The Pacific Northwest, and Washington state in particular, is world-renowned for its natural beauty and abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. Year-round, you’ll find people hiking, paddling, fishing, climbing, and camping throughout the state. With so much to explore, it’s no surprise that boondocking, or dispersed camping, is such a popular way to visit Washington state. Read on to learn more about dispersed camping in Washington and why you should add it to your bucket list! Plus, we share free camping near Olympic National Park! Read on.
Guide To Boondocking in Washington State
As you prepare for your next camping adventure, you’ll want to make sure you’re equipped with all the information you’ll need for a successful trip. There are a few things you should know about dispersed camping in Washington state before you begin your adventure.
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking, or dispersed camping, is a widely popular way to visit an area without the additional cost of renting a campground. Essentially, you are camping off-the-grid in your RV — no water, sewer, or electrical hookups. For a fully immersive dispersed camping trip in Washington, you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient.
Is Boondocking Safe?
Boondocking in Washington state falls on a similar safety level as tent camping. While weather and animals can be unpredictable, dispersed camping can still be safe as long as you take precautions. Check the weather forecast before you leave, keep your RV door locked at night, and let a park ranger or nearby connection know where you will be and for how long.
If safety is a major concern for you, try starting out at a relatively populated dispersed camping site. This will provide you with the remote experience you are seeking while still having the protection of other individuals around.
Can I Go Boondocking in Washington State?
Yes! With over 22 million acres of forest land (more than half the state!) and 8,000-plus lakes, boondocking in Washington is a wonderful way to explore the area. It allows you to venture anywhere you can drive your vehicle and completely eliminates the stress — not to mention the expense — of finding campsites on developed grounds.
Many campers choose this option as it eliminates the cost of staying at a campground. What better way to explore the area than with a free camping trip in Washington state?
Is Boondocking Legal in Washington State?
Washington is very friendly to boondocking, or what the state refers to as dispersed camping. Boondocking is permitted on Department of Natural Resources (DNR)-managed lands, as well as in most national and state forests. Note that while dispersed campsites are generally free, you may be required to secure a pass for the specific forest or area. Boondocking in Washington is not permitted in developed recreation sites, such as picnic areas and groomed trails.
Best Boondocking Locations in Washington State
Whether you prefer a secluded and undeveloped campsite or an amenity-packed waterfront one, there are many options for boondocking in Washington.
29 Pines Campground
Situated on the Teanaway River about 1.5 hours from Seattle, 29 Pines is a fairly large area for boondocking in Washington state. The campground has 59 sites, each with a fire ring and many with picnic tables. Note that there is no fee for camping at 29 Pines, and sites have a first-come, first-served rule. However, you will need a Discover Pass for this dispersed camping location in Washington because it’s on Department of Natural Resources Land.
Nearby Activities: Go fishing in the Teanaway River and other nearby streams, or enjoy the dozens of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Keep your eyes open for the massive but picture-perfect stone monoliths, like Cheese Rock and Exclamation Point Rock.
More Information: 29 Pines Campground
Hit the road for a dispersed camping trip in Washington state with a Cruise America RV rental in Seattle!
Located in the far southeast area, Godman Campground/Trailhead is another excellent choice for boondocking in Washington. Nestled within the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness area inside the Umatilla National Forest, Godman is rugged with excellent scenery and an abundance of diverse wildlife. The camp is typically only open from mid-June through mid-October, but do try to call first to verify before visiting.
Nearby Activities: Godman has excellent hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting (primarily deer and elk in the fall) sites, while those who fancy riding will delight in its horse facilities. In the surrounding Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, the outdoor recreation opportunities are endless!
More Information: Godman Campground/Trailhead
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is home to some of the most scenic spots in the entire country, including the beautiful Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The park also borders both Mount Rainier National Park and the Columbia River. At over 1.3 million acres, the forest has something for everyone, including many RV campsites for boondocking.
Nearby Activities: Every type of outdoor recreation imaginable is within easy access here. Aside from hiking, climbing, and biking, the national forest is well-known for being an excellent site for riding ATVs and dirt bikes. There are also over a dozen lakes within walking distance for boating and fishing. All of these and more make it an ideal place for dispersed camping in Washington.
More Information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Sherry Creek Campground
Located in northeastern Washington, Sherry Creek Campground is a hidden gem, a local’s favorite for outdoor recreation. The scenic, forested campground is near its namesake Sherry Creek, the Little Pend Oreille lakes, and the Little Pend Oreille Trail System, one of the best destinations in the state for off-highway vehicles (ATVs). Sherry Creek has 10 campsites, three large group sites, and a day-use area that can accommodate trailers up to 35 feet long.
Nearby Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and off-roading are all extremely popular activities in and near the Sherry Creek Campground. You can also kayak, canoe, or paddleboard in the Little Pend Oreille lakes.
More Information: Sherry Creek Campground
Middle Waddell Campground and Trailhead
The DNR-managed Middle Waddell Campground and Trailhead is a popular recreation destination and is just a short distance from Olympia in the Capitol State Forest. It is well-known as a local’s go-to place for off-roading, but the dispersed campground in Washington also offers a little something for everyone. Note that all grounds in Capitol State Forest are only open during the summer and fall season, or around May 1 through October 31.
Nearby Activities: Whatever outdoor adventure you can think of, you’ll find something to enjoy at Middle Waddell. Horseback riding, ATV riding, salmon fishing, mountain biking, and hiking are all popular activities.
More Information: Middle Waddell Campground and Trailhead
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is one of the best national parks in the nation. It’s home to old-growth temperate rainforests and glacier-capped mountains. You can park your RV at nearby Bear Creek Campground and many other free camping sites near Olympic National Park. If you’re hoping to see Mount Rainier as well, then consider staying anywhere on Mount Rainier National Forest Road for free camping near Mt Rainier.
Nearby Activities: Hiking, camping, and nature photography are all top activities near Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier.
More Information: Bear Creek Campground and Mount Rainier
Tips for Dispersed Camping in Washington State
- A Discover Pass is required for all DNR-managed campgrounds, recreation sites, and trails. The pass is $35 per year or $11.50 for one day.
- Washington state is prone to wildfires, especially in the summer and fall. Check local fire restrictions before creating a campfire.
- It’s recommended that campers use existing dispersed campsites to limit the amount of disturbance to the land.
- Campers must remain a minimum of a quarter-mile away from watering holes to ensure wildlife has full access to water. Keep this in mind when choosing a campsite.
- As water is one of the most important aspects of any camping experience, you need to plan ahead to get potable water in the area. These RV camping hacks can also help make your trip stress-free.
- In addition to water, you’ll want to plan your meals in advance. Cooking can be a bit of a challenge out in the wilderness, so easy RV meals will be the best option.
- The maximum length of stay in dispersed campsites in Washington is 10 days within a 30-day period.
- Leave No Trace principles must be followed in all locations — your site should be in the same shape when you leave as when you arrived.
- Pets are allowed in nearly all Washington boondocking sites unless otherwise specified.
RV Rental for Washington State Boondocking
With so much natural beauty and wide-open public spaces, no one will stop you if you want to explore every square foot of Washington state! One of the best ways to do exactly that is through the comfort and convenience of a Cruise America RV rental.
Regardless of which RV rental you choose, you’ll get modern amenities, including air-conditioning, a generator, and running water. Having these modern conveniences will make boondocking in Washington easy-breezy. Contact Cruise America today to browse the available RV options and start planning your Pacific Northwest adventure!