Are you ready to take on a new kind of camping experience?
If you’re down for ocean views, incredible sunsets, and amazing trails, camping on the beach in Washington state might be just the adventure for you!
We all dream of falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves and unzipping our tent right out into raw and beautiful nature.
However, beach camping in Washington requires a lot more than just parking your car and setting up your tent – there are a few more steps that need to happen!
In this post, we’re sharing all the details for the perfect beach camping trip on the Washington coast. We’re explaining the exact measures to take to secure the proper permits, how to pack correctly, and have fun while beach camping on the Washington coast.
Let’s get started!
Also, make sure to pin these for later for future camping reference!
How To Go Camping On The Beach In Washington State
1. Set Your Tent Above High Tide When Camping On The Beach In Washington
It’s important to set up your tent above high tide to keep you and your gear from being swept away by the rising ocean waters. The higher the setup the better to be extra certain that a rogue wave doesn’t get you in the middle of the night.
It’s best if you can find some large driftwood to put up in front of your tent as an extra barrier.
Not sure what High/Low Tide means? No worries, here’s a little crash course:
Tides are when the water levels rise and fall, twice a day in most places.
It’s important to track the tides of the beach you’ll be visiting to prepare for the conditions and know when the water levels will change. It would be the WORST to set up camp only to watch the water creep up and wash it away hours later!
You can easily find a tide tracker by using Google search and typing “Tide chart for insert your beach here“. You can print a copy to bring with you, or you can screenshot a picture on your phone to keep with you while beach camping!
Hiking to your Washington beach camping location? Do some research and find out if the trails require passing during low tide. In some locations, trails can be impassible at high tide, so knowing when the water levels will change can help prevent you from getting stranded.
This photo is from sailingissues.com and you can find out more about tides on their website!
2. But, Set Up A Fire BELOW High Tide
Setting up a fire below high tide will naturally wash away any debris from the fire.
While visiting the station, the park rangers at Port Angeles gave us this helpful trick. She said fires built below high tide actually help keep the beach clean.
Making your fire below the high tide like actually keeps natural debris under control. Allowing the ashes wash away helps keep the sand and surrounding area clean. And plus, no one wants to step on fire pit leftovers!
Here are some tips for preparing a low-impact Washington beach camping fire:
- When gathering firewood, use the 4 D’s of Campfires from the LNT Blog: Dead, Down (as in already fallen off a tree), Distant (away from your campsite) and Dinky (as in small pieces).
- Make sure firewood in no bigger than your forearm and NEVER burn huge logs.
- Do not burn trash in your fire pit.
- Burn the fire all the way down, until only ash is left.
3. Set Up Before Sundown When Beach Camping In Washington
It’s important to set up your beach camping site before the daylight goes away. This way, you can assess the area, determine the right place to put your tent.
There is also the obvious advantage of daylight, which will help you set up your tent easily and properly.
Try and make setting up the first thing on your beach camping to-do list. This will give you peace of mind that you’ve chosen a safe and secure spot.
4. Pack Lots Of Garbage Bags For Beach Camping In Washington
You probably already know this if you are going beach camping, but literally, EVERYTHING you bring will get sand in/on/around it.
For some reason, these dang pesky granules find a way to infiltrate every corner of your space, which is a constant source of anxiety for clean freaks like me.
If you want to keep your tent as sand-free as possible, shake off your shoes and stick them in a garbage bag before bringing them inside.
This also goes for anything you’d like to keep separate from the sand – like food, clothing, or unused sleeping bags. Garbage bags are also cleverly used to stuff a wet tent in when you leave, so you can pull it back out later to dry in the sun. Which brings me to….
5. Bring The Correct Shoes For A Washington Beach Camping Trip
To make the most of your Washington beach camping trip, it’s important to pack the right shoes.
Since you’ll be dealing with the ocean and wetter conditions than normal, we suggest 100% waterproof options. Bringing anything else also brings the risk of ruining your gear, so prepare ahead and prevent damage!
Here are the pairs we suggest to bring when beach camping in Washington:
- Rain Boots. They are also easy to pull on and off, which is helpful for trips in and out of the tent. Rain boots also allow to venture out into the ocean to explore tide pools, walk alongside the waves, and connect to the beach!
- Water-Safe Sandals. Some of our favorites are made by Chaco and Teva. These two brands were built with adventurers in mind, so they are easily washable and hold their grip even when. There are many other waterproof brands and styles to choose from, but Chaco and Teva are just some we’ve personally worn and loved!
6. Bring A Bear Can For Food + Smelly Things
A bear canister is a tightly sealed container that is impenetrable by bears and other wildlife.
It’s important (actually, required) to store all your food and smelly items in a bear canister to prevent unwanted visitors at your tent in the middle of the night.
Proper use of a bear canister means that your “kitchen” area is 50 feet away from your sleeping area and the food is stored away from your tent as well.
Bear Cans are required in Olympic National Park and most National Parks in wilderness areas. When you go to get your permits, a bear canister is given to you to borrow.
Double check with your park’s regulations by going to their website. While you may not see any bears when beach camping on the Washington Coast, we DID come across a few scary raccoons.
From experience, they can be pretty aggressive with food. Stay safe and put anything with a strong smell in a bear can.
7. Prepare For A Super Wet/Windy Night When Beach Camping In Washington.
We’ve been to the Olympic Coast often enough to know that the weather can take a turn for the worse at any moment.
When you prepare for the worst, you are pleasantly surprised when things turn out not so bad! This was the case for Berty and I when we went beach camping at La Push Second Beach.
With only a little bit of rain, we had a mostly calm and comfortable night. To be safe, bring a sturdy rain jacket, extra socks, and warm layers!
8. Get The Right Permits For Camping On The Beach In Washington
Where do you want to go beach camping In Washington?
National Parks? State Parks? Native American Reservation? Do some research about your beach beforehand to save yourself getting woken up by a ranger at the crack of dawn.
Make sure to display your permit tag on the outside of your tent to let the rangers know that you are allowed to be there. Rangers will often come by to check permits, commonly early in the morning.
Need more information about permits for your specific area? Use the Olympic National Park’s Wilderness Trip Planner to get started on all the information you need!
In order to go beach camping at La Push Second Beach, we had to drive to the Port Angeles Ranger Station to get a beach camping permit. Each night is $8 per person (as of when this was written, August 2018). Here are some other tips for securing beach camping permits:
- Shi Shi Beach Camping area requires two passes: A Wilderness Annual Pass ($45/person per year) and a fee of $8 per night per person. Reservations must be made May 1st – September 30th. Find out more about planning your beach camping trip to Shi Shi Beach here.
- Rialto Beach Camping is an easy and accessible out-and-back camping trail perfect for beach camping beginners. Make sure to pay a visit to the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles to obtain a permit and park your car in the overnight lot.
- Ozette Triangle Beach Camping is another place we have to do a little more research on. We are planning a trip out here in July 2019, so come back then for more information on this place for camping on the beach in Washington!
9. Don’t Leave Valuables In Your Car Overnight
Getting your stuff stolen sucks.
Prepare to take your valuables with you when camping on the beach in Washington, OR leave them at home. Berty and I had to leave our van at the La Push Second Beach trailhead, out of sight from the beach (which is 2 miles from our car).
Because we were on a road trip, we didn’t have many options to leave our valuables at home. We took extra care to bring our valuables, even though they were definitely added weight.
If you must leave stuff in your car overnight, stash it in the trunk, or cover it so that objects are not visible from any windows.
10. After Beach Camping In Washington, Set Your Tent Out To Dry
After your epic beach camping experience, it is essential to completely dry out your gear if you ever want to use it again.
Stuffing a wet tent back in its bag is a quick way for mold and mildew to grow, which can be toxic on your next use! We suggest taking your gear home and setting it back up in a backyard or safe area so it can completely dry.
Sustainable Practices For Beach Camping On The Washington Coast
We all want to arrive at our beach camping site ready to soak in the sights and sounds of the coast! In order for you and others after you to have a positive experience, here are a few things you should practice during your camping trip:
Leave No Trace
If you are unfamiliar with Leave No Trace, it’s an organization that encourages sustainable practices for people enjoying the outdoors.
The goal of LTN practices is to make as little impact on the environment around you as possible, as to preserve it better for years to come. You can learn more about the seven principles here, but here’s an overview below:
- Plan Your Trip and Prepare Properly
- Travel and Camp on Previously Used/Compact Space
- Take Back Any Trash You Brought In and Dispose of Waste Properly (And Pick Up Other Trash Too)
- Don’t Bring back Any Plant of Wildlife (Leave It Be)
- Use Already Established Fire Rings
- Respect Wildlife In The Area
- Be Kind and Courteous To Other Campers
Pack Out All Your Trash And Any Left On The Beach
You don’t have to come with huge garbage bags and put the cleanup of the entire coast on your shoulders. However, bringing enough trash bags for your party (and a little extra room) will allow you to pick up small pieces as you go.
Don’t forget micro-trash! These are little bits and wrappers that are difficult to spot but can be dangerous if consumed by the wildlife in the area. Look out for these tiny colored pieces on your trail.
When others see a space left clean and tidy, they are less likely to litter themselves – thus creating a positive cycle of picking up after ourselves!
Know Where To Poop and Pee
Camping on the Washington coast brings special importance of disposing of human wastes properly!
Many established campsites along the Washington coast will have pre-made outhouses. Ask around to your fellow campers if you’re having a hard time locating one.
No outhouse in sight? for #2, dig a cathole about 6-inches deep, do your business, and then put the dirt back on your hole. This will help it decompose faster. Make sure to pick a spot at least 200 feet from any water source, and yes, this includes the Pacific Ocean.
Click here to read more about how to do your business on the coast, and how to make as little impact as possible!
Where Are The Best Places For Beach Camping In Washington?
While we haven’t explored all the beach camping spots in the PNW, we have been lucky to experience a few awesome sites.
As we go camping, we’ll update this post with more location inspiration. In the meantime, here are our favorites and some tips for your own beach camping experience!
1. La Push Second Beach
La Push Beach Camping requires a camping permit. The closest place to get one is either Port Angeles Ranger Station (near Hurricane ridge) or Lake Quinault SOUTH Ranger Station.
One night is $16 for two people (or $8 per person per night). Bear cans are required and they give you one with your permit. You just need to return it!
A bear canister return doesn’t have to be at the same ranger station, however. In our case, we picked one up in Port Angeles and returned it at Lake Quinault as we continued south on our trip.
2. Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach sits just north of the La Push beaches and is part of the Olympic National Park. A permit is required to camp here, and you can pick them up at any Wilderness Information Center.
3. Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach Requires a Wilderness Permit, reservations, and a parking pass to leave your car on Makah Tribe land.
Come back soon as we update this with more information from our backpacking trip here in July 2019!
4. Ozette Loop
The Ozette Loop requires a Wilderness permit, as well as reservations from the Olympic National Park.
Click here for more information, but come back in July 2019 when we update this post with more information from our own backpacking trip!
You’re Prepared For Your Washington Beach Camping Trip!
We hope this post could help shed some light on proper beach camping preparation and enjoyment!
Some of our most favorite memories are on the Washington Coast in our tent, and we are so happy we could share some tips with you for your own experience!
Have you ever gone camping on the beach in Washington? What suggestions would you have for a first-timer? Write in the comments below!
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