Pros and Cons of the Vernita Bridge
Free camping at Quincy Lake with the Discover Pass
advantages: It is free to camp there for up to 14 days. However, keep in mind that WDFW rarely, if ever, stops by, so you might be able to stay longer.
advantages: You can camp right under the bridge for more privacy and more shade. Yes, you will hear trucks overhead, but it's something you can turn off.
advantages: The area has good Verizon 4G coverage. We got between 3-4 bars of signal strength all the time.
advantages: It is very quiet and very dark at night. No lights and no other campers around, at least while we were there. However, keep in mind that the salmon stop running at the end of July, which is a major reason why we found ourselves the only campers. Expect a lot more campers and boaters between April and July.
Disadvantages: Many flying insects in summer. These were mostly small moths, mosquitoes and mayflies. However, we saw NO mosquitoes.
Disadvantages: It gets pretty hot in summer. We encountered daily highs ranging from the 70's to the 100's. It is recommended that you have good air conditioning. Note: You can also camp just under the bridge itself for some shade.
Disadvantages: The winds tend to blow strongly. However, they never seemed to go faster than 30 miles per hour. In fact, the wind can even be a blessing in the summer heat.
Disadvantages: Many thorns lie loose on the ground. If you have a dog, expect to pull thorns from its paws after every walk.
The case for campsites
Personally, I prefer free wild camping to campgrounds because it gives me the opportunity to completely switch off and reconnect with nature. However, there are some good things to say about campsite pay.
If you're new to camping, having running water, a bathroom, and trash cans really helps instead of figuring out how to do itfilter water, dig a cat hole or take out your trash .
As a parent, I also think it's good that there are usually other families on campsites. My daughter can play with her kids and I can finally connect with people who canGot it.In contrast, when we are free camping, we rarely meet anyone, especially anyone with children.
Free camping in the cascades
Stretching from British Columbia, Canada to northern California, the Cascade Mountains cut a beautiful path through Washington. In the northern part of the state you will find solitude and few roads that cut through the landscape. CashHozomeen campsite, a popular waterfront spot just off the Canadian border.
A little further south and closer to Seattle, you'll find more people and some of the most beautiful scenery in the state.Ranger Creek airstripis big rig and tent camping friendly, and each site has a picnic table and fire pit. The memorably namedTree Phone campsiteis a hidden gem in the Ahtanum State Forest.
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They are usually the first
Aside from the amenities, another big differentiator between traditional pay campgrounds and free campgrounds is that they're almost always first come, first served. While traditional campgrounds can also be like this and not take reservations, it's very rare for a free campground to take any type of reservation.
Free Utah Campground with NO ONE next to us!
How much does it cost to camp on Washington State Trust Lands?
The DNR states that camping at its recreation areas and campsites is always free.
However, the DNR requires the purchase of oneDiscover passportto enter these areas. Fees for a Discover Pass are
- $35.00 for an annual Discover Pass, valid for both Washington and out-of-state residents
- $11.50 for a day pass
- The Discover Pass is valid for one vehicle at a time, but can be transferred to another vehicle in your household
- You can purchase a Discover Pass online and then print it out. Or you can visit one of hundreds of participating stores and stores across the state and purchase one in person. Visit the Discover Pass website for a list of points of sale.
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Where can you camp for free in Washington State?
Campers on The Dyrt are represented at every campground in Washington state and have found numerous free camping opportunities throughout the state. These free Washington campgrounds offer few amenities without sacrificing the dramatic beauty that awaits you from the land of evergreens, alpine lakes and epic hiking trails.
We have listed just 10 of the free campsites in Washington state. Remember that half the fun of camping in remote, secluded places is finding them yourself. Obtain a map of the Washington state BLM rural and logging roads to discover even more free camping opportunities. Those willing to descend rough forest roads will be rewarded. Just remember to take enough petrol and water with you!
Free camping in Washington state
Camping should be uncomplicated and stress-free. And what about spontaneity? Who says you have to be at that specific campsite on that specific day? For me it's just stress. This is where RV rentals in Oregon come in so handy. One of the reasons I spend the night under the stars is because I have the freedom to pitch my tent when and where I want. It's the best camping in Washington.
Fortunately, the great state of Washington has you covered. There are a plethora of great campgrounds throughout the state that do not accept reservations. And many of them are FREE. Far from being exhaustive, the list below is a fairly thorough collection of places to help you plan where to pitch your tent when exploring Washington state.
Keep in mind that these campsites are generally a little rougher on the edges than those with water, flushing toilets and showers, where you usually have to make reservations and pay a small fee. But hey, how can you beat free accommodation under the canopy of the great Pacific Northwest?
I've put together a pretty good list of free campsites in Washington state, grouped by area. But first, here's a map of the mentioned campsites from the great folks at Wanderlog.
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Wickiup Campground Pomeroy Wa
Image from fs.usda.gov
Another campground just outside of Pomeroy, Wickiup Campground is a fan favorite for free camping in Washington state. This USDA Forest Service managed property is located near the Triple Ridge Area and therefore offers excellent hiking within 2 to 5 miles of the campground.
Ranger Creek is the only fishing source within 5 miles of the campground, but offers anglers ample opportunities to catch local species of trout. In addition, there is a cold water spring just 100 meters from the campsite. Each campground is equipped with a picnic table and safe toilets are available on site. Hikes in and around this area offer stunning views of the Umatilla National Forest!
What to bring to Free Camp
Free camping at the ORV Elbberge campsite with Discover Pass
Since free campgrounds can be remote and lack amenities, make sure you have the right gear. We share all our backpacking gearthis post, which is also very suitable for free camping.
We always recommend having those10 essentialon you as you explore outdoors. Not sure what the 10 essentials are?Learn how to create a 10 basics kit.
Free campsites often don't have trash cans, so bring bags or something to toss your trash in so you can unpack. This includes bringing dog poop bags for your furry friend.
trowel or wobble bag
Be sure to follow theLeave no trace principle #3and properly dispose of human waste. Luckily we have a composting toilet in our van, so this part is pretty easy. But if you're camping with a tent, it can be more difficult. For solid waste you can dig a 6 inch hole in some areas to bury your waste and in those cases we use thatWho. However, some places do not allow you to bury your litter and you must use onewobbly baginstead of this.
Unless you are camping near a water source and canFilter your water, make sure you bring plenty of water for drinking and cooking, as well as for any hikes that may occur.
Auto Emergency Kit
When camping in more remote locationsandIf you're going down rougher roads to get there, it's a good idea to have oneAuto Emergency Kit, more thantire repair kit.
Allow or pass
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Discovery Pass: Access to multiple locations
Save time at the gate. An annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass includes entry to more than 80 destinations for 12 months.
Get ready for adventure: 450,000 km2 of memories are waiting for you!
Where to get your pass in person:participating locations|MEC stores
Where you can use your pass:participating locations
The Parks Canada Discovery Pass is your ticket to nature, history and adventure
One pass gives you access to over 80 websites for a full year
450 000 km2 of memories are waiting for you
Purchase your Discovery Pass at parkscanada.gc.ca
Seniors are entitled to discounts on camping and mooring
All seniors in Washington State can purchase a senior pass off-season. For $75, this pass offers overnight camping or docking between October 1st and March 31st. Utilities are $10 per night.
Seniors with annual household incomes of $35,000 or less can get a free Limited Income Senior Pass that gives the user 50% off camping and docking fees, plus free watercraft, dump trailers, and day-use fees all year round!
If you own property, you must also meet property tax exemption requirements to qualify for the Limited Income Pass.
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Twentynine Pines Campground Cle Elum Wa
Picture by The Dyrt Camper Jess G.
This easily accessible campground sits right on the Cle Elum River and is free to use with a Discover Pass. The property offers 60 campsites with fire pits and picnic tables, and restrooms. However, camping is free here as Twentynine Pines is on Department of Natural Resources land and therefore not frequently maintained. Campers should be prepared to bring all the supplies they will need for the duration of their camping trip!
Aside from being extremely easy to find, I think a big advantage of this campsite is that it's so close to town. We usually prefer to be furthest from civilization, but at Twentynine Pine you still feel secluded and wooded, and right on the river! Very large campsite, about 60 pitches to choose from.There Dyrt-CamperJess G.
Prepare for your next adventure by downloading maps.There Expensive PROyou can download maps and campgrounds without cellular service.My alternative to using Pro would be to go back to cellular service.
Crawfish Lake Campground Okanogan
The seasonal Crawfish Lake Campground offers 19 tent sites on the shores of Crawfish Lake. The campground is located on the National Forest side of the lake and offers excellent access to the shoreline and surrounding amenities. Vaulted toilets are on the property, but there is no running water, so all campers are advised to bring their own. The lake is a great spot for fishing in the summer months and a popular destination for families and water lovers.
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Get your Discovery Pass in person
The Discovery Pass is your gateway to history, nature and adventure. It offers unlimited admission for 12 full months at over80 spots in Parks Canada.
Parks Canada Discovery Passes are available upon arrivalparticipating Parks Canada locationsand from a variety of retailers across Canada.
Old Forest Service Campground See Wenatchee Wa
Picture by The Dyrt Camper Nikki R.
Accessed by half a mile of gravel road, this campground is managed by the USDA Forest Service. It offers free off-the-beaten-track camping to many visitors to Lake Wenatchee. Though a little ramshackle, each campground offers a picnic table and fire ring, and sits right on the side of a small creek that cuts through the property. The campground is off Hwy 2 on White Pine Rd. This Old Forest Service campground is a great spot for those looking for a leaner crowd in close proximity to Lake Wenatchee.
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Camping auf Washington State Trust Lands
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources manages nearly 3.3 million acres of state trust land. While most of these are open for various forms of recreation such as hiking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, etc., only a smaller portion of these areas are open for camping.
In particular, camping is restricted to areas designated as recreation areas. The DNR manages a total of 160 recreational areas across the state.
What is free camping?
Free camping at Winston Creek Campground with Discover Pass
Free camping means camping overnight in your RV or tent somewhere where you don't have to pay. Most free campgrounds are not located on developed campgrounds. Free camping is sometimes referred to as boondocking, primitive camping, dry camping, and scattered camping.
Free camping appeals to some campers simply because it doesn't cost money, but others may find additional benefits of free camping, including the joys of camping without amenities, the ability to camp further away from other people than a campground can is , and the remote nature of many free campsites.
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Tips: choose your campsite 101
- Drive on existing roads to minimize impact on vegetation.
- The same goes for choosing where to pitch your tent. Ever heard of the saying: good campsites are found, not made. Sorry, venturing into the 21st century wilderness does not qualify you as a pioneer. Camp on bare ground where others have camped before.
- Camp at least 100 feet from any stream or water source. Plants near water sources are particularly sensitive.
- Choose a campsite with good, natural drainage.
- Use existing rings of fire.
Exemption from camping fee for social services
This program offers people living with disabilities and facing significant financial challenges an opportunity to connect with nature and outdoor recreation at BC Parks, an experience they might not otherwise be able to afford.
To support some of the province's most vulnerable citizens, BC Parks is offering a limited number of free frontcountry campgrounds:
- Children in the BC program for children and family development at home
- Adults receiving persons with disabilities receive benefits from the BC Department of Social Development and Poverty Alleviation or Indigenous Services Canada.
Qualifying recipients are entitled to a single campsite or half of a double pitch per night for theirsCamping-Partyfor free. Both halves of a double pitch are free if there is a qualified recipient in each camping party.
Anyone visiting BC Parks is permitted to amaximum total of 14 nights per park and calendar year. The social service camping fee exemption is not available for theLong stay program.
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James T. Slavin Nature Reserve
Part of the reason we listed James T. Slavin is because he's located in eastern Washington, an area we haven't mentioned yet.
The nature reserve is south of the city of Spokane. It features a large lake and hiking trails along pastures and through forests. The James T. Slavin neighborhood is another convenient escape not far from the city center where you can get some fresh air.
Safety in free camping
We always keep our windows covered when we sleep or stay away from our van
While we personally have not had any safety issues with free camping, being in a more remote area and away from resources can be more dangerous than camping in a better established campground. Here are some safety tips based on our experience!
Let someone know where you'll be
We always tell my mom where we're going so someone knows where we are and what our plans are in case something goes wrong. We have one tooGarmin InReach Minito communicate with loved ones when we don't have cellular service, or to use SOS in emergencies. It requires a monthly subscription, but it can only be around $10 per month.
If you are camping in an area with bears, be very careful not to cook near your tent or leave scented items or leftover food at your location. When tent camping, please put all scented items and garbage in your vehicle or in one at nightbear canister. We also leadbear sprayon us for safety.
Trust your gut feeling
If something doesn't feel right, find another place to go. We always read reviews before camping somewhere to gauge whether people feel safe, but even when a spot is safe for most, it could be an odd once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you're uncomfortable, listen to your gut.
arrive during the day
When we first arrive at a new vacant campground we try to always arrive during the day so we can easily find a spot and scout it out in daylight.
Keep your valuables hidden
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Other public lands in the United States and Canada
While national forests and BLM land are the most common places to camp for free, other types of public land in the United States and Canada offer campgrounds in various states and regions. State parks, city parks, and county parks sometimes maintain free camping areas. This also applies to facilities such as water districts, trust areas and nature reserves. Smaller US federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation also have some campgrounds.
Staying restrictions, access, amenities, permit requirements, and the types of camping allowed at these locations vary widely. Read reviews on Campendium and contact the agency that manages these free campsites to see if they're right for you.