Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Campgrounds: tent in campsite overlooking the beach In Kalaloch Campground

Want to stay in this spot in Kalaloch Campground this summer? Better reserve early. iStock photo

7 kid-friendly campgrounds that get booked up fast

Want to spend a summer weekend here? Make plans soon

It may not seem like the best time to think about summer camping for next year, but if you want to spend a summer weekend in one of these seven dreamy campgrounds, you’d best start planning now. Below are National Parks and National Forests take reservations up to six months before your first night. (Other systems have different timelines. State parks open for reservations nine months in advance. For San Juan County Parks, it’s 90 days.) Also listed here: Salt Creek Recreation Area, a Clallam County campground on the rugged coast of Juan de Fuca Strait. It takes reservations for the summer starting Jan. 1.

If your life is too complex to plan that far ahead, don’t despair. We have listed some alternative locations where the competition to get spots may be less fierce. It is possible to reserve a fine summer camping space on a summer weekend without months of lead time. First-come, first-serve spots are also an option.

One more note: alas, driving time estimates do not apply to summer Friday afternoons in the Seattle area.


Salmon La Sac

15311 Salmon La Sac Rd, Ronald

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Driving time from Seattle: Two hours

From your site, you can see woods and peaks and hear rushing water. The campground is nestled between the Cle Elum and Cooper rivers. Kids can explore the woods and riverbanks, or else take up bikes, scooters, unicycles or whatever wheeled transportation is handy and glide around on the campground’s wide, smooth pavement. If you want to explore, there’s wonderful hiking in just about every direction from this campground.

.Booked up? Try one of these other nearby getaways: Kachess, or Denny Creek.



North Cascades National Park

Driving time from Seattle: Two and a half hours

This is a pleasant, forested campground just off Highway 20. Three miles away, there’s an excellent interpretive center and trails that allow you to explore the nearby Skagit River and Newhalem Creek. The area is full of wonders, including Diablo Lake (and the Diablo Lake dam) and mountain trails, both easy and hard.

Booked up? Try nearby Colonial Creek South Campground or explore the Baker Lake area from Panorama Point.


Silver Fir

Mount Baker Highway

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Driving time from Seattle: Two and a half hours.

A lovely wooded campground with access to the smooth stones and rushing waters of the North Fork of the Nooksack River, Silver Fir is a great base for an exploration of the beautiful subalpine hiking in the Mount Baker area. The trailheads of Artist Point are only 20 minutes away.

Booked up? Douglas Fir  is just down the Mount Baker Highway, and Silver Lake Park, a lovely Whatcom County campground, also makes a great base for exploring. (Reservations for campsites and cabins in Silver Lake in 2021 open at 9 a.m. on Dec. 1.)



Ohanapecosh Rd, Randle

Mount Rainier National Park

Driving time from Seattle: Three hours

The setting is lovely, with old growth trees growing between each site and a rushing river snaking through the campground. The Ohanapecosh Visitor’s Center is home to the best Junior Ranger Program in all the land. There are many spectacular trails nearby. You can hike to Silver Falls and Ohanapecosh Hot Springs without leaving the campground, Grove of the Patriarchs is a six-minute drive away and it’s about 45 minutes to get to the meadows and wildflowers in Paradise.

Booked up? Try one of these family-friendly Mount Rainier campgrounds: La Wis Wis or Silver Springs.



South Shore Rd, Quinault

Olympic National Forest

Driving time from Seattle: Three hours

This Forest Service Campground by the shore of Lake Quinault puts you in the Olympic Rain Forest. Don’t miss the Lake Quinault Loop trail, which you can follow to see giant trees at Big Tree Grove. You can also stroll over to Lake Quinault lodge, where you can rent canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.

Booked up? You can get your rainforest fix at nearby Falls Creek, or at first-come, first-served sites by the Hoh River.



Olympic National Park

Driving time from Seattle: Three and a half hours

Camp among windblown trees next to a broad sandy beach on the Pacific Ocean. If you can tear your family away from the surf and dunes, Kalaloch makes a good base to explore the Hoh and Queets rainforests and other attractions on the west side of Olympic National Park.

Booked up? Mora, another National Park campground, two miles from Rialto Beach, takes reservations from Mid-June into September, and is first-come first served the rest of the season. You could try and make an ocean getaway at Cape Disappointment State Park, or Grayland Beach State Park.


Salt Creek Recreation Area

3506 Camp Hayden Rd, Port Angeles

Driving time from Seattle: Three and a half hours

This Clallam County campground takes reservations for the current calendar year only, so the earliest you can sign up is Jan. 1. It’s a good idea to make a plan to do that. Come here on a low tide weekend for some of the best tide-pooling on earth. There’s also a World War ll-era gun battery to explore. Plus, this seaside spot is a fine base for exploring the northern reaches of the Olympic Peninsula. Clallam county runs this area, and they do a fine job.

Booked up? Try Clallam County’s other waterfront haven: Dungeness Recreation Area. You could also check out Sequim Bay State Park.


More on camping:

Want to camp at one of these Washington State Parks next summer? Reserve your spot soon!

No reservation? No problem! Here’s where to get a last-minute campsite

About the Author

Fiona Cohen

Fiona Cohen lives in Ballard with her husband, two teenagers, a big vegetable garden and an absurd cat. She is the author of "Curious Kids Nature Guide," and is working on a new nature book for kids, to be published by Little Bigfoot in 2022.