The Essential Guide To Camping in the PNW

The seemingly wild and vast PNW forest and mountains can be intimidating to first-timers.

We’re here to share with you that it’s much easier to camp here than you’d think! If it’s your first time camping in the Pacific Northwest, you’re in the right spot.

In this post, we’re sharing the best camping spots in Washington (even beach camping!), how to set up your campsite, and what to do while camping in the PNW.

Chances are, you’ll be packing your car before you even finish this post!

The Essential Guide To Pacific Northwest Camping

Pacific Northwest Camping Locations

Just to be clear about where exactly we are talking about camping the Pacific Northwest, Wikipedia accurately states that the Pacific Northwest region is described as this: “no agreed boundary exists, but the most common conception includes the Canadian province of British Columbia and the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington“.

Berty and I would even go as far as to include Idaho, Western Montana, and Alberta Canada. That just means more northwest camping locations to choose from, right? 🙂

When looking for the best camping spots in the PNW, here are some places to being your search:

Free Camping

Now, don’t mix up the word “free” with “easy”.

If you’re willing to rough it and put in the time to search for a spot, this style of camping in the PNW can be some of the most rewarding, remote, and beautiful experiences.

This type of camping is also referred to as “Dispersed Camping” which basically means driving down a forest road for until you find a quiet place to set up camp.

These type of camping spots in the Pacific Northwest require exceptional knowledge of Leave No Trace practices.

Make sure to pack your own water, have a plan to go to the bathroom (yes, it’s essential), dispose of wastewater, and make the least amount of impact on the land.

We recently wrote a really great post here on everything you need to know about finding free camping in Washington state, and the Pacific Northwest.

“Front Country” Campgrounds in the Pacific Northwest

By the front country, we mean a designated campground most likely with bathrooms, running water, and a payment system to reserve a spot. This is a fantastic option for families, easy access, and fuss-free camping experience.

This is also a good option if you want to plan day trips (keep reading for day trip ideas…) and need or want a spot to leave all your gear back at a home-base. Click here to go to the Washington Camping Reservation site, and begin your trip!

Wondering what you should pack? Read our Camping Beginners Checklist Here!

Glamping In The Pacific Northwest

Say you’re visiting from out of town, and want to do some camping near Seattle with very little hassle. You can use the same tool we linked above to reserve cabins, yurts, and even marina space and vacation houses!

You can also reserve cool and unique camping spots in the PNW (think schoolbuses, treehouses, and cargo containers!) by doing some deep searching on sites like Glamping Hub, HipCamp, or even Airbnb. (by the way, if it’s your first time booking with Airbnb, we’re giving you $40 at this link!)

How To Set Up A Tent Campsite In The Pacific Northwest

Now that you’ve found some of the best places to camp in the PNW, you need to set up your site! Here are some posts we’ve written about prepping for your big adventure:

  • Camping in a tent? This is the simplest way to camp! Grab a tent, pack your trunk with gear like flashlights, food, water, and camping games, and you’re good to go! Check out our essential camping checklist for a quick and simple way to get out the door!

Read More: 21 Stylish Rain Jackets To Wear In The Pacific Northwest

Things To Do When Camping In The Pacific Northwest

Lucky you, the Pacific Northwest has some of the most diverse and fun activities for camping!

1. Watch The Sunrise

 Read More: How To Wake Up For Sunrise (For People Who Hate Mornings

2. Cook a meal over the fire

Read More: 10+ Easy Camping Meals To Make On The Road

3. Jump In The Lake

Read More: 101 Adventures To Take In The Pacific Northwest

4. Play Music

5. Sit Around The Fire

6. Watch The Sunset

7. Take Photos

Read More: 8 Easy Tips To Take Better Travel Photos

8. Go On Day Trips

Some of the best memories we have of camping in Washington, Oregon, and Canada is when we take day trips around the area. There are so many beautiful hikes to take in Washington (including around Mount Rainier!) and stunning views around every corner.

Not a hiker? Try taking a day trip to the coast like on La Push Beach or Cape Kiwanda for a relaxing day by the sea. You can even opt to take a bike ride, go zip lining, or lounge by the lake in North Idaho.

Read More: 20 Energizing Hikes In The Pacific Northwest 

9. Watch The Wildlife

10. Do…nothing!

Read More: How To Make Coffee On The Road

Have you ever been camping in the PNW? Where have been your favorite spots in Washington? Tell us in the comments below!