Pack the tent and the s’mores, camping season has arrived
Summer is in the air—can you feel it? That means summer travel plans and getting together with friends and family after a busy year are just ahead. We couldn’t think of a better place to unwind and spend time with your crew than at one of the state’s best group campsites.
So we scoped out 11 that are within a few hours of the city and let large (and not so large) groups camp together. They’ve got great perks like nearby waterfall hikes, ranger programs, and big grassy areas that give kids the room they need to play all day. So if a group camping excursion is on your summer bucket list, now is the time to reserve your campsite. Read on for the need-to-know details.
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Good to Know
1. Don’t forget your passes when you visit these campsites. State Parks require a Discover Pass, and National Forest and National Parks also have pass requirements. As they say, don’t leave home without ’em.
2. Make your camping plans early, as these spots fill up quickly. If you’re able to camp during the week, you’ve got a better shot at snagging a popular spot than you do on the weekends.
3. Group camping requires an advanced reservation, and the price often varies by the size of your group, the time of year, and which site you’re looking to use. Online reservation is available in most cases, but we recommend giving the park a call to reserve your group site.
Deception Pass State Park | Oak Harbor
You’ll find this group campsite just off the entrance to Deception Pass State Park, along the eastern shores of Cranberry Lake. A beautiful spot with grassy knolls, raised grills, and plenty of picnic tables, your group will have all the space they need to pitch tents or park vehicles or RVs when you camp here (note that there’s an extra $10 fee for additional vehicles). As a bonus, leashed pets are allowed.
Swim and fish in Cranberry Lake on sunny summer days, or beach comb along the saltwater shores that are right out your door. At night, the fire circle makes for cozy cooking and s’mores roasting, and the expansive lawn invites everyone to play games during the day. Plus, check the park website to see upcoming family events, like live concerts at the Deception Pass State Park amphitheater, held every Saturday in summer.
Pine Needle Group Site | Naches
If a more remote, rustic group campsite is what your crew is after, this one in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is a great option. It’s set along the American River and nearby Goat Rocks Wilderness is where you can get your hiking fix. But sticking around camp is an option too, where you’ll find picnic tables and fire rings for use.
Plan to catch fish in the river and explore the American Ridge Trail on a sunny day. One thing to note: Vault toilets are the norm here, so keep that in mind when you’re making your camping plans.
Maximum: 60 people
Tolt-MacDonald Park | Carnation
Getting to the group campsites at Tolt-MacDonald Park is an adventure of its own: You’ll need to cross the Snoqualmie River over the park’s 500-food suspension bridge! (Wagons are available to help get your things across the bridge.)
Once you’re settled down in camp, you can go hiking or mountain biking on the trails at Ames Lake Forest, or head out on a bicycle tour of some local farms from the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. If you happen to be camping out there in the fall, you can watch chinook salmon spawning in the river while eagles and ospreys circle above, looking for the perfect catch. The campsite is level and features many open fields, so bring a ball or a frisbee and enjoy the downtime!
Maximum: 40 or 60 people, depending on the site
Rasar State Park | Concrete
You’ll find this group campsite off of I-20 in the North Cascades, along the Skagit River. One of many in the area, it’s got three group campsites to choose from, and each one has everything you need to set up camp and stay a while, including a shelter with running water and lights, granite fireplaces, and picnic tables.
Keep everyone entertained with lawn games, ranger programs, and multiple trips to the playground. And if you’re traveling with dogs, they’re welcome here, as long as they’re on a leash. Cabins are available to rent here as well (and one of them is also pet-friendly!) if you’d rather stay in a bit more comfort. Be on the lookout for wildlife, and don’t forget to look up—eagles are frequent visitors to this space, especially in early fall and winter.
Maximum: 50 people
Scenic Beach State Park | Seabeck
At this group campsite, the name says it all. Located on the Hood Canal, it’s a tents-only kind of campsite that offers families and friends lots of play options during their stay. You can swim in the cool waters, go fishing, and hunt for crabs at the beach. There are multiple playgrounds for kids to climb and swing on, and wildlife abounds. Cook out or use the kitchen shelter (which has electricity), then relax and enjoy your meal at one of the 60 picnic tables.
Our travel tip? Visit nearby Guillemot Cove where you’ll find the cutest secret treehouse tucked off the winding trail, and more Hood Canal beachfront with breathtaking views. You can also wander down the scenic garden trail and check out the gazebo, a popular wedding venue. In spring, look out for the blooming wild rhododendrons! Scenic Beach State Park is dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry family members too.
Maximum: 40 people
Kalaloch at Olympic National Park | Forks
Kalaloch boasts gorgeous views for campers: It’s set on a bluff overlooking a rugged coastline lined with driftwood. It’s a perfect place to birdwatch, as many birds and other wildlife make their home in the protected sanctuary island just offshore. For hiking options, the Kalaloch Nature Trail is a very family-friendly, easy trail that the kiddos can enjoy as much as the adults, ending with an ocean overlook for spectacular views.
The campground has grated fire pits for use, as well as picnic tables, potable water, restrooms, and even animal-proof food storage. The group campsite, in particular, is only a few minutes away from Kalaloch’s Main Lodge, which can provide you with any supplies you may have forgotten, a hot meal if you’re not in the mood for a cookout, and even souvenirs from the gift shop.
Maximum: 30 people (10 people minimum)
Dosewallips State Park | Brinnon
This campsite is for the more experienced campers, as varying conditions throughout the year might require that you provide your own water. You’ll also need to be aware of how high you’re camping: fires above 3,500 feet aren’t allowed (but stoves are).
The bit of extra work is worth it, though, for the incredible surroundings. You’ll be camping out in the middle of a moss-carpeted forest and sharing the space with wildlife like the spotted owl and local elk herds. For some beach exploration and clam-digging, head to nearby Hood Canal or wander down Dosewallips River (no swimming here—the river currents are swift and can be dangerous). Or, if you have a hankering to explore more, there are some historic forts and charming small towns to the north.
Be aware that the road leading to the campground is a rough one, and is often closed due to washouts. Call ahead to ask about road conditions before you go, as getting to the campsite from a different parking area isn’t always easy on foot.
Maximum: 20-50 people (depending on the site)
Mora Campground | Forks
Part of Olympic National Park, this coastal campground gives families easy access to scenic Rialto Beach, where you’ll find sea stack rocks and Hole-in-the-Wall, a volcanic relic. It’s a tidepooler’s paradise and beachcombers haven that really requires an overnight stay to enjoy. Just be sure that you check the tides before you go! The website warns that it’s quite possible to become stranded when high tide comes in and covers certain areas.
The campsite is nestled among the rainforest’s characteristic mossy trees that tower overhead, and the site has everything you need to camp in comfort: flush toilets, running water, and picnic tables.
Maximum: 30 people
Blake Island Marine State Park | Kitsap County
Blake Island is a true oasis, accessible only by boat. (You can bring your own boat or hop on a water taxi). It was once a campground for the Suquamish tribe, and legend has it that Chief Seattle was actually born here! The island is a peaceful space surrounded by blue waters, miles of trails, driftwood-scattered beaches, and views of the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier. Nature exploration is a huge draw here, with chances to glimpse deer, raccoons, and rabbits, or head to the water for fishing and scuba diving opportunities. At the end of the day, wander over to the Cascadia Marine Trail campsites for a gorgeous view of the sunset over the Olympic Mountains.
Note that there’s no running water or electricity available on site, but pit toilets and potable water can be found throughout the campground. Be aware that Blake Island rangers are known to enforce camp rules to an extreme degree so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules before you go.
Maximum: 50 people
Camano Island State Park | Camano
Camano Island is the quieter, less popular sibling of the busy Cama Beach State Park. Camano’s group campsites are perfect for a quiet getaway, complete with easy hiking trails, beaches, and scenic views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and Mount Rainier. The adjoining Saratoga Passage offers visitors boating, crabbing, fishing, and sailboarding, or you can hike the one-mile trail over to the neighboring Cama Beach to check out the newly restored 1930s fishing resort.
The group campsite has one kitchen shelter, as well as restrooms and showers.
Maximum: 100 people
Flowing Lake Regional Park | Snohomish County
Flowing Lake Regional Park, also known as Leckie’s Beach, is a great campsite for water lovers. Groups staying here get access to the beaches of Flowing Lake, where you can go swimming, boating, or fishing, relax at a picnic table, or see what’s playing at the amphitheater. A family-friendly nature trail surrounds the campground and a playground for kids is also found on-site, to keep all members of the family engaged and entertained.
Campsite amenities include a heated restroom with showers. This campsite is popular so reserve ahead of time to secure a spot!
Maximum: 50 people