Pros And Cons Of Vernita Bridge
Pros: Its free to camp there, up to 14-days. But remember that WDFW rarely come by, if at all, so you may be able to stay longer.
Pros: You can actually camp right underneath the bridge for more privacy and more shade. Yes, you will hear trucks overhead, but its something you will be able to tune out.
Pros: The area has good Verizon 4G coverage. We were getting between 3-4 bars of signal strength the entire time.
Pros: Its very quiet at night, and very dark. No lighting, and no other campers around, at least while we were there . Keep in mind though, the salmon stop running at the end of July, so thats a big reason why we found ourselves as the only campers. Between April and July, you should expect far more campers and boaters.
Cons: A lot of flying insects during the summer. These were mostly small moths, gnats, and mayflies. We did NOT however, see any mosquitoes.
Cons: It gets pretty hot in the summer. We encountered day time highs ranging from the 70s up to the 100s. Its advised you have a good air conditioning system. Note: you can also camp right underneath the bridge itself for some good shade.
Cons: The winds tend to blow a lot. They never seemed to exceed 30 mph, however. In fact, with how hot it gets in the summer, the wind may actually be a blessing.
Cons: Lots of thorns laying loose on the ground. If you have a dog, expect to pull thorns from its paws after each walk.
The Case For Campgrounds
I personally prefer wild camping for free over campgrounds because it gives me a chance to completely unplug and connect with nature. However, theres some good to be said of paying for campgrounds.
If you are new to camping, its really helpful to have running water, a bathroom and trash cans instead of figuring out how to filter water, dig a cathole or pack out your trash .
As a parent, I also like that there are usually other families at campgrounds. My daughter gets to play with their kids, and I get to finally socialize with people who get it. By contrast, we rarely meet anyone especially anyone with kids when free camping.
Free Camping In The Cascades
The Cascade Mountains stretch from British Columbia, Canada to northern California, cutting a beautiful path through Washington. In the north part of the state, youll find solitude and few roads cutting through the landscape. Check out Hozomeen Campground, a popular waterfront spot right on the Canadian border.
A bit further south and closer to Seattle, youll find more people and some of the prettiest landscapes in the state. Ranger Creek Airstrip is big-rig and tent camping friendly, and each site has a picnic table and firepit. The memorably-named Tree Phone Campground is a hidden gem in Ahtanum State Forest.
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They Are Usually First
Besides amenities, one other big differentiator between traditional, paid campsites and free campsites is that they are almost always first-come, first-served. While traditional campgrounds can also be this way and not accept reservations, it is very rare that a free camping area takes any sort of reservations.
Free campsite in Utah with NO ONE else next to us!
How Much Does It Cost To Camp On Washington State Trust Lands
The DNR states that camping is always free on its recreation areas and campgrounds.
However, the DNR requires you to purchase a Discover Pass to enter these areas. Fees for a Discover Pass are
- $35.00 for an annual Discover Pass, applies to both Washington residents and out-of-state residents
- $11.50 for a single day pass
- Discover Pass is good for one vehicle at a time, however it can be transferred to another vehicle in your household
- You can purchase a Discover Pass online , then print it out. Or, you can visit one of hundreds of participating stores and shops across the State and buy one in person. Visit the Discover Pass website for a list of retail locations.
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Where To Camp For Free In Washington State
Campers on The Dyrt are all over Washington State campgrounds, and theyve found plenty of free camping opportunities throughout the state. These free campgrounds in Washington are low on amenities without sacrificing the dramatic beauty you expect from the land of evergreens, alpine lakes, and epic hiking trails.
Weve listed just 10 of the free campgrounds in Washington state. Remember, half the fun of camping in secluded, remote places is finding them for yourself. Grab yourself a map of BLM land and forest service roads in Washington state to discover even more free camping opportunities. Those willing to drive down bumpy forest service roads will be rewardedjust remember to bring enough gas and water!
Free Camping In Washington State
Camping should be no-hassle and stress-free. And what about spontaneity? Who says you have to be at this particular campsite on this particular day? To me, thats just stressful. This is where RV rentals in Oregon are so handy. Part of the reason Im spending the night out under the stars is so that I have the freedom to pitch my tent when I want, where I want. Its the best camping in Wahsington.
Luckily, the great state of Washington has you covered. There are a plethora of great campsites all around the state which dont take reservations. And many of them are FREE. The following list is by no means exhaustive but is a pretty thorough collection of sites to help you plan where you might want to pitch your tent when exploring Washington State.
Keep in mind that these campsites are generally a litter rougher around the edges than those with water, flush toilets and showers, where you normally need to have reservations and pay a small fee. But hey, how can you beat free accommodation underneath the canopy that is the great Pacific Northwest?
I have gathered a pretty good list of free campsites in Washington state, grouped by area. But first, heres a map of the campsites mentioned 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. Managed by the USDA Forest Service, this property is located near the Triple Ridge Area, and as a result offers excellent hiking opportunities within 2-5 miles from the campground.
Ranger Creek is the lone fishing source within 5 miles from the campground, but offers anglers ample opportunities to catch local species of trout. In addition to that, a cold water spring is located just 100 yards from the campground. Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table, and vault toilets are available onsite. Hikes in and around this area provide amazing views of the Umatilla National Forest!
What To Bring With You To Free Camp
Because of how remote free campsites can be and the lack of amenities, youll want to ensure you have the proper equipment on you. We share all of our backpacking gear in this post, which is also very applicable for free camping.
Free campsites often do not have any trash cans, so make sure to bring bags or something to put your trash in so you can pack it out. This includes bringing dog poop bags for your furry friend .
Trowel or wag bag
Be sure to follow theLeave No Trace principle #3 and dispose of human waste properly. Lucky for us, we have a compost toilet in our van, so this part is pretty easy. But if youre tent camping it may be trickier. For solid waste, some areas allow you to dig a 6 inch hole to bury your waste and in those cases we use thistrowel. However, some places do not allow you to bury your waste and you will need to use a wag bag instead.
Unless youre camping near a water source and can filter your water, make sure you bring plenty of water for both drinking and cooking, plus any hiking you may do.
Car emergency kit
Permit or pass
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Discovery Pass: Access To Multiple Locations
Save time at the gate. An annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass covers admission to more than 80 destinations for 12 months.
Get ready for adventure: 450 000 km2 of memories await!
Where to 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 sites for an entire year
450 000 km2 of memories await
Purchase your Discovery Pass at parkscanada.gc.ca
Seniors Are Eligible For Discounts On Camping And Moorage
All senior Washington State residents can purchase an off-season senior citizen pass. For $75, this pass offers free nightly camping or moorage between October 1 and March 31 . Utilities cost $10 per night.
Seniors with an annual household income of $35,000 or less can receive a free Senior Citizen Limited Income Pass that grants the user a 50% discount on camping and moorage fees year-round, as well as free watercraft launching, dump trailers, and day use fees!
If you own property, you must also meet the requirements for a Property Tax Exemption to qualify for the Limited Income Pass.
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Twentynine Pines Campground Cle Elum Wa
Image from The Dyrt camper Jess G.
This easy-to-access campground is located right on the Cle Elum River, and is free to camp at with a discover pass . The property offers 60 campsites with fire rings and picnic tables, as well as restrooms. That said, the camping is free here because Twentynine Pines sits on Department of Natural Resources land, so it is not frequently maintained. Campers should be prepared to bring all the supplies they may need for the duration of their camping trip!
Aside from being extremely easy to find, I think one major benefit of this campground is that it is so close to town. Normally, we prefer to be the furthest distance away from civilization but at Twentynine Pine you still get that secluded woodys feel and right on the river! Very large camp area, about 60 sites to choose from. The Dyrt camper Jess G.
Prepare for your next adventure by downloading maps.The Dyrt PRO lets you download maps and campgrounds without cell service. My alternative to using pro would be to drive back out to cell service.
Crawfish Lake Campground Okanogan
Open seasonally, Crawfish Lake Campground offers 19 tent campsites located on the shores of Crawfish Lake. The campground is on the National Forest side of the lake, and offers excellent access to the shoreline as well as the surrounding amenities. Vault toilets are located on the property, but there is no water, so all campers are advised to bring their own. The lake is a great spot for fishing in the summer months, and is a popular destination for families and water enthusiasts.
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Get Your Discovery Pass In Person
The Discovery Pass is your gateway to history, nature, and adventure. It provides unlimited admission for 12 full months at over 80 Parks Canada places.
Parks Canada Discovery Passes are available upon your arrival at participating Parks Canada locations and from a variety of retailers across Canada.
Old Forest Service Campground Lake Wenatchee Wa
Image from The Dyrt camper Nikki R.
Reachable by a .5 mile gravel road, this campground is managed by the USDA Forest Service and provides free camping off the beaten path to many Lake Wenatchee visitors. Although somewhat dilapidated, each campsite does offer a picnic table and fire ring, and is located just to the side of a small creek that cuts through the property. The campground is located off of Highway 2, on White Pine Rd. This Old Forest Service Campground is a great spot for those seeking slimmer crowds in good proximity to Lake Wenatchee.
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Camping On Washington State Trust Lands
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources manages nearly 3.3 million acres of state trust lands. While most of it is open for various forms of recreation like hiking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, etc., only a smaller portion of these lands are open for camping.
Specifically, camping is limited to areas designated as recreation areas. The DNR manages 160 total recreation areas across the State.
What Is Free Camping
Free camping is camping overnight in your RV or tent at a location where you do not have to pay. Most free campsites are not in developed campgrounds. Free camping is sometimes called boondocking, primitive camping, dry camping, and dispersed camping.
Free camping areas appeal to some campers simply because it doesnt cost money, but others may find additional benefits to a free camp site, including the pleasures of camping without amenities, the option to camp farther away from other people than can be found in a campground, and the remote nature of many free campsites.
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Tips: Picking Your Campsite 101
- Drive on existing roads to minimize your impact on vegetation.
- Same goes with choosing where to set up your tent. Ever heard of the saying, Good campsites are found, not made. Sorry, venturing into the wilderness in the 21st century doesnt qualify you as a pioneer. Camp on bare soil where others have camped before.
- Camp at least 100-feet away from any stream or water source. Plants near water sources are especially fragile.
- Pick a campsite with good, natural drainage.
- Use existing fire rings.
Social Services Camping Fee Exemption
This program provides individuals living with a disability and facing significant financial challenges with the opportunity to connect with nature and outdoor recreation in BC Parks an experience that they may not otherwise be able to afford.
To support some of the province’s most vulnerable citizens, BC Parks offers a limited amount of free frontcountry camping to:
- Children on the BC Ministry of Children and Family Developments At Home Program
- Adults receiving Persons with Disabilities benefits from the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction or from Indigenous Services Canada.
Qualified recipients are entitled to one single campsite, or one half of a double site, per night for their Camping Party for free. Both halves of a double site are free if there is a qualified recipient in each of the two camping parties.
Anyone visiting BC Parks is permitted a maximum total of 14 nights per park per calendar year. The Social Services Camping Fee Exemption is not available for the Long Stay Program.
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James T Slavin Conservation Area
We listed James T. Slavin partly because its located in eastern Washington, an area we havent mentioned yet.
The conservation area is located just south of the city of Spokane. It features a large lake and hiking trails along pastures and through forests. The James T. Slavin area is another convenient getaway option not far from a city center, where you can get your fix of fresh air.
Safety When Free Camping
We always keep our windows covered when sleeping or away from our van
While we personally have not had any safety issues when free camping, being in a more remote area and away from resources can be more dangerous than camping at a more developed campground. Here are some safety tips based on our experience!
Let someone know where you will be
We always tell my mom where we are exploring so that someone is aware of our location and plans in case something goes wrong. We also have a Garmin InReach Mini to communicate with loved ones if we do not have cell service or use SOS in case of emergencies . It does require a monthly subscription, but it can be as low as around $10/month.
Be bear aware
If camping in an area with bears, be very mindful of cooking near your tent or leaving any scented items or food scraps out by your site. For tent camping, please put any scented items and trash in your vehicle at night or in a bear canister. We also carry bear sprayon us for safety.
Trust your gut
If something feels off, find somewhere else to go. We always read reviews before camping somewhere to gauge if people felt safe, but even if a spot is safe for most, there could be a weird one off experience. If you feel uneasy, listen to your gut.
Get there during the day
When arriving at a new free campsite for the first time, we try to always arrive during the day so we can easily find a spot and scope it out in the 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 find free camping, other types of public lands in the United States and Canada offer up pockets of campsites in different states and regions. State parks, city parks, and county parks sometimes maintain free camping areas. So do entities like water management districts, trust lands, conservation areas. Smaller US federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation have a few campsites, too.
Stay limits, access, amenities, permitting requirements, and the types of camping that are allowed at these sites vary greatly. Reading reviews on Campendium, and contacting the agency that manages these free campsites, will help to determine whether they are right for you.