12 Top-Rated Campgrounds near Seattle

Written by Brad Lane
Jan 16, 2019
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Surrounding Seattle on all sides, the stunning natural attractions of Washington are waiting to amaze. World-renowned national parks like Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic can all be accessed in less than a three-hour drive from Seattle, including their many great campgrounds, for multiple days of exploring.

State parks in Washington deserve just as much attention, and campgrounds at places like Deception Pass and Cape Disappointment provide their own unique set of fun things to do. Other popular places to visit in Washington with campgrounds near Seattle include Puget Sound getaways, lakeside retreats, and lush rainforest escapes. Find the best places to pitch your tent or park your RV with our list of the top campgrounds near Seattle.

1. Deception Pass State Park, Oak Harbor

Deception Pass Bridge
Deception Pass Bridge

Originally home to Coast Salish tribes and named by English explorers, who mistook the passageway for the mouth of the Columbia River, Deception Pass has been one of the most popular state parks in Washington for almost 100 years. Incorporating both Whidbey and Fidalgo Island, including the iconic Deception Pass Bridge, the Civilian Conservation Corps developed much of the infrastructure of the park in the 1930s. Much of that work is still on display today in the many hiking trails, interpretive displays, and camping areas of this top campground in Washington state.

Ninety miles north of Seattle, Deception Pass State Park features more than 300 campsites spread out over three locations, accommodating tent camping and RVs. The most campsites can be found at the Cranberry Lake Campground, including a collection of hiker/biker sites. Fun things to do from all the campsites include hiking the scenic trails, fresh and saltwater boating opportunities, and great tide-pooling at places like Rosario Beach. Shower houses, restrooms, and interpretive programs can also be found at Deception Pass, and with over two million visitors a year, camping reservations are recommended.

Official site: Deception Pass State Park

2. Kalaloch Campground, Olympic National Park

Second Beach at Kalaloch Campground
Second Beach at Kalaloch Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the opposite side of the Olympic Peninsula from Seattle, Kalaloch is the largest campground on the rugged Olympic Coast. Open year-round and accommodating tent campers and small RVs, Kalaloch features 170 campsites all within earshot of the ocean. The sites feature walk-up access to Second Beach, and campers at Kalaloch can also reach the sterling Ruby Beach just a short drive north along the coast. Flushing toilets and potable water are available at Kalaloch, and reservations can be made ahead of any summer visit. Driving south from Seattle through Olympia, it's just over a three-hour drive to reach the campground. With plenty to see on the Olympic Peninsula, it's recommended to check out some of the other top campgrounds in Olympic National Park for an extended trip.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

3. Cougar Rock Campground, Mount Rainier National Park

Skyline Trail at Paradise
Skyline Trail at Paradise | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

One of the biggest natural attractions of the entire Pacific Northwest, Mount Rainier is an active stratovolcano surrounded by gorgeous alpine scenery. Four campgrounds operated by the National Park Service comprise some of the best campgrounds at Mount Rainier, including the sought-after Cougar Rock Campground just over two hours from Seattle, near the Nisqually River on the south side of the park. Part of Cougar Rock's popularity comes from its proximity to the renowned Paradise area of Mount Rainier.

Home to some of the best hiking trails in Mount Rainier National Park, including the awe-inspiring Skyline Trail and Muir Camp, Paradise at Rainier delivers well beyond its evocative appellation. Mountain meadows, streaming waterfalls, and furry woodland creatures define much of the experience at Paradise, all backdropped by expansive views of Rainier's contours and glaciers. In less than a 10-mile scenic drive, overnight visitors at Cougar Rock Campground can find themselves surrounded by Paradise and all its grandeur.

Over 170 campsites are available from late May through early September at Cougar Rock Campground. Other hiking opportunities can be found closer to the campground, including access to the 93-mile Wonderland Trail, which circumnavigates the mountain. Advanced reservations are available at Cougar Rock, along with the equally popular Ohanapecosh Campground in Mount Rainier, which accommodates tent campers and small recreational vehicles.

Official site: Mount Rainier National Park

4. Cape Disappointment State Park, Ilwaco

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Steeped in Pacific Northwest history and just over three hours from Seattle, Cape Disappointment is on the far southwest corner of the state, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Despite its dreary name, coined by explorer John Meares after his futile attempts to locate the Columbia River entrance, Cape Disappointment is a lovely place consisting of lighthouse views, ocean vistas, and plenty of adventure. Over 200 campsites can be found at Cape Disappointment, catering towards tent campers and RVs, with yurts, cabins, and dedicated hiker/biker sites also available. Picnic tables and great views enhance the entire park, and other popular recreational activities include hiking, beachcombing, and exploring history at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Official site: Cape Disappointment State Park

5. Colonial Creek Campground, North Cascades National Park

Diablo Lake near Colonial Creek Campground
Diablo Lake near Colonial Creek Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a great weekend getaway in the North Cascades, Colonial Creek Campground is located at the heart of the national park, near one of its most iconic bodies of water. The campground is accessed via the seasonal State Route 20, better known as the North Cascades Highway, and among many things that make Colonial Creek one of the best campgrounds in the North Cascades is the boat access it provides to the aquamarine waters of Diablo Lake. Two-and-a-half hours from Seattle, Colonial Creek is worth the drive for the panoramic views entering the North Cascades alone.

Catering towards tent camping and small RVs, Colonial Creek Campground is split between two loops with over 140 campsites total. Flushing toilets and potable water are available for all overnight users. Popular hiking trails that stem from either campground loop include the trek up to Thunder Knob and one of the best hiking trails in North Cascades National Park, Thunder Creek to Fourth of July Pass. All 100 sites on the South Loop at Colonial Creek can be reserved ahead of time, while the remaining sites on the North Loop are granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/camping.htm

6. Lake Wenatchee State Park, Leavenworth

Lake Wenatchee
Lake Wenatchee | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Lake Wenatchee State Park can be reached via a scenic, two-hour drive from Seattle. The massive lakeside camping space at Lake Wenatchee is split between a north and south section with over 200 sites available. Recreation can be found throughout the year at Lake Wenatchee State Park including swimming, boating, and hiking throughout the warmer months, and cross-country skiing, dogsledding, and cold-weather camping come winter. Showers, boat docks, and an amphitheater are popular facilities at the park, and a small camp store nearby provides last-minute supplies. For an extra adventure, the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, one of the best small towns in Washington, is only a half-hour drive from Lake Wenatchee State Park.

Official site: Lake Wenatchee State Park

7. Fay Bainbridge Park, Bainbridge Island

Driftwood at Fay Bainbridge
Driftwood at Fay Bainbridge

On the northern tip of Bainbridge Island, this municipal marine park takes advantage of the stunning surrounding scenery. With abundant beach space overlooking Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains, Fay Bainbridge offers opportunities to explore the scenery via hiking trails, beachcombing, and a boat launch at nearby Fort Ward Park. The campground at Fay Bainbridge recently underwent an upgrade and now features 14 tent sites, 26 RV spaces, and two cabins to rent. Flushing restroom facilities, hot showers, and potable water are located close to all campsites, and reservations are available. Overnight users from Seattle access Bainbridge Island and the park via the Bainbridge Island Ferry.

Official site: Fay Bainbridge Park and Campground

8. Larrabee State Park, Bellingham

Larrabee State Park
Larrabee State Park

Along the scenic Chuckanut Drive in northern Washington, Larrabee delivers on excellent views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. Less than 10 miles south of Bellingham and a 90-minute drive from Seattle, Larrabee holds the title of Washington's first state park and is still today one of the most popular. Over 80 campsites are available along the seaward slope of Chuckanut Mountain at this scenic state park, accommodating primarily tent campers and including access to showers, potable water, and restroom facilities. The Burlington Northern Railroad runs adjacent to the campground, rumbling with appeal for locomotive enthusiasts and young children alike.

Official site: Larrabee State Park

9. Sequim Bay State Park, Sequim

Sunset at Sequim Bay
Sunset at Sequim Bay

Located within the Sequim rain shadow, this state park campground avoids the often-wet weather associated with the Olympic Peninsula. Typically staying dry, Sequim Bay also offers an inviting atmosphere, perfect for boating, hiking, and enjoying a meal outside. With a surplus of moorage availability and boat launches, water activities such as fishing are popular at Sequim Bay. Basketball courts, baseball fields, and horseshoe pits add to the on-land attractions, and the 120-mile Olympic Discovery Trail passes through the park on its route from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean. Over 60 sites are available at Sequim Bay, most catering towards tent camping, and a large rustic retreat center is also available to rent.

Official site: Sequim Bay State Park

10. Alder Lake Park, Elbe

Alder Lake
Alder Lake

Seventy miles south of Seattle near the small community of Elbe, Alder Lake Park is a popular city park with year-round camping opportunities on the banks of the man-made lake. Popular recreational activities stemming from the campground include water skiing, beachcombing, and swimming at Sunny Beach Point. Camping at Alder Lake is split between four areas with nearly 175 sites available, including tent camping, full and partial RV hookups, and designated group camping areas. Popular spots can be found at the Rocky Point Campground, located four miles east of the main park area. Alder Lake is a popular day-use area as well, particularly in the summer when the parking lot is known to fill up.

Official site: Alder Lake Park

11. Willaby Campground, Olympic National Forest

Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail
Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For rainforest surroundings close to Seattle, Willaby Campground delivers on a dense world to discover. On the shores of Lake Quinault near the Quinault Ranger Station and Quinault Rain Forest of Olympic National Park, Willaby features over 20 popular campsites to pitch a tent or park an RV. Outdoor recreation abounds in the immediate vicinity of Willaby, including non-motorized boat rentals on Lake Quinault and exploration of the neighboring Quinault National Recreational Trail System. Flushing toilets and potable water are available to all overnight users at Willaby.

A three-hour drive from Seattle, Willaby Campground and the rest of the Olympic Peninsula deserve a weekend visit. Easily reached from Willaby Campground, the Quinault area of Olympic National Park features two other campgrounds; the Lake Quinault Lodge; and some of the best hiking trails in Olympic National Park, including the East Fork Quinault River trail to Enchanted Valley. Willaby is generally open from April through November, weather dependent, with advanced reservations available and recommended.

Official site: Willaby Campground, National Forest Service

12. Camano Island State Park, Camano Island

Sunset on Camano Island
Sunset on Camano Island

At the northern end of Puget Sound near Whidbey Island, Camano Island hosts a 244-acre state park with a plethora of campsites. Overlooking the water, with ample rocky shoreline, Camano Island State Park provides quick access to activities like boating and swimming, as well as land-based endeavors such as hiking, cycling, and sunset watching. Over 80 campsites are available for pitching a tent, and five cabins can be reserved ahead of any visit. The Al Emerson Nature Trail is a popular route throughout the park, and the neighboring Cama Beach State Park provides another scenic place to visit. Both Camana Island State Park and Cama Beach can be reached via a 70-mile drive from Seattle.

Official site: Camano Island State Park

Notes about Campgrounds in Washington

  • National Park Campgrounds: Many campsites within Washington's three national parks (Rainier, Olympic, & North Cascades) are available for advanced reservation through Recreation.gov. Campsite rates do not include entrance fees into the park. Consult official sites for more information.
  • State Park Campgrounds: Washington is home to over 100 state parks with many designated as day-use only. For state parks that offer campgrounds, including Deception Pass, Cape Disappointment, and Larrabee, advanced reservations can be made through the Washington State Park Reservation Page. Rules and regulations for Washington's state parks vary from site to site, and users can find more information at each park's official webpage.

Where to Stay in Seattle after Camping

  • Mid-Range Hotels: If you are looking for a slightly upscale hotel that won't completely deplete the vacation budget, The Paramount Hotel delivers on a classy stay. Located near downtown and Pike Place Market, the Paramount features stylish rooms and quick access to many shops and restaurants. Neighboring the Paramount, the Hyatt at Olive 8 is another four-star option with surprisingly affordable rates. With an unbeatable downtown location, Hyatt at Olive 8 receives much of its accolades from a friendly and helpful staff. Near Seattle University, Silver Cloud Hotel – Seattle Broadway is within the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood and delivers on an accommodating staff, excellent location, and superior service.
  • Budget Hotels: Affordable hotels can be found throughout Seattle, typically farther from the city center, with some hotels achieving a higher level of value and cleanliness than others. For a budget hotel north of downtown, Days Inn by Wyndham Seattle Aurora is known for clean and comfortable rooms and offers a good night's sleep. Farther south and closer to downtown, the Travelodge by Wyndham Seattle North of Downtown features a continental breakfast, friendly front desk staff, and self-service laundry. A good place to stay downtown that is a fraction of most hotel prices in the area is The Green Tortoise Hostel. Appealing to international and out-of-state visitors, the Green Tortoise is a well-reputed hostel in the heart of the downtown district that features bunk rooms, private rooms, and always someone new to meet.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

More Campgrounds in Washington: Campgrounds in Olympic National Park are as wide and varied as the park itself, and the best campgrounds in North Cascades National Park provide perfect views of the surrounding scenery. For more ideas on where to pitch a tent or set up your RV, see our articles on the best campgrounds at Mount Rainier National Park and the best campgrounds in Washington.

Adventures in Washington: Waterfalls, hot springs, and awesome hiking trails can be found throughout the state of Washington. The best hiking trails at Olympic National Park are nothing short of spectacular, as are those around Mount Rainier and in North Cascades National Park. For powder hounds, the best ski resorts in Washington deliver on miles of slopes, and white-water enthusiasts should see our article on the state's best kayaking adventures.

Exploring Cities in Washington: From Seattle to Spokane, Washington has many great cities to explore. On the west side of the state, places like Bellevue, Bellingham, and Olympia all have plenty of great reasons to visit. For extra special places to visit, the best small towns in Washington all deliver on scenic appeal. To the south, the city of Vancouver, near Oregon, also has many fun things to do.

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