Camping with kids: Camping season is upon us in the PNW, and Seattle is lucky enough to be within driving distance of some of the best places to camp in the country. From the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound to the west and north, to the Cascades and Columbia Basin to the east, there is camping everyone is sure to enjoy.
Camping is such a fantastic way to spend time as a family. It gets kids (and adults) away from devices and the everyday distractions of life, allowing for time to focus on spending quality time together. Camping with kids is a great way to show little ones the natural beauty surrounding where they live and helps them build admiration and respect for the outdoors that’s sure to stay with them throughout their lives.
Here are some of the best spots for camping with kids near Seattle.
Olympic National Park: South Beach Campground
Driving time from Seattle: 3 hours
Just a stone’s throw from the blue waters of the Pacific, atop a seaside bluff in Olympic National Park, sits the South Beach Campground. South Beach offers 50 campsites that can accommodate tents, vans and RVs as long as 35 feet. While many campgrounds in the park fill up as soon as reservations are available, South Beach Campground is first-come, first-served. Site fees are only $20 per night, and you can stay for up to 14 days.
There is a lot of fun to be had right at the campground. Being on the water means easy access to beach time! When the tide is in, there isn’t much beach, but there are great pools ideal for little campers when the tide is out.
Outside of the campground, there is a ton to explore while you’re camping with kids. The Hoh Rainforest is just an hour away. The Hall of Mosses there is a great hiking trail for the whole family. Only 13 minutes north of the campground is Ruby Beach, a must-see beach area with lots to explore!
Oak Harbor: Deception Pass State Park
Driving time from Seattle: 1 hour 30 minutes
Camping at Deception Pass offers quintessential PNW views and experiences. There are miles of Puget Sound beachfront for exploring and playing, lush forests and bluffs for hiking, and acres of saltwater — as well as freshwater lakes — for boating, kayaking or canoeing.
The park offers a lengthy list of water activities the whole family will love, including fishing, crabbing, swimming and boating. For fun on land, enjoy searching for seashells, bird watching, wildlife viewing, mountain biking and hiking.
With 172 tent sites and 134 RV sites, there is no shortage of campsites at Deception Pass. But, because it’s the most popular state park in Washington, reservations tend to go quickly. Reserve in advance for holidays and weekends. There are many campsite types to choose from. Primitive sites, which do not have a nearby flush comfort station, only run $12 a night. Standard campsites with nearby domestic water, sink waste, garbage disposal and a flush comfort station range from $20 to $37 a night, depending on the dates. RVs can camp with partial or full hookups for $30 to $50 a night.
Fall City: Tall Chief RV & Camping Resort
Driving time from Seattle: 35 minutes
Get the family outside and enjoying nature, less than 30 miles from Seattle! The little ones will appreciate the short ride to Tall Chief RV & Camping Resort in Fall City. Tall Chief offers 113 RV camping sites. Don’t have a camper? It’s easy to rent an RV in Seattle! Campsites are spacious and come equipped with full hookups, a fire ring and a picnic table — ideal space for grilling dinner and roasting marshmallows. The whole family will love the amenities offered at Tall Chief, including a swimming pool, hot tub, playground and a mini golf course, as well as places to play basketball, pickleball and horseshoes.
Even though you could spend your whole trip enjoying the campground, there is fun to be had nearby too. Floating the Snoqualmie River is a must when in Fall City. Floating is fun and safe for the whole family, and local outfitters make it easy with transportation and equipment rental. Floats begin at Snoqualmie Falls, so make sure to take a moment to take in that beautiful sight! Off the water, other fun activities near Tall Chief include hiking, a historical walking tour of downtown Fall City and visiting the famous TreeHouse Point.
Carnation: Tolt MacDonald Park and Campground
Driving time from Seattle: 35 minutes
Another campground close to home, right in King County, is Tolt MacDonald Park in Carnation. The park is located at the confluence of the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley. The park is the ideal location for swimming, boating, biking and hiking. The fall is an extra special time to visit as the joining rivers act as a salmon habitat. Watch the chinook salmon spawning in the river below while eagles and osprey are soaring above.
Campgrounds at Tolt MacDonald are available for both tents and RVs. If you’re looking for more of a glamping experience, the park has yurts available for rent. Yurts sleep up to 7 people, and are perfect for the whole family. Camping reservations must be made at least ten days prior to arrival. Rates run $25 to $35 a night for tent and RV sites.
Friday Harbor: San Juan County Park
Driving (and ferry) time from Seattle: 3 hours and 30 minutes
If you’re looking for a unique adventure, get off the mainland and ferry over to the San Juan Islands to camp.
San Juan County Park in Friday Harbor is located on the west side of San Juan Island and includes rocky bluffs and gravel beaches that overlook Haro Strait with views to the Straits of San Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island. You can’t go wrong with picking your campsite as most have water views. There are sites for tents and RVs. Rates range from $13 to $54 a night, and reservations can only be made within 90 days of your intended arrival date. Sites fill up quickly, so make sure to make a reservation as soon as you’re able. Also, to ensure you have a spot on the ferry, make a reservation for that as well.
There is a small beach at the campground for accessing the water. There are also fun spots for tidepooling. Bring (or rent) kayaks for getting out on the water. You can’t ask for a better way to go whale watching. Sit back and relax while watching the whales right from your campsite!
Camping with kids on San Juan Island on the shores of Puget Sound is an experience you and your family will never forget.
Leavenworth: Nason Creek Campground
Driving time from Seattle: 2 hours
The Nason Creek Campground is located in the heart of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, just 19 miles north of the picturesque town of Leavenworth, nestled in the old growth forest, along the banks of the stream. This is a prime spot for enjoying all that the area has to offer, including hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, kayaking and horseback riding. Make sure to enjoy nearby Lake Wenatchee. Being surrounded by undeveloped wilderness, clean streams and diverse forest gives you a great chance to see some of the local wildlife, including deer, porcupine, native fish and migratory birds. You might get lucky and catch a glimpse of some of the area’s endangered and threatened species, such as the Northern Bald Eagle, Northern Spotted Owl, gray wolf or even grizzly bear.
This campground gives your family a chance to enjoy the great outdoors and offers amenities such as flush toilets and potable water. Each of the 73 sites has a picnic table, fire ring and grill. Rates run $22 to $24 per night, depending on the time of year. Some sites are available for reservations while others remain first-come, first-served.
No matter which direction you take as you head out of Seattle, excellent family-friendly camping can be found. Pack up the tent or hitch up the RV and get out there and show the kiddos what a great state they are lucky to call home!
Editor’s note: The pandemic put most travel on hold. With cases declining and people getting vaccinated, some families are eager for a change of scenery, so we’re sharing some of our favorite destinations. We recognize that the decision to travel or not is a personal one, and we encourage people to continue to take COVID precautions if they do go. Here’s guidance from the CDC. Be sure to check your destination’s website before you go in case of changes to local COVID restrictions.