5 Tips for Camping in Washington State from a Local

5 helpful things to know before going camping in Washington state including where to go, how to be safe, how to avoid mosquito bites & more!
5 Tips for Camping in Washington State from a Local

This summer, I’m trying to share even more tips and information from personal experience with you about outdoor adventures like camping and backpacking! I hope you’ve been enjoying the posts. Definitely let me know if there is an additional topic you’d live me to cover. Today, I wanted to focus specifically on camping in Washington state. It’s such a vast place, but I’ve found that these broad suggestions generally help make any camping outing even better!

Going Camping In Washington State? I Have 5 Recommendations!

Before we dig in, there is one thing this post is not going to be: it’s not going to be a list of where to go camping in Washington state. I am very much of the mindset that the best adventure comes from putting in the time and work to research your destination. Only YOU know what type of adventure you’re up for. What if I recommend some epic 15 mile backpack-only campsite and you are more in the mood for an RV campsite?? Instead, I recommend doing some good old fashioned googling. Sorry not sorry!

Now, let’s dig into my tips!

Research before you go & plan accordingly

This includes making reservations and claiming passes ahead of time. I’m definitely the planner in our household, so if we want to stay in a designated campsite I always make sure that we have a spot booked via Washington State Parks.

While planning our trip, I make sure to check:

  • Are dogs allowed? If so, here are my tips for camping with dogs!
  • What is the bathroom situation?
  • Is the campground for walk-in, backpacking only, RV or car camping?
  • Do we need to take our trash with us?
  • Is there a picnic table and/or grill?
  • Is there a burn ban in effect or are campfires allowed? Can you forage for firewood or do you need to bring your own?

I also recommend staying informed about any type of pass that’s needed in order to stay in your destination. For example, there is a lottery to get passes for the Enchantments from May 15 through October 31. This exists in order to better protect fragile resources and wilderness areas.

Consider disperse camping

99% of the time, we disperse camp which basically means that we are not camping in a designated, reserved campground. Instead, we set up camp on national forest land which is free and legal to do while camping in Washington state. We prefer this type because it is usually much quieter and you don’t run the risk of crowds, loud people, etc.

But it also means that you won’t have access to the typical campground amenities like a toilet, shower, or even a road! To find our disperse camping locations, we literally use a paper atlas (I know!) and look for dirt roads that look like they either have a good view or are in a part of the state where we haven’t explored much. It’s very much a trial and error sort of adventure, but usually pays off.

There will be bugs… a lot of them

This is my second summer living in the North Cascades and I will tell you one thing with 100% confidence: there will be massive mosquitoes and they will eat you alive. This is a fact of life when camping in Washington State, especially in the Enchantments!

I recommend investing in a few things to make camping less buggy:

Plan on not having phone service

If you’ve been a longtime reader, you know that my happy place is when I don’t have phone service. It’s just when I’m most creative! 9 times out of 10 I’ve found that I don’t have reception at our campsite. This is just a fact of life when it comes to remote, rugged locations in the mountains.

Over the years, I’ve learned where the last accessible phone tower is so I can send out any last minute communications before we go off-grid. Speaking from experience, a lot of small Washington towns have community centers with free wifi, too.

You’re probably wondering what we do for emergencies though. We invested in a Garmin InReach mini GPS which is a beacon. You can create pre-loaded messages and then also do custom ones, plus type them from your phone so it’s easier and faster. We use this thing ALL the time. For example, if Sean is in the alpine, he will let me know when he’s on his way back to the parking area, when he’s at the car, etc. It really helps us to feel way safer!

Bring many clothing layers — and always a bathing suit!

Washington has so many amazing places to go swimming and you never know when you’re going to want to go for a dip. Because of this, I always bring a bathing suit or at least a sports bra/underwear combo that can double in a pinch.

I also always recommend bringing an array of layers (within reason if you’re backpacking). Temperature can vary wildly depending on countless factors including elevation and time of day. I outline my layering method in this post and swear by it! At the very least, bring a second pair of warm socks, base layer leggings, and a waterproof/windproof shell.

5 helpful things to know before going camping in Washington state including where to go, how to be safe, how to avoid mosquito bites & more!

Honestly this post barely scratches the surface of everything I’ve learned about camping in Washington state in the 8+ years I’ve lived here! Definitely check out the other camping resources I’ve shared here on the blog + leave a comment if you have more questions!

By the way: You might have noticed a new feature here on the blog called Thank with Google! I am honored to be one of Google’s paid early testers for their Thank with Google pilot program. This experimental feature allows you to purchase a virtual sticker in appreciation for the content I share here — think of it as a virtual tip jar!

The virtual stickers translate into direct revenue that supports the time, energy, and thought I put into everything I share. There are lots of cute stickers available, plus every time you send a paid sticker, you can add a personal message!

You can find the Thank with Google feature in multiple places here on the blog. As always, I genuinely appreciate your support in any form and hope you’ll try it out!

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest digital influencer and former textile designer with an eye for beautiful things. Jojotastic is a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress home, interior styling, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style.

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2 Comments

  1. 7.13.22
    Lesley said:

    Paper atlas FTW! Ours is falling apart but we still use it on the regular.

    • 7.15.22
      Joanna said:

      Yes!! Same. Ours has a lot of duct tape on it 😂