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A Camper’s Paradise

Top spots to pitch a tent in the PNW

By Abigail Thorpe

Spring is here, the stars are out, and we’re all ready for some outdoor adventure. The Northwest boasts some of the country's most beautiful spots to camp—from craggy oceanside haunts to peaceful lakefront retreats, there are great adventures to be had within an easy day’s drive. Here are some of the best the PNW has to offer.

Paradise Creek Campground

Situated where Paradise Creek and Wind River come together near Carson, Washington, Paradise Creek sits in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The old growth trees create a peaceful environment, and the campground is fairly remote. The Falls Creek Falls trailhead is only 5 miles away, and the campground serves as a prime base for exploring trails and viewpoints around Mount Saint Helens and Mt. Adams.

Priest Lake State Park

A 19-mile-long pristine lake 30 miles from the Canadian border, Priest Lake boasts pristine crystal waters and various campgrounds situated on various parts of the lakeshore. Priest Lake is considered one of North Idaho’s most beautiful lakes, nestled in the Selkirk Mountains. With boating, fishing and hiking right at hand, there is plenty to do. Natural rock slides are a drive and short hike north of the lake, and there are plentiful trails and day trips around the area to choose from. Keep in mind camp spots often sell out months in advance, so plan ahead.

Moran State Park

Situated on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, this state park is a favorite of many. Miles of woodland, lakeside hiking trails and several campgrounds on the shores of Cascade Lake make this a camper’s dream. Mount Constitution rises above nearly half a mile, with views of Mount Baker, the North Cascades and the islands of the San Juan Archipelago easily visible from the 1930’s watchtower that sits on top.

White River Falls

A remote forest service campground along the White River, this spot is worth the drive. Situated about 11 miles north of Lake Wenatchee in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the campground is fairly small—only five spots. It doesn’t have RV hookups or potable water and only boasts two vault toilets, but the setting right near the falls is beautiful. Two more campgrounds back down the road a few miles offer alternative stays if the campground is full.

Heyburn State Park

Three lakes and acres of meadows and Ponderosa Pines mark the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest. There are three campgrounds in the park, located just over 30 miles south of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Hawleys Landing Campground and Chatcolet Campground are available for reservations, and Benewah Campground is first come, first served. Many hiking and biking trails are easily accessible from the park, including the “Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes,” which runs directly through the park.

Lake Chelan State Park

A family favorite destination in Central Washington, this 139-acre campground offers lots of lake access, sandy shoreline and activity. Amenities like showers, restrooms and picnic areas make this an easy summer camping spot for the whole family. Paddleboard and kayak rentals are available if you don’t have your own—or want to haul it. Set out to explore the North Cascades or relax by the lakeshore and enjoy some fun in the sun.

Farragut State Park

This 4,000-acre park was once a naval training station during WWII. Situated on the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, it is a breathtaking location with ample opportunities for camping, fishing, swimming and boating.

Stop by the Museum at the Brig for a history of the place, then head out for a hike on some of the more than 40 miles of trails the park offers. A hike up Bernard Peak offers a spectacular view of the park and lake.

Cape Disappointment State Park

A 2,023-acre camping park on the Long Beach Peninsula, Cape Disappointment State Park sits on the Pacific Ocean near the mouth of the Columbia River. This place is steeping in history, like Captain John Meares' first thwarted voyage to find the Columbia River, Lewis and Clark’s explorations, and crumbling WWII defenses. You can explore the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center with its interactive exhibit, gaze at old lighthouses or hike the many trails in the area. The coastline presents its own attractions, including clam digging and salmon and crab fishing.

Deception Pass State Park

Three freshwater lakes and 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline make this a water lover's paradise. Deception Pass is Washington’s most popular state park, and for good reason. Situated along two islands—Fidalgo and Whidbey—it is a breathtakingly beautiful location, boasting incredible sunsets, fresh and sea water activities, jagged cliffs and peaceful coves. Note: A two-year project to restore and repair the Deception Pass Bridge and Canoe Pass Bridge is still underway, so expect increased traffic and construction noise.

* Due to the COVID-19 virus, as of press time, many campgrounds are temporarily closed. Make sure to verify the park is open before planning your trip.

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