The best camping spots can sometimes be hidden right in our backyard. With Mt. Rainier National Park just under two hours from Seattle, there’s plenty beautiful campsites to add to your Summer must-visit list:
- Crystal Mountain: Featuring 66 spots with RV hookups, Crystal Mountain transforms into a great basecamp for those looking to explore the best of Mt. Rainier. No reservations are needed. Camp spots are $40 a night.
- Mowich Lake Campground: 21 tent/walk-in sites, no reservations. Enjoy direct access to swimming in Mowich Lake, hiking around Tolmie Peak, Spray Park, and the Wonderland Trail. Just a National Park Pass is required to access this zone. No backcountry camping permit is required to stay at Mowich Lake Campground as the campsites are free and on a first-come, first-served bases. Campfires are not permitted at Mowich Lake.
- White River Campground: 108 car/tent sites, no reservations. The third largest campground being the main campground serving the Sunrise area. The White River’s sandy banks and provide views upstream to the north face of Mount Rainier and Emmons Glacier. Hikes include the Glacier Basin Trail, Emmons Moraine Trail, or access the Wonderland Trail, climbing 2.5-miles of arduous switchbacks to Sunrise, or south to a longer hike out to Summerland.
- Silver Springs Campground: 56 car/tent sites, reservations allowed. (North of the park off of WA Hwy 410.) Home to the historic 1931 Silver Springs Guard Station* (now a visitor center) Campsites available close to the White River, with small springs surfacing from below ground in the middle of the campground creating a creek that flows through the campground, joining with the White River.
- Cougar Rock Campground: 186 car/tent sites, 5 group sites, reservations allowed. RV’s Welcome. Cougar Rock Campground, is on the southwest side or Mt. Rainier- making it closest to Paradise, with a lodge and visitor center. This campsite is home to many miles of hiking trails and up-close views of the mountain- the highest in the state and Cascade range.
- Ohanapecosh Campground: 185 car/tent sites, 2 group sites, 8 walk-in sites, reservations allowed. RV’s Welcome. Flowing off of Mount Rainier’s southeast glaciers, the Ohanapecosh River cuts a deep canyon- dividing the campground into northwest and southeast sides. The best campsites flank the river’s banks. From the campground you can hike to the white-rock chasm that creates Silver Falls and even 3.0 miles out to Grove of the Patriarchs.
Crystal Mountain, Cougar Rock- and Ohanapecosh Campgrounds permit RVs and trailers, but Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh do not provide electrical, water, or sewer hook-ups. Dump stations are provided at both, however. There is also a dump station in Enumclaw near Ron’s Auto Care Center.
Many areas in state parks, national parks and private campgrounds are family-friendly. There are a few things to consider, however- to help narrow down your options:
Limit the distance: Finding a campsite closer to home can make your first family outing a bit less stressful.
Choose campsites with amenities: A campsite with a bathroom and playground nearby can be very convenient with young children in tow, especially during your first outing or two.
Get distance from other campsites: Noise issues can be avoided if you make reservations ahead of time, and try to find a site that has a little extra space. This extra step can help reduce stress, making the whole experience feel a bit more remote and help reduce disturbance to other guests.
Seek shade: Staying out of direct sun will help keep your family cool and happy during long Summer days.
WHAT TO BRING:
Don’t forget to bring the camping essentials! It is helpful to create a comprehensive checklist when packing- to make sure you bring the important gear as well as some convenient (and optional) items that can make your trip even more enjoyable.
- Tent (and footprint, stakes)
- Sleeping bags
- Sleeping pads
- Headlamps / flashlights
- Dry bags, stuff sacks or clear plastic bins to store items
- Duct tape
- Extra cord
- Tent-pole repair sleeve
- Pad/Mattress repair kit
- Mallet or hammer (for hammering tent stakes)
- Saw or axe (for cutting firewood)
- Small broom and dustpan
Be prepared to treat water with a tablet, filter or uv light in case water needs to be sanitized.
Stove and fuel
- Cook pots (and pot holder)
- Frying pan
- Eating utensils
- Cooking utensils
- Bottle opener, can opener, corkscrew
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Ice or ice substitutes
- Water bottles
- Camp sink or wash bins (Can also double to store kitchen gear)
- Biodegradable soap
- Pot scrubber/sponge(s)
- Trash/recycling bags
- Dish towel
- Solar and portable power
- Navigation tools
- Field guides (flowers, insects)
- Star chart/night-sky identifier
- Book/reading material
- Notebook and pen/pencil
- Games and toys
- Dog toys
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Toiletry kit
- Quick-dry towel
- Menstrual products
- Prescription medications
- First-aid supplies
- Sunscreen + Sunglasses
- Lip balm with SPF
- Insect repellent and/or Tea Tree/ Eucalyptus oil
- Citronella Candles
- Credit card and/or cash
- Campsite reservation confirmation (if required)
- Park Pass, Discover Pass, Mt. Rainier National Park Pass
LEAVE NO TRACE:
The Leave No Trace principles originally were created to help preserve the backcountry, however, these guidelines apply to “frontcountry” users as well. Areas easily accessed by car and day-visits are at a high risk of degradation.
To help preserve our natural surroundings, there are a few important behaviors to incorporate into our outdoor adventures. With millions of visitors to our national parks- beautiful areas suffer from litter, invasive species, habituated wildlife, trail erosion, polluted water sources and more.
When planning your next trip, take note of these vital practices:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find. Take only photographs.
- Only use designated campfire rings.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.