Reservations Not Required: 5 Campgrounds North of Portland Worth a Visit this Summer

North of the Columbia, the majestic waters, forests and mountains of the Evergreen State entice us to explore and camp in the great outdoors. Full of awesome sights, endless adventures and miles of some of the best day-hiking in the Pacific Northwest, southwest Washington is one of the premier camping destinations for families and those hoping to connect with nature near Vancouver and Portland. With hundreds of camping areas to choose from, each year we face the difficult decision of finding where to pitch our tents and roast our marshmallows. From the Washington side of the Columbia to the shadow of Mount Saint Helens, we have you covered for the perfect camping trip. Remember to follow all rules about campfires, keep your campsite clean and make incredible memories in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Beacon Rock State Park

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Those who camp at Beacon Rock are rewarded with opportunities to hike up to the top of this breathtaking geological wonder. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

One of the all-time, classic Columbia River Gorge destinations, Beacon Rock State Park is the perfect combination of accessibility and adventure. Offering 26 tent sites and a handful of camping sites for RVs over 20 feet, this seasonal campground is perfect for families or those looking for a romantic night along the majestic river. Beacon Rock State Park has 9,500 feet of shoreline, 20 miles of roads and trails for hiking, biking and horse riding, and a dizzying and scenic, mile-long switchback trail up to the top of the 848-foot Beacon Rock. You simply do not want to skip this as a camping destination. The campsites, located in the forest, are a short walk from the river and the rock, allowing you to enjoy the very best of Washington’s side of the Columbia Gorge, just a short drive from Vancouver.

Battle Ground Lake State Park

Whether you need a place to cool off during the summer heat or a destination to enjoy during a cloudy, misty day in the Pacific Northwest, Battle Ground State Park never disappoints as a family camping location. What makes Battle Ground such a great place for camping is that it offers a transition from car camping to “walk-in” sites, letting you prepare yourself and your family for a backpacking trip. With 25 standard campsites, six of which have RV hook-ups, as well as 15 primitive camping sites that require up to a half-mile trek to get to your spot, this state park will provide campers of all levels an ideal getaway. Around the campground there are five miles of biking trails, ten miles of hiking trails and a perfect lake for paddling, swimming and fishing for trout.

Sunset Campground

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Near the Sunrise Campground, the Silver Star Trail is a gem of a hike, showcasing great views and stunning flowers. Photo credit: United States Forest Service

Often overlooked, the Sunset Campground in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a jewel of a camping area for those hoping for a bit more of a rugged camping experience. With just 18 campsites all within walking distance of the gorgeous East Fork Lewis River and falls, you will be sure to find a little bit of solitude. Sunset is a great campground to get used to primitive camping, as it has no running water (bring your own) or showers. Close to hiking and kayaking destinations, this camping area is great for families or couples hoping for something a bit more laid back and wild. Do not miss the nearby Silver Star Trail, which provides views of Portland. Offering waterfront sites, this campground might just become your new favorite.

Panther Creek Campground

Tucked away just an eight-mile drive from Carson, Panther Creek Campground is a cozy, wooded and seasonal camping area ideal for those hoping for relative solitude and enjoyable hiking. With just 32 sites in the campground separated by the trees that make the Pacific Northwest feel like home, Panther Creek is yet another fantastic place to start getting you or your family used to camping away from the amenities of the larger campgrounds. Offering drinking water and a vault toilet, it is really just you and the elements at Panther Creek. Located close to the Pacific Crest Trail, the campground grants easy access to fantastic hiking, highlighted by the always breathtaking Panther Creek Falls, just four miles away.

Lower Lewis Falls

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Camping at Lewis Falls gets you up close and personal to one of the most iconic waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Quite possibly the most stunning recreational area in southwest Washington, the Lower Falls Campground of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is incredibly popular and for good reason. While summer weekends may make acquiring a camping spot a bit tougher, those who are lucky enough to snag one are rewarded with gorgeousness. Within a fifteen minute walk from the campground, you have views of the stunning Lower Lewis River Falls, Curly Creek Falls, Big Creek Falls and Middle Falls. The trails are meticulously cared for and beautiful forests are all around. Any of the campground’s 44 sites are sure to inspire adventures all day. With composting toilets, drinking water and picnic areas, this campground offers you a perfect weekend for reconnecting and exploring the beauty of the great outdoors. If you have not camped, hiked and enjoyed a weekend around Lower Lewis Falls, do not miss your chance to do so this year. The campground is only open from April until October.

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