The Adventure: Family Camping Trips and Tips

Family camping trips, tips
June 3, 2016

We can see clearly now. The rain has (for the most part) gone.

Blue skies and sun are dominating the forecast. The trees are leafy on top and shady below. The time has come to camp!

Camping is a fun—and economical—way to vacation with your brood. It’s also a bonding experience for many families and a source of lifelong memories. And let’s not forget, the outdoors also is a classroom, chock full of learning opportunities in everything from botany to basic survival.

Relish roughing it in a tent? Rather have a yurt or cabin all ready for relaxing? Just need a spot for that family RV? Whatever your preferred way to outdoor vacay, your state parks has a place just right for you.
Here are just a few family-friendly, full-service camping parks to whet your camping appetite!

Seaquest State Park

The location: Near Silver Lake in Castle Rock.
Camp stats: 55 tent sites, 33 RV spaces (16 with full hook up), 5 yurts. ADA accessible amenities.
The skinny: You won’t hear that familiar cry of “there’s nothing to do” at Seaquest, where the storied volcano Mount St. Helens serves as the backdrop to your idyllic family camping adventure.

Ample camping and ample amenities such as on-site firewood and plenty of bathrooms with showers make the camping easy. Not into tents? Rent a yurt! Hike or bike through the 7 miles of winding, deep-forest trails. Let the kids get some of their wiggles out in the park’s two play areas. Or join them for a game of horseshoes or volleyball at the courts.
Freshwater boating
Go to the light! At the other end of this tunnel is the spectacular Mount St. Helens Visitors Center. Photo by Shawn Anderson
Just across the road from Seaquest is Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, easily accessed from the park through a tunnel. The center’s staff offer fun and educational activities for the whole family during the summer. Go on a ranger-guided tour of the wetland ecosystem along Silver Lake at 2 p.m. every Friday through Sunday. Or bring your rod and reel and do a little fishing. Kids will enjoy the weekend Junior Ranger programs at the amphitheater starting at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday evenings, June through August.

Potholes State Park

The location: On the shore of Potholes Reservoir north of Othello.
Camp stats: 61 tent sites, 60 utility spaces, five cabins. ADA accessible amenities.
The skinny: Don’t be surprised if you get the urge to whistle “Don’t Fence Me In” when you arrive at Potholes State Park! Wide open skies, wide open land and wide open water await you at this 640-acre oasis carved from the desert plains by Pleistocene flooding. Bring the family boats and enjoy a ride or some fishing on the reservoir. Take a day trip, and explore the nearby Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Or just drink in the warm, windy weather and stunning vistas of majestic basalt mesas rising from the desert floor. Prefer a little more luxury? Reserve one of the comfortable cabins, complete with electricity, fans and air conditioning! Have a big party or a reunion? Book the group campsite (good for up to 50 folks) and a picnic shelter for a perfect extended family-sized getaway!

Kitsap Memorial State Park

The location: On Hood Canal north of Poulsbo
Camp stats: 21 standard sites, 18 water and electric hook-up sites. ADA accessible amenities.
The skinny: Ever wish you could combine all the best parts of a trip to the seaside with a forest camp adventure? Well what are you waiting for? Reserve your spot at Kitsap Memorial today! The park is on the kinder, gentler waters of Hood Canal, making beach exploration in the park’s tide pools easy and not as breezy as on Pacific shores. Bring your boat and tool around the canal. Bring a ball and start a pick-up game of soccer or volleyball before you head back to camp among the tall trees. Kitsap Memorial’scabins have the added convenience of a kitchenette—with a mini fridge and microwave—as well as heat and light. Enjoy a family cookout at the fire pit in front of your cabin before getting cozy on the cabin bunks.

Family camping trips, tips
Out of the forest and onto the beach. Picture you and the kids exploring the tide pools at this beautiful state park! Photo by alirjd

Pearrygin Lake State Park

The location: On Pearrygin Lake near Winthrop (pictured in feature photo)
Camp stats: 76 standard sites, 50 full hook-up sites, 27 partial utility sites, two cabins, one vacation house.
The skinny: If your idea of summer fun includes swimming and barbecuing in an idyllic mountain valley setting, then point your compass toward Pearrygin Lake! Expansive green lawns surround a sandy-shored swimming beach with a convenient bath house. Large, leafy ash and willow trees provide shelter for an afternoon nap or just to enjoy the scenic vistas of the surrounding Methow Valley.

A dock and two boat ramps make water sports, such as water skiing and fishing, a breeze! Hike up the 3.1-mile Rex Derr Trail for more great views and a taste of the beautiful shrub-steppe environment of the Methow Wildlife Area.  Campsites in this 1,200-acre park are ample and so are the two cabins, which include a kitchenette. For a getaway with all the comforts of home, rent the four-person vacation house, with a deck and fully equipped kitchen.
The Basics
While lists of camping essentials are plentiful—and you probably have your own—here’s a few more recommended essentials to make your stay at state parks easier and more fun.
Get out for trout
Get out for trout
The necessary paperwork. Make sure you have your reservation confirmation—and fishing and boat licenses, if needed. If you and the family are coming just for a day visit, be sure to purchase a Discover Pass. Many parks sell them through automated pay stations.
Change in your pocket. Bring change for the showers—50 cents for 3 minutes. Some parks’ showers need tokens to operate; these can be purchased at the ranger station.
Family camping trips, tips
Cast away your cares with a family fishing trip to Potholes State Park!
Get out for trout
Bedding. Cabins and yurts have bunks and futons. For most sites, you’ll need to bring your own sheets and blankets. Check the description info carefully to find out if linens are provided.
Get out for trout
Sunscreen and bug spray. No one wants to be itchy or in searing pain. No one.
Get out for trout
A carefree and adventurous spirit. Hey! You’re camping! How fun is that? Enjoy yourself, and your time with family.
Image graphic - Travel Tips

Summer is synonymous with camping.

That means it’s the busy season at your state parks. Get a jump on any disappointments by reserving your campsite early. If your preferred park is the “first come, first served” sort, arrive as early as possible in the day. But remember, Washington has more than 100 state parks. If your first choice is completely booked, why not try another close by? You never know when or where you’ll find that hidden gem and your family’s new favorite vacation spot!

Want more family camping adventure ideas?
Check out this blog on kid-friendly camping from our friends at Sounds Fun Mom

What are your favorite places to camp with the family?
Share your stories and pictures here.

Feature photo of Pearrygin Lake by Jennifer C.