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Featured Outdoor Activities Washington

Rving in western Washington during a pandemic

Caption: Priest Rapids Recreation Area in Grant County

Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission from the Northwest RVing Blog hosted by MHRV (Manufactured Housing and Recreational Vehicle) Show Association.

Written by Dave Helgeson

Labor Day normally signals the end of the traditional camping season; the kids are back in school, youth sports are underway, and parents are focusing on other projects now that the kids are out of the house.

However, Fall 2020 (as well as the months that preceded it) has been far from normal; children are distance learning online from home, RV sales are soaring and parents are working from home or on furlough. All of this has resulted in crowded campgrounds all summer long and now, with kids still home, continuing into fall. Who knows when things will return to “normal”? With most state parks and RV parks booked up for the foreseeable future, it is time to look creatively at other camping options.

Following are some great places to camp that are often overlooked making them a viable option in these crazy times:

COUNTY PARKS: Many RVers associate county parks as day use facilities for picnics, swimming, etc discounting them as a camping option. However, many counties do offer camping options for those in the know! Here are some Western Washington examples:

King County Tolt MacDonald Park & Campground

Snohomish County operates five campgrounds some with hookups and all reservable in advance.

Clallam County has two campgrounds available for public use.

SUMMER CAMPS AND RETREAT CENTERS: As mentioned, 2020 has been a crazy year and the virus has caused many to come up with innovative ideas to survive the pandemic. With restrictions on groups and group activities, most summer camps and retreat centers are not able to operate as normal with some opening up their facilities to public overnight camping. One example available to those in Western Washington is Camp Koinonia near Cle Elum. This retreat center with cabins, RV spaces, yurts, meeting rooms and a lodge normally hosts Christian retreats. Since they are unable to operate with groups as normal they are offering their RV spaces to the public for overnight camping.

Park with ocean and picnic bench
Salt Creek Recreation Area in Clallam County.

PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICTS (PUD): Public utility districts typically control large tracts of land offering recreational opportunities such as swimming, boat launches, picnic grounds, fishing, etc. some even offer camping. Those in Western Washington may be surprised to learn that Grant County PUD offers overnight camping at many locations along the Columbia River. Grant County PUD campgrounds range from primitive first come first served to paved sites with lush lawns that can be reserved in advance. Rates are a very reasonable $10 – $15 per night.

DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES (DNR): Every state has a Department of Natural Resources that manages state trust land on behalf of the residents of the state. Most also offer recreational opportunities (hiking, biking, ORV use, etc) and camping. In Washington the DNR manages over 70 campgrounds located across the 2.2 million acres of trust land they oversee. Camping opportunities range from dispersed camping to developed campgrounds in rustic settings. Campsites are available first come, first served and are no cost (aka Free) when you display a current Discover Pass. Learn more about Washington DNR camping here, click here to view an interactive map and then click “Campground” to quickly find a campground near you.

Yes, these are crazy times; why not take advantage of them by enjoying some family camping in what is likely an overlooked local campground this fall?

Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice. Email: