10 Best Lake Camping Spots in Washington

Beautiful landscape morning sunrise over stream and pine tree camping in lake

Camping can be a truly incredible experience in the state of Washington. With cool rain forests, rugged backcountry and coastal areas, and breathtaking mountain views, we think that the scenic campgrounds in Washington will be of extraordinary appeal to campers and hikers of all types. 

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Once you are ready to get out into nature, the state of Washington offers all kinds of amazing national parks such as the North Cascades, Olympic National Park, and Mount Rainier, as well as plenty of other places to set up your tent or even an RV. The state parks are ideal for camping excursions of all duration, and stunning destinations like Deception Pass and Lake Wenatchee can also be very comfortable places to stay. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best campgrounds in Washington state. You’ll learn more about some of the facilities in each place so that you can get started planning your latest outdoor adventures around the lakes and mountains in some of these special areas.

scene over Diablo lake when golden sunrise in North cascade national park,

North Cascades National Park is a remote, yet bustling campground nestled in old-growth forest.

1. Colonial Creek Campground, North Cascades National Park

Colonial Creek Campground can be reached via the seasonal North Cascades Highway. This is one of the most popular bases if you would like to explore the area as part of your outdoor getaway. There are a public boat ramp and pier that allows access to the cold water of Diablo Lake. Some other popular recreation options at the campground include fishing, boating, and swimming (although you might need a wetsuit for that).

There are several backcountry hiking trails starting at Colonial Creek, including the picturesque hike up to Thunder Knob, which is often considered one of the best hiking trails in the North Cascades. All 142 sites at Colonial Creek are well suited for tent camping or small RVs, and all of the campsites have easy access to flushing toilets and potable water.

Pros: 

  • Hiking trails
  • Popular recreation options
  • Easy access to flushing toilets and potable water 

Cons: 

  • Large campsite so it can get crowded 
  • Lake water is often too cold for swimming

2. Hoh Rain Forest Campground, Olympic National Park

On the Olympic Peninsula of the western part of Washington state, the Hoh Rain Forest offers a unique environment that has become something of an international tourist destination. If you’re looking to escape the summer heat for a few weeks, this is the ideal place to visit for some refreshing and cool temperatures. A good thing to know is that the Hoh Rain Forest Campground offers a total of 78 campsites. Campsites are granted on a first-come, first-serve basis, with flushing toilets and potable water nearby.

Another one of the best things about this popular campground is its proximity to a wide range of trailheads. Stop in at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and wander the Hall of Mosses before attempting the Spruce Nature Trail or taking a long walk along another one of the best hiking trails in Olympic National Park, the Hoh River Trail.

Pros: 

  • Wide range of trailheads
  • Cool temperatures
  • Easy access to flushing toilets and potable water 

Cons: 

  • International tourist destination so it can get crowded 
  • Lake water is often too cold for swimming

3. Mount Rainier National Park

On the southern flank of Mount Rainier, Cougar Rock Campground has over 170 campsites available. Cougar Rock often fills up early from the beginning of May until the end of October. Although the campsites are quite close together at Cougar Rock, the old-growth forest of western hemlocks and Douglas firs do provide some privacy. There is a spacious amphitheater area that offers educational programming, and flushing toilets and potable water can be found nearby.

In the middle of one of the best national parks in Washington, Cougar Rock is a great place for hikers. A 10-mile scenic hike from the campground will give you up-close views of Mount Rainier and its many glaciers. One of the best backcountry hiking trails at Mount Rainier National Park can also be accessed here, and the Skyline Trail can be found winding through the meadows, rivers, and surreal mountains that make up this scenic area of the park.

Pros: 

  • Good backcountry hiking trails
  • Great views
  • Easy access to flushing toilets and potable water 

Cons: 

  • Crowded conditions at times
  • Trails can be icy and muddy in winter

4. Cranberry Lake Campground, Deception Pass State Park

Deception Pass was heavily developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and inhabited by some of the Coast Salish tribes well before that. Almost on the Canadian border, Deception Pass includes a historic bridge connecting Whidbey and Fidalgo Island. Enjoy the dramatic views where Skagit Bay meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound. This large state park has an abundant shoreline, interesting tidal pools, a boat launch for kayaks and other vessels, and plenty of dense natural areas to explore.

The scenery is absolutely beautiful. Be sure to explore the surrounding forest and marvel at all of the old-growth trees and foliage. Whidbey Island can be an awesome family outing and the whole area is also a really good place to bring dogs and other animals.

At a little over an 80-mile drive from Seattle, Deception Pass features over 300 campsites spread throughout three areas of the park and along the water. Catering to tent camping and RVs with partial and full hookups available, many of the campsites can be found at the Cranberry Lake Campground on Whidbey Island near the Deception Pass Bridge. On Fidalgo Island, Bowman Bay also offers easy access to the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center where you can learn a lot more about the park.

Pros: 

  • Lots of camping options
  • Amazing scenery
  • Full hookups available 

Cons: 

  • The park can be hard to access
  • Trails can get very muddy in winter

5. Lake Wenatchee State Park Campground, Leavenworth

Glacier-fed lakes like Lake Wenatchee are some of the most beautiful natural bodies of water in the state of Washington. Although not bright blue in color, Lake Wenatchee is extremely clear and very clean. Salmon fishing is very common here and it can get very busy in the summer. Generally, this means families and large groups, but no loud partying. Mosquitos can be a major problem for some campers at this park, so make sure you bring plenty of bug spray and mosquito nets.

Lake Wenatchee State Park is just a 20-mile drive from the Bavarian-themed mountain town of Leavenworth, WA. This State Park offers some spectacular nature as well as an attractive playground for kids. Hiking, biking, and horse riding can be enjoyed on any of the park’s many trails. The shallow lagoon of Lake Wenatchee is perfect for young swimmers and novice paddleboarders. Other interesting recreation options on the five-mile-long Lake Wenatchee might include fishing and non-motorized boating fairly far from the shore.

The north and south campground loops at Lake Wenatchee offer over 150 lakeside campsites that can accommodate both tents and RVs. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are some popular winter activities, and there are heated restrooms and warming shelters that are especially useful for winter camping at alpine lakes such as this. 

Pros: 

  • Hiking, biking and horse riding trails
  • Cool temperatures
  • Heated restrooms and warming shelters 

Cons: 

  • Family-friendly destination so it can get crowded 
  • Lake water is often too cold for swimming

6. Salt Creek Recreation Area

Salt Creek Recreation Area is a county park fifteen miles west of Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. At a size of almost 200 acres, including the eastern edge of Crescent Bay, Salt Creek offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Puget Sound, and Mount Baker, an active volcano that is perpetually snow-capped and has not erupted since 1880. 

The campground is near the Tongue Point Marine Sanctuary at the tip of the park, where you will discover some of the most diverse tidal pools in the country. Bikers can also enjoy miles and miles of hiking and biking trails in the Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, ranging in terms of difficulty and level of ascent. 

There are over 90 sites within the two campground loops at Salt Creek, with year-round availability for most of them, including access to running water and flushing toilets. The Crescent Bay Beach is an ideal example of rugged Pacific Northwest shoreline and it can be easily accessed with a short walk from the campground. Also, the small town of Port Angeles is a short drive away from most of the best camping spots.

Pros: 

  • Diverse hiking and biking trails
  • Stunning views
  • Access to flushing toilets and running water 

Cons: 

  • Too secluded if you need shopping options nearby
  • Ocean water can be very rough at times

7. Bowl and Pitcher Campground, Riverside State Park, Spokane

Riverside State Park is an attractive part of eastern Washington on the way to the Idaho border. With some of the best hiking trails and campgrounds in Spokane, Riverside is split into several different regions on the northwest side of the city. You can try some horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and swimming here.

The 32 campsites at the Bowl and Pitcher Campground can accommodate tents and RVs with access to hot showers and flushing toilets. Also, the campground provides immediate hiking access to this area’s namesake feature, which refers to a collection of basalt rocky structures that stretch over the Spokane River. Other popular areas in Riverside State Park include Little Spokane River Natural Area, Deep Creek Canyon, and Nine Mile Recreation Area. All of these can be accessed very easily from Bowl and Pitcher.

Pros: 

  • Excellent hiking and biking trails
  • Mountain views
  • Access to flushing toilets and hot showers 

Cons: 

  • A little too spread out
  • Rocky structures could be a little dangerous for kids
Mount Rainier National Park

Ohanapecosh Campground is surrounded by old-growth forest and crossed by an exceptionally beautiful snow-fed river.

8. Ohanapecosh Campground, Mount Rainier National Park

Ohanapecosh is an ideal base for exploring the alpine environment surrounding the tallest mountain in Washington. You can find the campground between the Sunrise and Paradise regions of the national park, and besides quick access to these areas, there is plenty to see and do here, such as pick out a few bald eagles on the mountainside.   

The glacier-fed Ohanapecosh River carves through a canyon near the campground, and the nearby Grove of the Patriarchs Trail is a moderate hike that can be quite popular. There are over 175 sites for tent campers and RVs, as well as flushing toilets and potable water within each campground loop. If you are planning a trip to the Ohanapecosh River, make sure you take enough insect repellent, otherwise, you may have to leave the campground before it even gets dark.

Pros: 

  • Alpine environment
  • Good wildlife viewing options
  • Access to national park lands

Cons: 

  • Lots of bugs
  • Large campground, so it can feel crowded

9. Sol Duc Campground, Olympic National Park

With soothing hot springs, wildflowers, and powerful waterfalls, this park is right in the heart of the Olympic wilderness. Together with the National Park Service and the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, this campground has over 80 tent sites available and 17 spaces for RVs. Outdoor recreation is easy to find, with walking trails to the nearby Sol Duc Falls trailhead and several hot-water mineral pools at the resort.

You can make reservations at Sol Duc Campground and this is highly recommended during the summer season. You can also stay in the century-old, 1980s revamped Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort if you prefer. The nearby Sol Duc Falls trail is one of the best backcountry hiking trails in the entire state of Washington, and beyond the falling water, you can even reach the scenic Seven Lakes Basin of the park.

Pros: 

  • Attractive backcountry hiking trails
  • Hot water mineral pools
  • Access to flushing toilets and running water 

Cons: 

  • Too crowded during summer
  • Limited options for RV camping

10. Moran State Park, Orcas Island

For a truly unforgettable experience among the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound, consider Moran State Park. With plenty of hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails, the park is a haven for outdoor exercise. There are also five freshwater lakes for swimming, fishing, and non-motorized boating. As the name implies, the area can also be excellent for whale watching and you are very likely to see an orca or two if you spend enough time looking out for them.

The campground has 124 sites spread out over four distinct areas of the park. Views of the Pacific Ocean and the amount of privacy can vary greatly between the different camp areas. The South End Campground is one of the most popular, with all of the sites located on the shore of Cascade Lake. A winding trail leads up to the peak of Mount Constitution, where three different mountain ranges can be seen from the summit.

Pros: 

  • Biking, hiking, and horse riding trails
  • Excellent views
  • All campsites with lakeshore access 

Cons: 

  • Large campground, so it can feel crowded
  • Limited options for RV camping

Making Reservations in Washington  

As is often the case when visiting many state parks and public attractions in the USA, it is a good idea to make reservations before you decide to simply arrive. Many of these sites can be very popular and you’ll need to secure a place for you and your group so that you don’t end up being disappointed.

We realize that bringing your own tent or RV is not always feasible. Always remember that camping tent rentals are often available and this can be a popular option for campers who might not want to make a pricey investment in a whole bunch of new camping gear. The initial investment for some tents can be quite large. Group tents and models with special features and building materials cost a lot more to manufacture. 

Do a bit of research into whether or not you can rent your tent from a nearby business or even directly from the campground. This can save time and allow you not to have to transport your gear all the way back home. Camping tent rentals make camping more accessible to people without cars or people who live far away from the campgrounds they are planning to visit.

Also, always take note of the camping laws in this area. In the State and National Forests, you can camp anywhere you want as long as it doesn’t say “no camping”. Dispersed (car) camping is not allowed in the National or State Parks, so you will have to camp within the designated sites. In the National Forests, you can camp anywhere as long as you are 100 feet from water sources. Dispersed camping offers good flexibility if you want to try some backcountry camping and don’t mind roughing it for a few days. Make sure you bring enough equipment, including hand sanitizer and toilet paper, if you plan to try out one of these options.

For most of the campgrounds within any of Washington’s national parks or national forests, reservations can be made ahead of time for select campsites through one of the official recreation websites. If there are any campsites available within Washington’s state parks, they can be booked through the Washington State Park reservation system. Always be sure to check the official sites for reservation information and other guidelines before you decide to hit the road on your outdoor getaways.

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.