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Even though Seattle is chock full of parks and green spaces, sometimes, you actually need to get away from the city to recoup, take some deep breaths, and enjoy unobstructed views of the mountain- and evergreen-lined skyscape.
As all Pacific Northwesterners know, this is where camping comes in. Thanks to the Cascades and the Olympics, the Puget Sound, the ocean, and dozens of beautiful lakes and rivers, there’s plenty of places to go camping near Seattle. So the next time you need a solid dose of fresh air and vitamin D, here are some of the best places to pitch your tent. Happy camping!
Deception Pass offers a beauty all its own, along with 174 tent sites where you can lay your head. From the shore of the state park, you’ll not only see the towering evergreens and jagged cliff faces typical of the northern Puget Sound, but you’ll also see the iconic Deception Pass Bridge, which connects Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island. If you’re looking for that pine needle scented fresh air but have been to all the tried-and-true local spots, pack your gear and try a weekend at this place (it's only two hours away) — and be sure to have your camera ready at Golden Hour.
For many of us, camping carries the nostalgia-laced memories of childhood summers by the lake with family: the smell of hot dogs on the charcoal barbecue and lazily reading on a blanket in the shade. If this is the type of weekend summer getaway you’re looking for, head east of the city to Lake Sammamish State Park. Grab a few friends, a cooler of your favorite drink, your paddleboard or some inner tubes, and prepare for waves of lakeside nostalgia.
So, the thing about camping in the Pacific Northwest is that chances of rain are pretty much always 50/50, even in the summer. While most of us are used to that (cue raincoats and boots), sometimes you want guaranteed sunshine. In this case, hit up Lake Wenatchee State Park. About a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle, things get a little bit drier and a whole lot warmer, making for an ideal sunny getaway. Secure your spot at one of their 155 campsites, then grab your swimsuit, kayak, and sunscreen, and spend the day hanging by the lake.
Camping at Fay Bainbridge is by far one of the easiest ways to get your out-of-the-city fix. As an island, Bainbridge seems like its own world; the moment you step off the ferry, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped… even though you can still see the city skyline across the water. The campsite itself, although often crowded, is clean, beautiful, and effortless. Situated directly on the Puget Sound, you’ll get your fix of cold water dives, early-morning low tide sea urchin exploration, and, if you score a spot near the water, you’ll fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing against the rocky shore.
The Olympic Peninsula’s Lake Crescent is as crystal clear as it is freezing. But on a sweltering August day (or earlier in the summer, if you’re feeling brave), what more do you want in a weekend getaway? The Fairholme Campground offers not only a great spot for swimming and lakeside hangs, but also the most beautiful, quintessentially PNW views of the evergreen, hillside-framed lake. Bring your yoga mat and turn this peaceful getaway into your very own lakeside retreat.
As they say, it’s about the journey, not just the destination. Nothing could be truer about camping at Larrabee State Park. To get here from Seattle, you’ll head north up I-5, but be sure to get off at Chuckanut Dr., where you’ll wind through beautiful farmland and rolling hills before hugging the coastline as you near the campsite. Once you arrive, you’ll be awestruck by the beautiful views of the sound, phenomenal cliffs along the water that are perfect for rock climbing, and low tide pools that serve as a refuge for starfish, crabs, and sea urchins.
We love the Paradise and Sunrise sections of Mount Rainier National Park — in fact, whatever you do this year, do not miss hiking the Wonderland Trail at Sunrise. But if you want to stay on Mount Rainier over the summer without being overwhelmed by the crowds, head east to Ohanapecosh Campground. Not only will you get all of the classic views of the mountain you’re looking for, but you will also be perched next to the beautiful, turquoise Ohanapecosh River, complete with swimming holes, a small waterfall, and a very cool swinging bridge.
When you need a break from the weekly hustle of your working life, setting up a tent and packing out a cooler of camp food doesn’t always sound very relaxing. That’s where glamping comes in. Leanto at Camp Orcas on Orcas Island offers (almost) everything that you’re looking for in a camping trip: a fireplace with Adirondack chairs, picnic tables with flannel-patterned covers, evergreens (and the smell of fresh pine needles), and adorable lean-tos with hardwood floors and queen-sized beds. Yep, it’s comfort meets traditional camping classics. Plus, you have access to all of the Puget Sound glory unique to the northern islands. Oh, and, no surprise here, you might just see actual orca whales.
The northern Washington Pacific Coast that makes up this serene camping spot is phenomenally beautiful; jagged cliffs line the white-foamed crashing waves and each beach is different than the last. Just a half mile inland, the meandering river that runs through Mora Campground feeds directly into the ocean — a beautiful journey by paddleboard or kayak. Head here for short hikes, ocean kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, rock climbing, and, of course, camping. Fitt Tip: Hit up Rialto beach, just NW of Mora Campground, and you’ll find thousands of rocks perfectly smooth and primed for skipping.
Now, if you actually want to fall asleep to the sound of freshwater rolling over smoothed river stones, snag a spot at Verlot Campground in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This camping destination is simple, peaceful, and makes for the perfect place to wake up and sit for hours by the creek with a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. All you need is a day or two here and you’ll quickly feel refreshed and ready to face the world again. To round out your weekend of outdoor therapy, stop by Granite Falls on your way back to the city.
If you work a typical 9–5, you might think you don’t have time for camping. But Tinkham Campground near Snoqualmie Pass is only a short 30-minute drive from the city and will immerse you in all of the PNW freshness you need without requiring an hours-long trip. Pro: this campsite positions you super close to amazing Snoqualmie hiking (definitely don’t miss the Kendall Katwalk stretch of the PCT). Con: you can hear the subtle hum of passing cars on I-90 all night, which, if you imagine is the stream that’s a stone’s throw from your tent, can actually be quite peaceful.
About 30 minutes east of Seattle, you'll find this woodsy, peaceful escape. And go ahead and leave your tent at home, you won't be needing it at this campsite. Instead, you can cozy up in a secluded treehouse set up among the forest. Equipped with heat, linens, and plenty of on-site bathrooms, we don't blame you if you spend the entire weekend holed up here. But if you want to explore, there are plenty of hiking trails to hit up, and you can even sign up for a rejuvenating yoga class. Make sure you book a stay at this spot in advance, though, there are only six treehouses up for grabs.
Featured image via @christensen_chad | Instagram