Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

No reservation? No problem. Here's where to get a last-minute campsite


With the start of school bearing down on us, are you regretting not fitting in one (or is it one more?) camping trip this summer? It may not be too late.

Even if you don't have a reservation, there are quite a few first-come, first-served campsites at state parks across Washington, and Washington State Parks offers a few tricks for landing one. These are from its Adventure Awaits blog:

Be prepared — and flexible: Set out for your perfect spot but have a backup plan or two. Search the area around where you are headed for other campgrounds and places to stay. Even if it means a night in a motel, it’s still better than driving back home.

The early camper gets the site: Pack (and fill up the tank) the night before and be ready to go early in the morning to get a jump on the crowds.

Shoot for the middle: Showing up in the middle of the week or on the tail end of the weekend vastly improves your odds of getting a nice campsite. Bonus: fewer crowds.

And also: Get a $5 discount on camping in September at these select state parks. Want to know more about our state parks? There's a guidebook.


Where the parks are

And now, a bit of a cheat sheet. Here are the parks where all camping is first-come, first served (we'll let you figure out exactly where these places are and if they suit your fancy):

Beacon Rock State Park, 28 standard sites in a forested setting, limited number of RV sites.

Blake Island Marine State Park: Close to Seattle but you'll need a boat or water taxi; 44 sites.

Joemma Beach State Park: 19 primitive tent sites. 

Mount Spokane State Park: eight standard sites and more than 12,000 acres to explore.

Obstruction Pass State Park: Small Orcas Island park with 10 primitive sites; take your car on the ferry or arrive by boat or kayak.

Palouse Falls State Park: 11 primitive sites but note that drinking water is available only  through October. 

Sucia Island Marine State Park: Horseshoe-shaped island in the San Juan Archipelago; 60 standard sites accessible only by watercraft.

Wallace Falls State Park: You will need to set out early to score one of the two prime sites at this park in Snohomish county.


And these parks have a combination of reservation and first-come, first-served sites:

Cape Disappointment State Park: On the Long Beach Peninsula; 19 sites for spontaneous campers.

Curlew Lake State Park: Just 25 miles from the Canadian border, out-of-the-way lakeside park has 29 sites for last-minute campers.

Jarrell Cove State Park: Access this forested campground on Harstine Island (in South Puget Sound) by boat or car; 14 sites for campers without reservations.

Lewis and Clark State Park: Nine first-come, first-served sites, and Jackson House State Park Heritage Site just 2 miles to the north.

Schafer State Park: A short hop east of Interstate 5 in Elma on the East Fork Satsop River; 19 no-reservation sites.

About the Author