Under the Stars near Seattle

Weekend Base Camps away from It All
  |  Gorp.com

If you live in the Seattle area, it's never easy deciding where to go camping for the weekend. Lots of choices are staring you right in the face on any sunny summer day — when"The Mountain" is out (that's Mount Rainier, for any Northwest newbies), it exerts a magnetic pull on outdoorsy types.

One drawback: Put such a gaudy beacon in front of several million people and it's going to draw a lot of visitors. Finding a quiet campsite on Rainier — or for that matter any campsite at all — isn't always easy. However, if you're willing to lug your stuff away from your car and into the woods apiece, the national park offers a couple of secluded walk-in campsites that make great bases for exploring some beautiful corners of the park. And if it's the wrong time of year to trifle with Rainier's crowds, I've got a great option for you at Cooper Lake, just over Snoqualmie Pass near Cle Elum Lake. Another great option is Tahklahk Lake, south of Rainier in the shadow of Mount Adams.

Cascades peaks like Rainier are far from the only seductive terrain near Seattle. Gaze out to the west from almost anywhere in the city, and the ragged, glaciated summits of the Olympic Mountains frame the horizon. Whether you're looking for a campsite in the middle of an alpine meadow, one atop of a waterfront bluff, or something within walking distance of a hot spring, the Olympic Peninsula has some great, little-known campgrounds. Just don't say I didn't warn you about the road to Deer Park.

When you're not into the mountain thing and would rather sail off into the sunset for a weekend in the San Juans, you've got a few good options there. Although San Juan Islands campgrounds stay packed on summer weekends, there are often spaces available on weekdays. However, you'll always stand less of a chance of disappointment if you make a reservation in advance. And as in other locales, those willing to carry gear in a ways from the car stand better chance of scoring a primo San Juan Islands campsite. At Obstruction Pass, a Department of Natural Resources campground on Orcas Island, there are sites like this a half mile from the parking area.

Just a reminder: Because all these campsites are so close to Seattle, they do tend to stay full on weekends. If a campground takes reservations, always try to make one. If a campground doesn't take reservations, try to arrive as early as possible. And you'll always have better luck finding a campsite midweek.


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