Car Camping: Reservations Required
WTA demystifies the various car campground reservation systems in Washington state.
Leaving on a summer Friday or Saturday for a weekend of car camping and day hiking can be a challenge. Without a reservation, you may find that campgrounds are filled to capacity.
What's a car camper to do? If you have the flexibility, the best course of action is to arrive mid-week for campgrounds that do not accept reservations. However, if weekends are your only option, reservations are almost imperative from Memorial Day to Labor Day for state parks and many locations in the Cascades.
The reservation system is a bit of a puzzle too. Reservations are not accepted everywhere, and agencies have varied rules about how far in advance you can plan your trip. Plus, there are extra fees associated with making an online reservation. The bottom line is that if you want to go camping the first weekend in August, you're wise to get your reservations soon. Here are a few tips to orient you.
Washington State Parks
Most, but not all, Washington State Park campgrounds take reservations up to nine months in advance. That means that if you want a certain campsite for the Fourth of July, you should be on their system on October 4. Many campgrounds still have good summer availability. You can browse parks and availability, and there are photos of each site.
> : An extra $6.50 is added for each booking, plus $5 if you are booking from out-of-state.
> Reservation call center: (888) CAMPOUT. An extra $8.50 is added for each booking, plus $5 if you are booking from out-of-state.
National Parks and National Forests
Mount Rainier National Park is the only park in Washington with campgrounds on the reservation system. Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh accept reservations up to six months in advance; White River and Mowich Lake are on first-come, first-served basis. Campgrounds at Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park do not accept reservations.
National forests having varying campground reservation policies. The cheat sheet below is only for car campgrounds, not group sites. If you are not familiar with the forests, it helps to pull out a map or to browse the Reservation.gov reservation map.
- No campgrounds in the Olympic National Forest accept reservations.
- Most, if not all, campgrounds on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest accept reservations.
- Most campgrounds on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest accept reservations.
- On the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, only campgrounds within the Cle Elum and Naches Ranger Districts accept reservations, and a few in the Naches actually require them.
- The Colville and Umatilla National Forests are first-come, first-served.
Like Washington State Parks, you can browse layouts of the campgrounds, availability windows and often view individual campsites online.
> Online reservation system: An extra $9 is added per booking.
> Reservation call center: An extra $10 is added per booking.
We hope these tips are helpful. If you have others, please post them in the comments section below!