Best Northwest Lake Getaways: Washington Lakeside Camping

Pitch your tent next to one of these Washington lakes.

By Roddy Scheer


June 15, 2017

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

1. Moran State Park
Orcas Island,
Camp beside a lake where both the highest overlook spot in the San Juan Islands (Mount Constitution) and Puget Sound’s teeming shoreline are nearby.
Campsites: 142 tent sites; call Moran State Park Office
for RV site availability
Tip: The Mountain Lake campground within Moran offers a more rustic woodland experience.

2. Ross and Diablo Lakes
North Cascades, (search by lake or “boat-in camping”)
Reduce your world to whatever you can pack into a canoe, kayak or small motorboat when you camp at one of the primitive sites on Ross Lake or Diablo Lake.
Campsites: 58 on Ross Lake; 7 on Diablo Lake
Tip: If you don’t want to deal with the rigamarole of a Ross Lake expedition, Colonial Creek Campground on the shores of Diablo Lake is a car campground with 284 drive-up tent sites.
Need to Know:  A free backcountry permit is required to camp here; get one at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount (360.854.7245;), or reserve for $20. Recommended: renting a canoe or kayak from Ross Lake Resort (206.386.4437) rather than bringing your own.

3. Lake Crescent (Fairholme)
Olympic Peninsula,
Wake up to the sounds of forest songbirds and views from your tent window of sparkling sapphire Lake Crescent.
Campsites: 88 tent sites (small RVs OK)
Tip: For a less primitive stay, Lake Crescent Lodge is nearby.

4. Lake Kachess
near Snoqualmie Pass,
A great family getaway spot nestled into an old-growth Douglas fir forest between high Cascade peaks. In late summer, watch for huckleberries on nearby trails.
Campsites: 141 tent sites (RVs OK)
Tip: The Pacific Crest Trail can be accessed from near the campground.

5. Willaby at Lake Quinault
Olympic Peninsula,
Nestled near old-growth forest, this place is considered sacred by local tribes and a haven by frazzled Seattleites.
Campsites: 20 tent sites
Tip: Stop at Lake Quinault Lodge for a meal at the restaurant.

6. Ike Kinswa State Park
Mayfield Lake,
Pitch the tent at this family-friendly basecamp; then visit nearby Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and the Lewis River Falls.
Campsites: 31 tent sites, 72 RV sites
Tip: There’s access to mountain bike trails and sailboarding.

7. Pearrygin Lake State Park
Methow Valley,
This family-friendly, grassy lakeside camping park in the foothills of the central Cascades delights swimmers and lovers of s’mores alike.
Campsites: 76 tent sites, 77 RV sites
Tip: 5 miles from Winthrop, offering plenty of activities outside of the campground.

8. Bonaparte Lake
Perched at 3,600 feet, in the shadow of towering Mount Bonaparte, 167-acre Bonaparte Lake is a gem of the Okanogan, and a perfect place to unwind lakeside and watch for local wildlife.
Campsites: 9 sites
Tip: Visit the Lakeside Cafe/Restaurant at the Bonaparte Lake Resort.

9. Curlew Lake State Park
Bald eagles, herons and ospreys like this northeastern Washington lake; it might have to do with the wildlife below the lake’s surface, so anglers should come prepared.
Campsites: 57 sites, 25 RV sites
Tip: There are three resorts around the lake—Tiffany’s, Fisherman’s Cove and Black Beach—along with boat rentals. Or visit some of the ghost towns nearby.

10. Sullivan Lake
Colville National Forest, Metaline Falls,
Swimming, boating or fishing at Sullivan Lake are great ways to stay cool during the eastern Washington summer. In autumn, watch for the show when the area’s larch trees turn gold. And in the lake’s quiet coves and beaches, you may spy bighorn sheep and even wolves.
Campsites: 39 tent sites in East Sullivan; 6 campsites in West Sullivan
Tip: Bears and cougars frequent the area, so keep food out of sight and in containers.

11. Lake Wenatchee
Central Cascades,
There’s trout fishing here and miles of hiking and biking.
Campsites: 155 tent sites, 42 RV sites
Tip: If you’re looking for more diversions, bust out the lederhosen and head to Bavarian-themed Leavenworth, only 16 miles—but worlds—away.

12. Alta Lake State Park
Methow Valley,
Camp among the pines—some still charred from a 2014 forest fire—in this idyllic spot made for those who love to fish.
Campsites: 91 tent sites, 32 RV sites
Tip: The Alta Lake Golf Resort is 1 mile from the state park.

13. Steamboat Rock State Park (Banks Lake)
Grand Coulee,
At this campground on eastern Washington’s high desert plateau, escape the summer heat with a swim in the shadow of Steamboat Rock, a geological remnant of ice-age floods.
Campsites: 26 tent; 136 RV sites
Tip: Rock climbing, basketball/volleyball courts, mountain biking and an amphitheater are available.

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