We’ve lived in Seattle for over 4 years now and have been admittedly really terrible at taking advantage of the rich camping resources in the Pacific Northwest. I love being organized, but most of my organizational skills (read: energy) go into planning our one major international vacation per year, which has historically left little advance planning time for camping. Combine that with the fact that campgrounds in our area usually book up 6 months in advance and we usually end up sticking around town or taking day trips rather than staying overnight. I also found it overwhelming to think about camping with a baby when Julia was little (all the extra stuff, the distance from a large store to acquire anything we’d missed, etc). We finally made it out with her late summer/early fall last year and she had so much fun. I resolved to do better this year – making myself a list in October/November, setting a calendar reminder, and then booking a few extra spots as they opened. All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.
All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.
2018 Camping List
We’ve only been to the San Juans once while we’ve lived here. I kept reading about how beautiful the campgrounds are, but it seemed like a waste to just do 1 night after all the effort to get there, so I booked a 3 day weekend and set yet another calendar reminder to pre-book our ferry reservations. We’re tentatively planning to bring our kayak on this trip, since our last San Juan visit included a beautiful short kayak trip.
Peter’s family had a reunion here several years ago and everyone raved about staying near Port Townsend. We have loved our day trips to the area and I’m looking forward to staying near the beach (we’re in the Upper Forest Campground, though, because I desperately need shade when possible), checking out the fort and the lighthouse, and probably skipping the camp stove in favor of eating out with the money we’ll be saving by camping instead of staying in a hotel. Maybe we’ll check out the Marine Science Center, too.
A couple of summers ago, we were lucky enough to have friends who rented a house a block from the beach in Sequim and invited us to join them for a night. We loved the area and I’m really looking forward to going back for a camping trip. This will be another opportunity to strap the kayak to the Subaru since there’s supposed to be a great calm bay. I would also love to check out the lavender fields nearby.
I read about the tidepools at this spot on the Peninsula and got so excited about taking Julia, especially since she’ll be big enough to actually pet the anenomes gently (I’m thinking of the Finding Dory scene with the touch pool with the crazy kids hands grabbing the poor animals, so we’ll be practicing our gentle touching). I accidentally booked us at Saltwater State Park instead, so I ended up cancelling and rebooking, but was a little late in the game and there weren’t many spots left. I looked up AirBnBs in the area, but even though our relatively last minute (because 4 months out is last minute here) campsite will basically be a square of grass next to a bunch of RVs, it will still be less significantly less expensive than staying indoors and we’ll be close to the tidepools. For one night, I think I’ll be able to live without the giant outdoors that I love about camping.
A friend on Facebook posted about these amazing looking Ape Caves in the Mt. St. Helens area and when I kept looking in the vicinity, there’s also a swinging bridge and a boardwalk on the Trail of Two Forests nearby (Julia loves running down a good boardwalk). That sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I found a campground about a 15 minute drive away and booked two nights. We’ve never been to Mt. St. Helens because a 3 hour drive each way seems like too much for a day trip, so it will be great to finally get to explore a bit.
We did a (long) day trip down to Mt. Rainier National park last year with my parents to hike the Bench and Snow Lake trail and it was so beautiful with all the wildflowers and mix of open and shady trail areas. I can’t wait to go back in late August to try some new trails and be able to stay overnight so we can get in some extra hiking through the meadows.
2017 Camping List
We stayed here in late August last year with family (we were in site 75) and had a great time. We brought our kayak and went out in the very calm water where we could actually reach down and touch the sand dollars from the boat. The campsite was a good size and flat so Julia and the cousins could chase each other while the adults enjoyed a beer. We also loved stopping in Gig Harbor on our way home to kayak, where we saw starfish and several harbor seals.
We came in mid-October and were lucky enough to be here on one of the few sunny weekends that month (we also stopped in Port Gamble on our way over for lunch and loved exploring the town). We stayed in a cabin and were very grateful for the heat and the fact that we didn’t have to bring and pitch a tent, particularly because this area is very popular with the local elk who love to leave their droppings everywhere (no joke, I had to bring a flashlight everywhere at night to avoid stepping in them). It was a really magical weekend – we saw the end of the salmon life cycle in the Dosewallips River and walked out to the shoreline at the end of the afternoon to play in the dirt and on the cool lookout tower. While Julia fell asleep, Peter and I checked out the stars in the meadow, which were particularly bright that night. Julia was up early the next morning, so we walked back to the shore while Peter slept in. We were fortunate to see a herd of elk grazing and paused to take each other in before continuing on and enjoying the cold, crisp morning. It was just one of those moments where you hug your baby close and are so grateful for time with them, especially if it’s outdoors. Our cabin, C6, was a reasonably short walk to the bathroom and was pretty close to the trail towards the shore, so it was a good spot for us.
We stayed in a cabin here in 2015 when I was pregnant with Julia and loved the area. It’s pretty residential, so it feels like you’re escaping the city without abandoning all the city comforts (there are power lines over the first part of the trail to the Falls, which was a little surprising when we first visited). The cabins are really nice and have a private little “yard-like” area around them, as well as a really clean restroom and showers. We stayed in cabin C1 on our first trip, and in C2 recently. On our return trip last fall, it was nice to have a space where Julia could run around while we made dinner without worrying that she was going to dart into the road. There was a also a group next to us that seemed to be a fun girls’ trip. In our experience, the groups are really polite and keep the noise to a minimum, so it wasn’t a problem to have them next door with Julia sleeping. Our most favorite part of the whole stay is always eating at Wallace Falls Cafe. The Mi Quang Pho is literally the best comfort food ever – the broth is so flavorful and the pork rib just melts in your mouth. On our last visit, they were unexpectedly closed at night, so we went to the La Hacienda, the Mexican restaurant up the street (also delicious, but just not the same as steaming pho). When we drove by in the morning just to check, they were open and even let us order pho for breakfast since we’d missed out the night before. Julia devoured the broth and the noodles and I might have to order her a bowl of her own next time.
Here are some of the websites I consulted when doing my research last year:
Parent Map – Last Minute Camping
Red Tricycle – 7 Tent-Worthy Campsites
Cascadia Kids – Campgrounds with Playgrounds
Are you planning camping trips with your kids this year? Where are your favorite spots to take them?