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Washington Winter Camping: A Beginner’s Guide

Winter camping in Washington State offers an unparalleled experience for outdoor enthusiasts seeking solitude, snow-covered landscapes, and breathtaking views.

With numerous state parks and campgrounds open during the colder months, Washington provides ample opportunities for adventurers to reconnect with nature and enjoy the crisp winter air.

Though it may seem daunting at first, winter camping in Washington can be safe and enjoyable with proper preparation and gear.

washington winter camping

National and State Parks in Washington

Washington offers a wide variety of national and state parks perfect for winter camping and outdoor activities. From the serene landscapes of San Juan Island to the stunning views along the Columbia River, these parks provide amazing experiences for visitors.

Deception Pass State Park is a popular destination for winter campers, known for its breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the surrounding islands. This park has sites equipped for tents and RVs and offers various recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

For a more mountainous experience, Lake Wenatchee is an ideal choice. Set in the heart of the Cascades, Lake Wenatchee State Park offers 155 standard campsites for tents and RVs, some with lake views. Visitors can explore the trails, go cross-country skiing, or venture onto the frozen lake for ice fishing or skating.

Moran State Park on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands provides a unique winter getaway at one of their 124 available campgrounds. The park offers hiking and biking trails, as well as opportunities for birdwatching and scenic drives.

Mount Rainier National Park is a must-see for winter enthusiasts who enjoy snowy landscapes. Though some campgrounds close during the winter months, Cougar Rock campground remains open year-round. The park offers various activities, such as snowshoeing, sledding, and guided ranger walks.

Located on Puget Sound, Dash Point State Park offers year-round camping opportunities. With 141 campsites, this park is perfect for exploring on foot, enjoying the beach, and participating in water-based activities.

Dosewallips State Park along Hood Canal provides a good mix of forest and beach camping experiences. Campers can access 75 standard campsites and engage in hiking, clamming, or simply relaxing on the shoreline.

Fields Spring State Park, nestled in the Blue Mountains, offers a cozy winter camping experience with a handful of tent and RV sites, as well as two cabins. The park is an excellent destination for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.

Cape Disappointment State Park is another great winter destination, situated where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. The park offers over 200 campsites, paved trails, historical sites, and beautiful vantage points of the coastline.

Other Locations for Winter Camping in Washington

Washington State offers a plethora of beautiful winter camping locations, each with its unique charm and attractions. Leavenworth, a Bavarian-styled village nestled in the Cascade Mountains, is known for its stunning alpine scenery and easy access to popular outdoor activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking.

In Eastern Washington, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is home to countless lakes, forested trails, and snow-covered mountain peaks. This area is perfect for those looking for solitude and breathtaking views during the winter months. Nearby, the Methow Valley provides abundant opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling amid spectacular landscapes.

The Columbia River Gorge on the border of Washington and Oregon offers campers the chance to experience dramatic cliffs and waterfalls, as well as vistas emblematic of the Pacific Northwest. The wind-scoured landscapes and rugged beauty make for a unique winter camping experience.

The Olympic Peninsula, a vast and diverse region, hosts several winter camping locations. The Lake Quinault Lodge and various campgrounds in Sequim Bay State Park provide options for both campgrounds with amenities and those seeking more rustic camping experiences.

San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island offer coastal winter camping, where campers can enjoy the serene beaches, marine wildlife, and picturesque lighthouses. Sites such as Potlatch State Park on Hood Canal cater to beach-front campers with RV hookups and designated camping areas operating during the winter season.

Westport, a coastal town south of the Olympic Peninsula, provides beach-goers with a taste of Washington’s rugged Pacific coastline and plentiful surf breaks. Winter campers can opt for the nearby Twin Harbors State Park, which remains open throughout the winter months.

The Skagit Valley in Northwestern Washington is known for its captivating scenery, including snow-capped mountains, lush forests, and the peaceful Skagit River. This region is ideal for winter campers seeking tranquility amid nature and opportunities for wildlife spotting, especially during the annual migration of bald eagles.

washinton winter camping

Essential Gear for Winter Camping in Washington

When embarking on a winter camping trip in Washington, the right equipment can make all the difference between an enjoyable experience and a miserable one. In order to stay safe and comfortable in the diverse climate of Washington, campers should focus on making sure they have key equipment for the trip.


Be sure to pack clothing specifically designed for cold-weather activities. This may include moisture-wicking base layers, insulated mid-layers, and waterproof shell layers.

Remember to include gloves, hats, and proper footwear.


Snowshoes can greatly enhance mobility and safety in deep snow by evenly distributing a person’s weight, preventing them from sinking into the snow. Look for a pair with lightweight, durable materials and good traction for optimal performance.


Good boots provide the necessary insulation to keep feet warm in the region’s often cold and wet conditions. Proper footwear prevents frostbite and other cold-related injuries, ensuring safety during prolonged exposure. Additionally, sturdy boots offer the needed traction on icy and snowy terrains, reducing the risk of slips and falls and ensuring a more enjoyable and secure outdoor experience. So, it’s super important to make sure you have quality boots for your trip.


In winter conditions, trails may be harder to follow, making GPS devices, maps, and a reliable compass necessary items for successful navigation.


A quality tent acts as the primary barrier against harsh weather conditions, ensuring protection from snow, wind, and cold temperatures.

Tents designed for winter have specific features like a sturdy frame to withstand snow accumulation and stronger winds. When purchasing a winter tent, you should look for features such as double-walled construction, which offers better insulation and condensation management. Ventilation options are crucial to prevent moisture buildup inside the tent, while a strong, durable floor is essential to insulate from the cold ground. You should also consider the tent’s weight and packability.

Sleeping Gear

Selecting the appropriate sleeping bag is crucial in ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep. A sleeping bag rated for 0°F to 20°F is recommended for Washington’s winter conditions. Make sure to select a bag with a waterproof shell to protect from moisture in the air and ground.

An insulated sleeping pad is necessary for staying warm and comfortable during cold nights. Select a pad with a high R-value to ensure proper insulation, and consider using a closed-cell foam pad for added protection against the cold ground.

Cooking Gear

A reliable and efficient stove is essential for preparing hot meals and drinks, as well as melting snow for water. Choose a stove suitable for cold weather, such as a liquid fuel stove, since canister stoves can struggle in freezing temperatures.


Portable heaters can be a valuable addition to winter camping gear, providing warmth and comfort during freezing nights. Consider a safe, compact, and fuel-efficient heater designed specifically for camping use.

Setting up Camp

When setting up camp, it’s essential to choose the right shelter, be mindful of the campsite, and bring the necessary gear to keep warm and safe.

The first step is to scout for an ideal campsite. Look for relatively flat terrain with natural windbreaks like trees or boulders. Consider the sun’s path and try to situate the campsite in a spot that receives morning sunlight.

Avoid camping too close to water sources, as these areas are typically colder and can be prone to flooding. Backcountry camping in Washington’s wilderness areas can present additional challenges, so make sure to familiarize yourself with any specific regulations and be prepared to practice Leave No Trace principles.

When setting up camp, first clear the area of snow by digging, stomping, or leveling it with a shovel, creating a platform for your tent. Building a snow wall around the platform can provide extra protection and insulation. Once the area is prepped, set up your tent, ensuring the entrance faces away from prevailing winds. Next, anchor your tent securely with snow stakes or, if unavailable, makeshift anchors like sticks or gear.

Washington Winter camping

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best winter campgrounds in Washington?

There are several excellent winter campgrounds in Washington. Some popular options include snowshoeing to wilderness huts or staying along the coast or the Puget Sound. Make sure to research each location to determine the best fit for your winter camping preferences.

Are there any year-round campgrounds in Washington?

Yes, there are year-round campgrounds in Washington that you can visit during the winter months. It’s essential to check with each state park’s website to confirm their winter schedule and any changes due to weather or other factors.

What gear should I pack for winter camping in Washington?

For a successful winter camping trip in Washington, it’s crucial to pack proper gear, including a four-season tent, a sturdy sleeping pad, a warm sleeping bag, layers of clothing, waterproof and insulated boots, avalanche safety equipment if venturing into backcountry areas, and adequate cooking supplies. Don’t forget to pack essentials like a first-aid kit, headlamp, and extra batteries.

Are there any restrictions for camping in Washington during winter?

Restrictions for winter camping in Washington may include limited availability at some campgrounds, seasonal road closures, and regulations regarding campfires and other activities. Before your trip, be sure to check the individual state park websites or contact park officials for the latest updates and restrictions.

How safe is winter camping in Washington’s state parks?

Winter camping in Washington can be a safe and enjoyable experience if you take proper precautions. Always prioritize safety by planning, preparing for changing weather conditions, and understanding the risks associated with camping in snowy conditions. Additionally, follow all park rules and guidelines to ensure a successful and memorable trip.

Do Washington state parks allow RV camping during winter?

Many Washington state parks do accommodate RV camping during the winter. It’s essential to verify with the individual park ahead of time, as some parks may have limited facilities or accessibility during the season. Make sure your RV is winterized and equipped for cold weather conditions to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

Plan Your Washington Winter Camping Trip Today

With an array of park options across the state, including Bridgeport State Park and various locations within the Washington State Parks system, campers have the opportunity to explore a diverse range of landscapes.

Whether you’re an experienced outdoors person or a newcomer interested in embarking on a winter adventure, Washington’s winter camping should undoubtedly be on your list.

For more information on camping in the colder months, check out our Ultimate Winter Camping Checklist!