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?