Camping with Kids

The great outdoors offers lessons, fun

Camping is an essential part of a Northwest summer for many families. It’s frugal. It’s adventurous. And it gets everyone up close with the beautiful wild places around us. Many popular campgrounds fill fast, so you’ll want to get started making reservations soon.

Great Campgrounds
We think a great campground for families is one that is close enough to drive to, but far enough away to feel like a true adventure. It also helps if it has family-friendly amenities, like playgrounds, swimming areas, and clean restrooms.

Dash Point State Park, Federal Way
Dash Point is an excellent choice for a first camping adventure. If you forgot bug repellent, you’re 10 minutes away from a store. And if things go wrong, you’ll be less than an hour from home. But we think you’ll want to stay. There are lovely wooded trails through the campground, and a short hike down leads to the beach — one of the best — with true, “bucket-worthy,” sand. You’ll have plenty of company here. If you’re looking for solitude, head elsewhere.

Mayfield Lake, Mossyrock
If you like more serene camping, try Mossyrock on Mayfield Lake. You can reserve campsites right on the lake, and it’s a great place for junior fishermen. There’s also a playground onsite.

Penrose Point, Gig Harbor
Kids will love exploring the beach and tide pools at this popular area park on the Key Peninsula. Campsites are in full, or partial shade, which makes it a nice choice for July or August camping. There also are kid-friendly trails for hiking and biking.

Fort Flagler
This is a great spot if you have big and little kids. Older kids will love exploring the bunkers, and littles can get their fill of beach time. And the views! Spots at Fort Flagler and Fort Warden are always among the first to fill. Try going midweek if you can’t score a weekend reservation.

Ohanapecosh, Mount Rainier
This is our favorite spot at Mount Rainier. There are several easy hiking trails that start in the campground, and a visitors center where kids can learn about animals and earn a Junior Ranger badge. Picturesque sites are tucked in the forest and near the rushing Ohanepecosh River. This is a popular campground, but very family-friendly, and because of its size, you usually can score a spot.

Last-Minute Strategies

  • Try a DNR or National Forest Site. These are less well known, and thus, less popular. They are primitive campgrounds, so may not be the best choice for first-time campers. You will need a Discover WA Pass for your vehicle. You can see the sites available at the DNR website.
  • Many spots in our state’s national forests are also first-come, first-served
  • Go midweek.
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