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:
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!
- Camping in the rain? The most important thing is to set up camp at the site’s highest elevation and elevate yourself above the ground when sleeping. Bring a tarp to cover things you don’t want to get wet. Pack proper rain gear like a waterproof coat and rain boots. Most importantly, read our full post here about camping in the rain.
- Camping on the coast? Set up your tent above the tide line (find Washington tide charts here) so that you don’t wake up with a sunken tent! Mentally prepare yourself to get sand it EVERYTHING, and spend some time exploring up and down the coast. For beach camping in Washington, you must obtain a permit but it’s a very easy process. To get all the information you need, click here to read our post about essential beach camping tips!
- Camping in your car? Car camping gives you so much freedom to discover, it’s one of our favorite ways to go camping in the PNW! Click here to learn everything you need to know about car camping!
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
2. Cook a meal over the fire
Read More: 10+ Easy Camping Meals To Make On The Road
3. Jump In The Lake
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
Read More: How To Make Coffee On The Road