I don’t think of the Northwest as having a lot of lowland lakes like say, Minnesota, but as I started to list off the best lakeside campgrounds in the state I realized there are quite a few of them. Below are my top picks for places to pitch your tent beside a lake in Washington.
My car camping checklist is here, and I’ve included my gear recommendations in the list. The best one-stop shop for all things camping, from cook stoves to sleeping bags, is REI.
But Moran State Park does have four freshwater lakes, old-growth forest, hiking trails and its own mountain (Mt. My favorite place to camp at the park is at Mountain Lake where you’ll get a bit more privacy.
Ferry lines can be a bear in summer, but you can walk on with your camping gear and pay just $12 round-trip to take the Orcas Island Shuttle to the park. Lake activities: Swimming beaches, two boat launches, peddle boats and kayaks to rent.
On the west end of Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park sits Fearsome Campground (open May through mid-fall). No reservations here, so the key is to arrive early before the weekend to snag a lakefront campsite away from the highway noise.
The Fearsome General Store and a boat launch are nearby, and the campground has an amphitheater for summer ranger programs. Special note : There’s a major 3-year Lake Crescent Highway 101 Rehabilitation project that launches July 10, 2017.
It’s within walking distance (via a shoreline trail) to the historic Lake Pinault Lodge. Lake activities: The campground has its own boat launch to get you into the water.
The Lake is part of the Pinault Indian Nation, and so a Tribal Fishing Permit and Boat Decal are required; both may be purchased at local merchants. A book to read by the fire in the lobby of the Lake Pinault Lodge nearby.
Ike Kinsley State Park is 454-acres of forest on the north shore of 14-mile long Mayfield Lake, a reservoir located near Mossy rock in Lewis County. It’s the 46,000 feet of freshwater shoreline that draw campers here in droves, especially in warm summer months (though camping is available year-round).
Lake activities: Water skiers love this spot, and you’ll be constantly reminded of this from the sounds of motors. Pronounced tac-a-lack, this beautiful lake is the only thing sitting between your campsite and Mt.
It’s one of the most stunning campsites in the Gifford Pinch National Forest and the season is short, so don’t dally. Lake activities: No motors are permitted here, just canoes and kayaks and tranquility.
What to bring : Mosquito repellent (crucial in early summer), your trout fishing pole, and a car that can handle a few miles of washboard road. It’s close to Seattle and has plenty of group sites, so don’t expect any quiet, peaceful moments of solitude here.
Instead, you’ll set up camp in the open ponderosa pine forest that surrounds Lake Access, a dammed reservoir, and enjoy plenty of lakeside family fun! What to bring : Mosquito repellent, swimming inflatables and don’t forget the ear plugs.
All the comforts of a state park campground (gotta love those coin-op showers after a day on the sand!) Lake activities: One of the most scenic sandy swimming beaches in the state, and epic views are in store for you from the seat of your canoe.
Off the lake there are miles of trails in the vicinity for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding. A summer vacation on the glacier-carved, fjordlike Lake Chelan is a must-do for many Washington families, and Lake Chelan State Park is pretty much the epicenter of all that family fun.
The 127-acre park is set in a ponderosa pine forest on the lake’s south shore, with 6,000 feet of public shoreline. A big bonus is the lake views from many of the campsites, and expansive lawns for playing Frisbee in the sun.
It’s plenty big at 181 acres, and sits at the end of the Method Valley where the pine-forested mountains meet the desert. Alert: The Carlton Complex Fire swept through here in the summer of 2014, damaging parts of the park.
Details: 90 tent spots, 32 with electrical hookups and RVs to 45 feet. Lake activities: Trout fishing, swimming and sunbathing, boating.
The 5.5-mile Curlew Lake is set in a dry lodge pole pine forest near the town of Republic. Both Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles nest here, and I’ve seen a number of other bird species as well; Curlew Lake State Park is known for wildlife watching.
Sullivan Lake promises brown and rainbow trout for the patient and hungry, plus swimming and water skiing. Oh, and there are grizzlies in them there hills, along with bighorn sheep, woodland caribou and moose.
In the heart of Washington’s Grand Coulee desert country is a recreationist’s paradise in the middle of Banks Lake. And your base camp for all of it sits in the middle of an “island” surrounded by your outdoor playground.
Steamboat Rock State Park draws water-lovers to its sandy swimming area and three boat launches. Some of the best freshwater fishing in Washington is had in Banks Lake, which is full of walleye, bass and perch.
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.
Need to Know: A free backcountry permit is required to camp here; get one at the Wilderness Information Center in Marble mount (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.
Campsites: 88 tent sites (small RVs OK) Tip: For a less primitive stay, Lake Crescent Lodge is nearby. Lake Access near Snoqualmie Pass, A great family getaway spot nestled into an old-growth Douglas fir forest between high Cascade peaks.
Campsites: 141 tent sites (RVs OK) Tip: The Pacific Crest Trail can be accessed from near the campground. Wallaby at Lake Pinault Olympic Peninsula, Nestled near old-growth forest, this place is considered sacred by local tribes and a haven by frazzled Satellites.
Campsites: 20 tent sites Tip: Stop at Lake Pinault Lodge for a meal at the restaurant. Campsites: 9 sites Tip: Visit the Lakeside Café/Restaurant at the Bonaparte Lake Resort.
Sullivan Lake Colville National Forest, Meta line 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. Lake Wenatchee Central Cascades, There’s trout fishing here and miles of hiking and biking.