfire in the mornings!)

Mt. Rainier & Mt. St. Helens

Cougar Rock (Paradise Area)

Season stayed: Summer 2018
Site: D001
Drive time from Seattle: 2 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: The best times to stay in Mt Rainier National Park are both the most popular (July/August when it’s not too cold and there are wildflowers) and the most uncertain due to our wildfire season. When we went, wildfires were just ending and it was really cloudy and slightly rainy, but there was a statewide burn ban. Luckily, the burn ban doesn’t apply to federal land and we were able to have a small fire for warmth, although we didn’t keep it particularly long. This campground has an amphitheater (the program when we stayed was a special edition that was held elsewhere), so there should be fun evening programs outside of the pandemic. It’s also pretty close to the Paradise Inn if you wanted to avoid cooking (we visited pre-pandemic, so I can’t speak to openings).

Nisqually Vista Trail – an easy Mt Rainier hike when staying at Cougar Rock campground

Ohanapecosh (Southeast Rainier)

Season stayed: Summer 2021
Site: D21, A27
Drive time from Seattle: 3 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: We oopsed on this one in 2021! We’d canceled reservations a couple of years in a row (once due to wildfire smoke and the other because Peter was recovering from an unexpected surgery) and accidentally mixed up our 2020 confirmation e-mail with our 2021 email. Luckily, the nice women who showed up on our second night let us stay and went to the other spot. A27 was great and had some huckleberry bushes and a slight hill down into the camp area that was fun for the kids on their bikes. Restrooms were nearby and fairly clean. Keep in mind that bears frequent the area and you’ll have to dump your dishwater in the toilet and lock all food in your car or bear box. This campground is great for access to the Grove of the Patriarchs and Silver Falls trails. It’s about 30-40 minutes to Naches Peak Loop and an hour to the Sunrise park entrance for the trails there.

Beaver Bay Campground (South Mt. St. Helens area)

Season stayed: Summer 2018
Site: A33
Drive time from Seattle: 3 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes, although a couple of the highlights are closed right now due to COVID-19 and construction.
General thoughts: This is a campground owned by PacificCorp (energy company), so it’s the only spot on this list that you can’t book through Washington State Parks or Recreation.gov. The Mt. St. Helens Learning Center is 2 hours away (you have to drive out to the main highway), but I picked this campground to stay near Ape Cave (closed due to COVID-19 at the time of writing). The “cave” is actually the 3rd longest lava tube in North America and is an awesome spot to visit in the heat of summer because it stays quite cool year round. The lower cave route is great for young families, while older kids (not ours, yet) will enjoy the upper route, which requires you to climb an 8-ft rock wall. We also loved the Trail of Two Forests and Lava Canyon (suspension bridge closed as of writing due to cable damage) where you can see how the lava from the 1989 eruption reshaped the area. We had rain on one of our days, so we just drove roughly an hour to Portland where there was better weather and we could enjoy some city sights.

Ape Cave near Beaver Bay Campground – closed during COVID, but save for the future!

Olympic Peninsula

Salt Creek Recreation Area (Port Angeles)

Season stayed: Summer 2018, Summer 2021
Site: 18, 53
Drive time from Seattle: 3 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes, but with older kids and not in the RV area
General thoughts: We booked spot 18 fairly last minute a few years ago (book through Clallam County; reservations open January 1 for the calendar year). I had read about the tidepools and wanted to visit, but the only site available was in the middle of the RV area. Since hotels nearby were really expensive, I figured we could stand anything for a night. Wrong. The RV spaces are really close together with no privacy whatsoever. We were surrounded by big groups (a basketball rolled into the side of our tent, guitar playing till midnight) and a foghorn sounded throughout the night. I ended up sleeping in the passenger seat of the car holding Julia on my lap and was freezing because I couldn’t get my sleeping bag comfortable.

In 2021, we stayed in the tent area, but our site was small and had lots of prickly plants that were tough to keep the kid away from. The fog horn was back, as were late night noisy campers.

So would I stay again? The tidepools are 100% what they’re cracked up to be (I even saw an octopus on our 2021 trip). The space is huge and the species are diverse. The campground also has a playground and some old forts to hike to and is fairly close to Port Angeles. I might wait till the kids are a little older and can stay up later while the rest of the campground is making noise.

Heading to the tidepools at Salt Creek Recreation Area

Fort Worden State Park (Port Townsend)

Season stayed: Summer 2018
Site: 79
Drive time from Seattle: 2 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes, although some amenities are less fun during COVID (like restaurant proximity)
General thoughts: We stayed in the forest campground (vs. the beach campground) to get shade and more privacy. It’s still within walking distance to restaurants and the beach. We had outdoor happy hour with family at Taps at the Guardhouse and then headed to the beach to play (the Port Townsend Marine Center is at the end of the pier). Since we only had one kid who was happy to ride in the carrier, we hiked the 6 miles round trip to Glass Beach with a picnic and enjoyed the tidepools. Families who want 4 walls can also rent former officers’ quarters (although they seem expensive for the quality) — we saw a wedding party during our visit and it seems like a great way to have the bridal party stay near each other. See blog post here for more details.

Hunting for sea glass and tidepool creatures at Glass Beach near Fort Worden

Fort Flagler State Park (Marrowstone Island)

Season stayed: Memorial Day 2021
Site: 19 (upper campground)
Drive time from Seattle: 2.5 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: We had a fairly large spot with room for hammocks and an easy walk to water (slightly longer to the restroom). The upper campground loop has some hills, but was still fun for the kids to ride their bikes and we had plenty of shade. The lower campground has much less shade, but it’s closer to the playground. There’s also a cute little general store near the playground that sells coffee, soft serve ice cream and some essentials (although they opened at 10 a.m. when we stayed, so it’s more like a second-cup-of-coffee stop). Little J and I hiked the bluff trail between old fort buildings and it’s really beautiful and not challenging, plus the campground is pretty convenient to Finnriver Cidery, Chimacum and Port Townsend.

Peeking out of a building along the Fort Flagler State Park Bluff Trail

Dosewallips State Park (Hood Canal)

Season stayed: Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020
Site: C6, C8, C9 (Cabins)
Drive time from Seattle: 2 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes (as evidenced by the repeat stays)
General thoughts: This is our favorite fall camping spot! It gets chilly and weather is unpredictable, so we book a cabin and occasionally get takeout (or dine-in, pre-COVID) at the Halfway House in nearby Brinnon. We always see salmon spawning and the resident herd of elk, plus we saw a large family of eagles on our last trip. There’s a short trail down to the water and a lookout tower, plus a few more hikes in the park and more nearby. We typically take a ferry and drive through Port Gamble on the way there and then drive through Olympia and stop at Billy Q. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge on the way back. Blog post here for more details. You could also continue down the peninsula to Long Beach, similar to our route as described here.

Dosewallips State Park – a fall family favorite since 2017

Penrose Point State Park (between Olympia and Bremerton)

Season stayed: Summer 2017
Site: 75
Drive time from Seattle: 1.5 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: This campground was Julia’s first camping trip! We wanted something fairly close to home (about 1-1.5 hours from North Seattle) so we could bail if needed, and also a spot we could use bring our newly acquired kayak. The campsites aren’t super private, but the park is a real gem. There’s a calm, shallow space in Mayo Cove where we could spot sand dollars on the sea floor (we could have walked at hip depth or less at most points). When Julia woke up early, we walked to the beach on the other side of the cove (where 158th Ave SW dead ends into the water) and watched clams shoot water into the sky like a PNW version of the Bellagio fountains. Gig Harbor makes a great stop on the return trip to Seattle. I’ve found reservations easier to get at this park than some others.

Baby’s first camping trip – Penrose Point State Park

Grayland Beach State Park (Ocean Shores/Long Beach)

Season stayed: Summer 2014, Summer 2021
Site: 113, Y120
Drive time from Seattle: 2.5 hours
Would we stay again?: Yes
General thoughts: We stayed here pre-kids in a walk-in site. We booked on the late side because my sister-in-law invited my parents-in-law and us to join them . The walk-in site was actually pretty private and large (a bicyclist ended up joining us because there were no first-come, first-served spots available). My sister-in-law and brother-in-law stayed in a yurt with their kids and we returned to stay in a yurt this summer. There are two main sections of the campground – one is closer to the beach but much more open and the other is more forested and further from the beach, so you have to think about what’s important to you. You can drive on the beach here, which is pretty cool. We ate breakfast at the Hearty Galley in Westport, which has a fun pirate ship outside that the kids loved climbing on. They’re temporarily closed due to COVID, but check back for future trips! Also check out the Westport Winery for a Mermaid Museum and fun gardens to walk through.


Road Trip Planning – NW National Parks

I consider myself a pretty good trip planner, but my primary experience with kids is either international travel to well-populated areas (think Bangkok, Paris, Normandy) or places within a couple hours of our house.

Camping-driven road trips intimidate me. There, I said it. We have two young kids who don’t love long car rides and aren’t capable of entertaining and feeding themselves the way an older child can. I worry about days with 4+ hours of driving (not including stops!), and setting up camp at the end of a long day.

That’s why every time I’ve looked into road tripping to some of the big national parks, I’ve given up and thought “maybe when the kids are older.” This never-ending pandemic is driving me to new adventures though! This summer we’re going to drive from Seattle through Idaho to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks before heading back through Spokane to get home.

I started with a Google Map (they used to call it MyMaps..) and every time I saw a random spot to visit in a Google search or blog post (like the American Field Trip’s delightful series), I threw it on the map. It didn’t need to be comprehensive, just enough to narrow down where we needed to concentrate time. I also used Oalley to test out where we could reasonably drive within 4-5 hours and then tried to look at accommodation in that area.

I waffled back and forth between driving our car and camping, staying in AirBnBs/lodges or renting an RV. We’re ending up renting a camper van through GoCamp for about 16 days and here’s why:

  • Food – Peter has several food allergies (corn, soy and peanuts are the biggest) that make it challenging to just stop somewhere and grab food if we’ve had a long day. We want somewhere we can make our own food, but not necessarily have to set up a full camp kitchen.
  • Drive length – some of our days are going to have 4-5 hour drives, plus we’ll want to stop and check out scenery along the way. I’d be okay with camping at some stops, but on those long days I want to just pull out the sleeping bags and hit the hay.
  • Distance from activities – these national parks are tricky. The lodges don’t typically have cooking facilities (I didn’t see any in the parks we’re visiting), but choosing an AirBnB would likely mean adding at least an hour’s commute in and out of the park every time we want to go hike.
  • Vehicle size – many of the campsites in the national parks have strict (and short) vehicle requirements and no hook-ups. The most famous is probably the 21′ long x 10′ high x 8′ wide requirement for Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park, but spots for large RVs are extremely limited or non-existent. As a result, we wanted something shorter to make it more likely we can (literally) fit in.

At this point, almost all our camping reservations are complete (I still need to figure out Coeur d’Alene, ID), so now I need to nail down the activities in a detailed itinerary and that’s where you come in!

If you have a blog, Instagram post or other resource that you love for the nitty gritty details of your favorite stops along our route (as seen in the header image), could you please comment here or DM me on Instagram (@suitcasesinseattle)?

Camping Meals – Family Favorites

Meal time in our household is usually an exercise in advance planning, but particularly when camping. Peter has a number of food allergies (corn, soy, sesame, peanuts, etc) that make it hard to buy convenience foods like dehydrated meals, “just-add X” meals, and pre-made mixes. While it’s an added challenge, it does mean that we tend to eat some really delicious dishes so I don’t get too upset about it.

Here are some of our favorites, organized by meal type. Most of them can be made gluten or dairy free as well.


Instant oatmeal with maple syrup and dried fruit – this is our most frequent camping breakfast because it’s easy and shelf stable. We add raisins, Trader Joe’s freeze-dried berries, or chopped dried apricots (and sometimes some nuts) and bring a small plastic squeeze bottle of maple syrup. It gets a little messy with the kids, but we keep baby wipes nearby for easy clean-up.

Pre-made french toast – bringing uncooked whole eggs along is challenging, so I like making french toast at home, freezing it in slices, and reheating it in a frying pan on our camp stove. Paired with some fruit and maple syrup, it’s a great way to feel like you made a fancy breakfast.

Breakfast burritos – pre-scrambled eggs, pre-cooked sausage and some chopped bell pepper or shredded spinach are much easier to eat in a tortilla (salsa optional). We don’t make this is as often because James has an egg allergy, but I love the high-protein boost for days of big hikes.

Banana pancakes – Mash two bananas together with a pre-scrambled egg (and possibly some oats) and you’ve got easy banana pancakes that are gluten free as well.


Lunch is my least favorite camping meal – we want to be out on adventures instead of cooking, but don’t necessarily want to eat sandwiches for every meal.

Pasta salad – our family likes a orzo salad (I’ve also made it with rotini) that includes feta, cherry tomatoes, black olives, basil or mint, red onion (pour the hot pasta over chopped onion to lightly soften it), olive oil and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. I dress it very lightly if we’re going to eat it away from the campsite.

Quesadillas/Grilled cheese – I would make these with some spinach in the morning and pack them up for a hike. We usually have cherry tomatoes on the side since salsa can get messy and the kids don’t usually like it.

Antipasto – okay, I’m just using this as a fancy term for bread, cheese and sliced veggies. Our family usually brings some assortment of olives, prosciutto/salami, carrots, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, a hard cheese and bread (I made focaccia and brought it on a recent hiking trip and it was so good!).


My kids get plenty of pouches, goldfish and raisins on camping trips. Non-packaged snacks require the most pre-work, but I usually make one or more of the following to bring along and portion out:

Toasted Garbanzo Beans – toss with olive oil and spices (I like cumin and coriander, or a little chickpea miso with ginger) and roast until crispy (about 25-30 minutes).

Muffins – combinations like zucchini/cranberry, carrot/date, banana/carrot/lentil, blueberry/almond meal or morning glory are usually winners for us. I love anything from the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Granola Bars – I don’t have a fancy recipe for these, although I got my inspiration from the Cotter Crunch blog and used it the first couple of times for approximate proportions. I combine dried fruit like apricots or dates with nuts (I love pistachios and pumpkin seeds), oats, flax seeds, maple syrup, coconut oil and spices (cinnamon, ginger and cardamom work well) and a little salt in a food processor. Sometimes some hot water is needed to help bind the ingredients together. Press the mixture into a wax paper lined pan (we use an 8×8 pan for thicker bars), drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top and chill in the fridge before cutting into bars. These are reasonably crumbly, but really delicious.


Dinner is my favorite camping meal – we’ve usually hiked or kayaked all day to work up an appetite and we have some time to let the kids explore the campsite while we work on dinner and sip some wine or beer.

Bacon-wrapped dates (appetizer) – this feels like “glamping” without the king size bed. Before our trip, I wrap dates in a half piece of bacon each and hold them in place with toothpicks. At the campsite, we roast them over the fire on a marshmallow stick and enjoy a tasty treat while dinner is baking in the coals (they’re also sweet enough for dessert). These could definitely be a main dish, maybe with a veggie foil packet and some cous cous.

Fajitas – we love fajitas, particularly as an option if rain is possible, or if the campsite has a grill for the meat. I marinate the meat (we prefer steak since corn/soy free chicken is hard to find) in lime juice, olive oil, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper mixed in a ziploc bag and bring it in our cooler for a relatively mess free option. We usually pre-chop the veggies and cook them (and the meat if needed) in a cast iron pan on our camp stove for even heating and a nice char. Tortillas can be quickly heated in the pan while the meat rests.

Risotto – sound like a weird choice for camping? I thought so at first, but we went camping during a burn ban in Washington and I wanted a one pot meal I could make on our camp stove. Boxed vegetable stock, arborio rice, frozen peas (also help to keep the cooler cold and it doesn’t matter if they defrost) and pre-grated parmesan make this a pretty easy dish.

Dumplings with cut veggies – I make the dumplings at home (ground pork and radicchio or mixed veggies are good fillings) and freeze them to be pan fried on the camp stove. I serve them with some sliced veggies and a little premixed dipping sauce (coconut aminos and rice vinegar).

Baked potato bar – The kids aren’t currently fans of russet potatoes, but they love sweet potatoes, so we wrap them in foil and serving them with sides of butter, cheese and some frozen broccoli that we cook on the stove (or wrap it in foil too and make it roasted broccoli).

Foil meals – A camping classic. I usually use salmon as the protein because it seems to cook at about the same rate as the vegetables (I like mine cooked through). The key to the best foil meal is to include some water-heavy vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, onions and mushrooms, topped with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and some thyme or oregano. Adding some small potatoes makes them more filling. I usually pre-wrap the packets before we leave so they’re all ready to pop on the fire on our first night.

Pumpkin chili– I pre-make vegetarian chili with a can of pumpkin puree, a mix of beans, diced tomatoes, garlic, onion, bell pepper and spices and freeze it to be reheated at the campsite. Because it’s vegetarian and can be frozen, it’s a good option for later in a trip. You could also bring the ingredients along, but I prefer pre-mixing for ease.

Grilled meat with spinach rice – I pre-make the spinach rice ahead of time. I blend about 8 oz of fresh spinach with some cilantro, onions, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and add it to vegetable stock in which I cook rice. The rice can be frozen or just refrigerated and reheated to serve with meat or shrimp that we grill on the campfire.

Moroccan skewers – while we mostly make these vegetarian to serve alongside something else (like hot dogs or shrimp, or even toasted cashews and pitas), we love prepping veggies in this flavorful Moroccan-style marinade from the blog Natasha’s Kitchen (not me!).

Foil-wrapped burritos – somewhat similar to a foil packet meal, but this one is a little easier to set up as a build-your-own bar. We pre-cook veggies (peppers, onions, broccoli/spinach, chopped tomatoes) and meat or beans and shred cheese. Then, everyone can add their desired toppings to a tortilla and wrap it up in foil to pop in the fire. There’s minimal risk of undercooking since you’re just warming up pre-cooked items and melting cheese.


We really only make s’mores or sometimes a dutch oven pineapple upside down cake (my last attempt at chocolate cake in orange peel failed miserably). This is an area where I could really use tips, but often the kids have to go to bed pretty soon after dinner and clean-up, so we just skip dessert at times.

Roasting marshmallows at Moran State Park

What are your favorite camping meals? Do you do most of the prep ahead of time, or make things at camp?

Washington Family Camping List – 2020

With the current coronavirus pandemic going on, it seems like everything we look forward to over is getting cancelled: vacations, summer camp, and most of the activities I track in my “Seattle Summer Bucket List” Google Sheet (I stopped editing it for this year because it got depressing). We are currently in the fortunate position of being an employed household with food and childcare (aka me), but these major departures from the norm without an end in sight are still challenging. It motivated me to step up our camping game for the summer. I had already scheduled some trips back in December when they started to open up, but I’ve sprinkled in a few more to give us changes in scenery.

Here’s our camping list for the summer with what I’m most looking forward to about it, organized by month. An asterisk * denotes a spot that’s new for us.


Grayland Beach State Park – we haven’t been to this state park since before we had kids, but I have fond memories of camping here with my in-laws and niece and nephew, driving out onto the beach, and eating at a cool restaurant nearby with a pirate ship in front. We’re staying in a yurt since it’s still early in the season.

Edit: this trip ended up cancelled due to COVID-19 (at the time, all roofed accommodations were closed)

Beckler River Campground* – this is a favorite campground of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and we’re supposed to overlap with them. I’m excited to try a new spot with water nearby for the kids to throw rocks and dip their toes. The Wellington Ghost Town Trail and the Great Northern Cascade Railway mini trains are nearby (although unfortunately I don’t think the trains will be open for this trip).

Edit: see blog post here for trip report


Camano Island State Park* – we were supposed to be finally be in Banff in the summer this week, but I don’t think we’ll get to stay, so I booked a short mid-week stay at Camano Island. We’ve been to the Cama Beach State Park before for the Center for Wooden Boats activities and the cabins there looked fun, but very close together, so the campground here looked like a better choice for social distancing. I’ve been trying to book places near water so that we can try to take our kayak out with the kids, or spend time on the beach digging and splashing.

Edit: see blog post here for trip report

Penrose Point State Park – Penrose Point was Julia’s first camping trip at 17 months, and James will be just slightly younger. It’s not as challenging to get reservations there and it’s fairly close to Seattle. On our last trip, we loved the rocky beach as a jumping off point for our kayak, and we could see sand dollars in the shallow water. Julia and I also got up early and walked down to a different part of the beach to see clams squirting like the Bellagio fountain in Vegas. The route back to Seattle can easily go through Gig Harbor, which is a great place to kayak (we saw a couple of harbor seals on our last trip).

Edit: cancelled due to an unexpected (non-COVID!) hospital stay for Peter

Exploring the tree roots at Penrose Point State Park


Deception Pass* – we added this cabin camping bonus trip on when roofed accommodations opened back up at the state parks. I just looked for anything available in August and booked a Sunday-Tuesday stay in a cabin.

Edit: see blog post here for trip report

Ohanapecosh (Mt. Rainier)* – August tends to be wildfire season in Seattle, so camping is sometimes iffy. A couple of years ago, however, we were able to camp and have a little fire at the Cougar Rock campground (there was a state burn ban, but campfires were allowed in the National Parks and it was a cold and misty night) and it was far enough away from the smoke to be relaxing. I’m looking forward to hiking in wildflowers and seeing the beautiful old growth trees on the Grove of the Patriarchs trail.

Edit: cancelled due to recovery time for Peter’s hospital stay (non-COVID)

Grove of the Patriarchs Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park


Salt Creek Recreation Area – the tidepools here are phenomenal, and there’s a nice playground (for when we can use playgrounds again… #thankscovid) but you have to be careful about reserving. We camped here a couple of years ago and even 5 months out, I could only get an RV site for our tent camp set-up. This meant that we were sandwiched between loud groups in RVs with no privacy or space and fog horns sounding at regular intervals through the night (also, I was about 2 months pregnant and nauseous). I was better about setting my reminder this year, but even on the day reservations opened (January 1), I had trouble finding a summer weekend in the tent camping area. I’m excited to try this spot out again because we saw so many different kinds of amazing tidal creatures.

Note: don’t make my mistake the first time we went here and accidentally reserve at Saltwater State Park (close, but not quite). It meant I had to cancel and rebook, losing all my fee payments in the process.

On our way to the tidepools at Salt Creek Recreation Area

Kalaloch Lodge* – Okay, this isn’t exactly camping (we’re staying in a cabin that has a kitchenette), but since we’ll already be half way out onto the Olympic Peninsula, we decided to reschedule our March trip and spend a couple of days on the far west part of the peninsula where we can hopefully see Ruby Beach and the Hoh Rainforest.


Dosewallips State Park – this is our last fall without a school-aged child (sobbing over here), so I’m excited to visit our October standard. We love this time of year at this particular state park. We can see elk in the meadow, fall leaf colors, salmon spawn in the creek, and herons and other birds soar over the wetlands near the beach. I wrote more about our love of this park here.

Headed to the lookout tower at Dosewallips State Park


I’m still really disappointed about all the plans that have been cancelled, but I’m trying to look at the positives – we’ll have more outdoor time as a family exploring nature in some of our old favorite spots, and some new spots that we might not otherwise have visited. Any favorites we should add to our list for next year?

Paris, Normandy and Rome – My Maps Collection

I posted previously about how I love using Google’s My Maps product to plot out things I want to do in a city we’re visiting, which then helps me decide where we might want to stay, as well as plan specific days’ activities based on proximity to each other.

When I was planning the Rome portion of our recent trip, for example, I had originally booked an apartment in the Trastevere neighborhood, which is on the south bank of the Tiber river. It has a great reputation as being beautiful and walkable and feeling kind of artsy, which was true. However, when I started plotting out the things we wanted to do, particularly our day trip to Tivoli and getting to and from the airport, it became clear that staying in the area would make using public transit more difficult, primarily because of the length of the train trips or number of transfers. By switching awhile before our actual trip, we found a great studio near the Termini station that allowed us to walk 5-10 minutes to the train, and it was easier to walk to other destinations (like the Colosseum and the Villa Borghese). We still visited Trastevere for an evening, but didn’t spend large chunks of our stay commuting across town.

Since we were going to have date nights in Paris and my husband has several dietary restrictions (and was testing out gluten and dairy intolerance shortly before our trip), I also made a separate map for restaurants in Paris and categorized them by type (e.g., ones from a Food and Wine list I found that just looked like they would have options, vs. places that were specifically mentioned by other blogs or sources as accommodating restrictions).

If you’re looking to plan trips to Paris, Normandy or Rome, I invite you to take a look at the maps I created as good starting points. I’m no professional, but I loved using layers to split out things to do, restaurants, our apartment and transit stations (as well as markets in Paris, although we never ended up going to one), as well as using different colors and markers to differentiate sites from each other.

Rome Map

Normandy Map (limited to sites and our accommodations)

Paris Map (includes a few restaurants)

Paris Food Map

MyMaps Paris

You can also check out separate blog posts on staying in these areas at the following links:

Normandy – Treehouse
Normandy – D-Day Beaches
Normandy – Day Trips
Paris, Part 1
Paris, Part 2