Camping with the kids is great fun, but it can also be intimidating if you’ve never tried it before. Lauren Braden, of the site Northwest TripFinder, said, “As long as kids have scooters and s’mores, they’ll probably be happy campers. But I also like to find camping locations that offer something extra special.” If you’re willing to travel a bit, she recommends the Salt Creek Recreation Area near Port Angeles for tide pooling, or Fort Ebey on Whidbey Island, where kids can explore old World War II defense installations.If you’re thinking about going out in nature for the first time, consider finding a campground that isn’t too far away. That way, you can head home if you need to. Of course, if the whole idea is too ambitious for your crew, there is nothing wrong with pitching a tent in the backyard or building a pillow fort in the living room! (Microwaved s’mores are good, too.)
This Tacoma Power campground is popular for fishing, boating, and paddling. There also are trails and, since it’s about an hour from Tacoma and just about an hour from Mount Rainier, it makes for a good base camp. Families like that the sites are good-sized, and the bathrooms are well-maintained. Tip: The water level can get low in the lake in late summer. Check online before you head out. This is a popular park, and it also has a day use area, so go for water play and fun. Don’t go for solitude.
Penrose Point State Park
This jewel of a campground outside Gig Harbor got the top rating in a casual survey of my camp-loving friends. It’s a 165-acre park sitting on the Sound, and families love it for hiking and beach exploration. Tip: The campground is in the woods, so expect your site to be shaded. The beach is a short walk away.
Kanasket Palmer State Park
Want to ease into family camping? You can try a yurt at this forested campground on the Green River. There are also 25 tent sites and 19 spots with electricity. This was the first campground my husband and I tried with our tent trailer when our boys were small, and we thought it had a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere. Tip: If the nearby fire station needs to summon volunteers, you will hear a very loud siren. Think about packing some earplugs for bedtime! Also, keep in mind that while Green River is beautiful, it’s also very cold, and the current is fast, so you won’t want to let your children in it.
Dash Point State Park
You might find it hard to believe you’re in Federal Way when you settle into one of the wooded campsites here. The campground is separated from the uber-popular, sandy beach (definitely worth a stop), so the sites feel wilder than you’d expect. Reservations for all the spots in this piece can be made online or over the phone using the state parks system. You will want one for a summer weekend. Tip: Don’t forget your Discover Pass!