Family Campout at Owen Beach. Image courtesy Metro Parks Tacoma
No camping reservations yet? Little desire to tackle the hassles of camping? Or perhaps no real idea of how to make camping tolerable with all the tots in tow?
No worries. We’re here to tell you about organized family campouts, which will be about the easiest camping you'll ever do. You sign up, drive not very far away and pitch your tent. Someone else has found the spot, planned the activities and will maybe even roast the hot dogs (or provide more gourmet fare) and serve up the s’mores.
It's as easy as that, and you and your kids will love it. Read on for a list of fantastic, local, organized family campouts taking place this summer. Tip: Sign up ASAP as these events are going to fill up fast.
But first, truly the very easiest camping you'll ever do is the Great American Backyard Campout. This just-like-it-sounds event takes place officially on Saturday, June 22, but of course you can do it any time you like. Just pitch your tent in your own yard, roll out the sleeping bags and thrill your kids with all the classic camping experiences. (Pro tip: Send Dad out back with the kids for this one if you prefer.) The aim is to get families outside and experiencing nature, even very close to home. Check the website for ideas on how to plan it.
Organized campouts for families in 2019
Want to camp on one of the Puget Sound area’s most beautiful beaches? Metro Parks Tacoma is opening up Owen Beach for three Friday–Saturday overnights of camping in July and August. The price ($50–$100 for a tent space) includes snacks, a ranger activity, games, sunrise breakfast and more. Check-in starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday; check-out is 8:30 a.m. Saturday. No online registration; call Tacoma Nature Center at 253-404-3930 to sign up.
Dates: Friday–Saturday, July 12–13, Aug. 2–3 or Aug. 23–24
Just bring a tent and your sleeping bags, along with your swimsuits, for this Eastside family campout by the lake. Both dinner and a yogurt/granola bar breakfast are included. You can vie for a prize in the tent-decorating contest, geocache and take an evening kayak tour. Of course, there’s a beach campfire, sing-a-long and — it's in the name — s’mores. Cost is $55 per tent plus $20 per person (ages 3 and under free). Discover Pass needed to park. Register on Eventbrite.
Dates: Saturday–Sunday, Aug. 3–4; event begins at 3 p.m. Saturday and ends at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Legos and lawn games are just two of the fun activities you’ll find at this fun family campout at gorgeous Chambers Creek Regional Park, 930 acres of shoreline, canyon, forest and creek. No need to break out the cook stove: Saturday night's dinner is courtesy of Boss Mama's Kitchen, with a s’mores station for dessert. Wake up to a continental breakfast. Cost is $16–$21 per person; kids age 1 and under free. Register online or call 253-798-4141.
Dates: Saturday–Sunday, Aug. 17–18; check-in begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, event ends 11 a.m. Sunday
This fun family campout over Labor Day weekend is the fourth annual occurrence of the event, open to families with kids ages 2 and older. Organizers will help you set up your tent and then serve up a a tasty barbecue dinner. A campfire with s’mores follows, along with a camp breakfast in the morning. Cost is $25 per person (Bellevue residents $20); kids ages 2–5 are $5. Register online.
Dates: Saturday–Sunday, Aug. 31–Sept. 1; check-in starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, event ends at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Last year was the inaugural year of the Refuge Outdoor Festival, a three-day camping experience geared toward people of color and allies to “showcase the voices and faces of people of color in the outdoors.” Refuge is back for a second year at Tolt MacDonald Park in Carnation. Expect daily outdoor activities, nightly concerts and art exhibits, food trucks, conversation, community service projects and lots of community building. Tickets for the festival and camping options are for purchase separately. A festival pass is $85 per adult, $45 per youth ages 9–17; kids ages 8 and under free. A field camping pass costs $20 per tent; a tent space alongside your car or a camping spot for your RV or campervan costs $125–$150. Buy tickets on Eventbrite.
Dates: Friday–Sunday, Sept. 27–29.
Also at Tolt MacDonald Park, this venerable music festival offers top-notch live music and organized camping in a beautiful location on the Snoqualmie River. Planned activities include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, nature painting and more. You can also pay for extras such as a moonlight kayak tour. Though food is not included in the price, you’ll find plenty of great food vendors, and a grocery store is located within walking distance. Gather your friends and pitch your tent in the General Festival Family Camping area — it’s first come, first serve. Cost is $45 per tent space in the camping area and $125 for the music festival weekend pass; kids ages 12 and under free.
Dates: Thursday–Sunday, July 11–13
7. REI campouts:
Though not specifically for families, REI's organized campouts are fun events for relaxed outdoor enthusiasts. Campouts include a complete camp kitchen set-up that may encourage some amazing outdoor feasts (bring your own food to cook). After dinner, enjoy gourmet s'mores and a community campfire. REI is planning three campouts in stunning local spots this summer: Campout Overlooking Mount Si (Aug. 3-4); Campout at Lake Sammamish State Park (Aug. 24–25); and Campout at Fort Flagler State Park (Sept. 14–15). Register online.
Dates: Saturday–Sunday, Aug. 3–4, Aug. 24–25 or Sept. 14–15
8. Family camps
If you really want someone else to do all the planning, and prefer a cabin to a tent, book a family camp weekend at a local summer camp. These family camps are also a great way to give your kids a taste of overnight camp if they're on the cusp of being ready. YMCA Camp Orkila on Orcas Island hosts several every year, including one over Labor Day weekend. Other options to check include Camp Sealth on Vashon Island; Lake Wenatchee YMCA Camp; and Cascades Camp in Yelm. The North Cascades Institute runs Family Getaway weekends at its beautiful lodge on Diablo Lake. Wolf College offers flexible family camps at Lake Sammamish and Puyallup.
8 great nearby campgrounds that make camping pretty easy
Flowing Lake County Park: Less than an hour north of Seattle in Snohomish County, Flowing Lake campground has campsites, cabins, swimming, fishing, a play area and more. Tip: The walk-in campsites are spacious and in a lovely wooded area, just a stone’s throw from the lake.
Faye Bainbridge Park: A 17-acre park on the Sound on Bainbridge Island, Faye Bainbridge has campsites on the beach and in the woods, and cabins as well. Use it as a launching-off point for a weekend of Kitsap exploration. Tip: It’s also on the Whale Trail, so keep your eyes peeled for marine life.
Tolt MacDonald Park: This county park on the Snoqualmie River has campsites on both sides of the river, as well as yurts and even a shipping container that’s been converted into a cabin. Kids will love the walk across the suspension bridge over the rushing Snoqualmie.
Kayak Point County Park: This spectacular saltwater park is just 45 minutes north of Seattle and boasts campsites and a yurt village high on a bluff above the Sound. Bring your crab pots and fishing pole for the pier. There’s a playground, trails and more.
Larabee State Park: Watch a spectacular sunset, hike the trails around Chuckanut Mountain and listen to trains roll through during the night. This waterfront state park, just south of Bellingham, is a gem. There’s also excellent mountain biking and tide pooling. The park has 41 campsites.
Camano Island State Park: Newly added to the state park reservation system, Camano Island State Park’s 90 campsites and five cabins can now be booked online. Just about an hour and 15 minutes from Seattle, the beach park fronts the beautiful Saratoga Passage. Plus all the kid fun of Cama Beach State Park (and its outlet of the Center for Wooden Boats) is just a mile away.
Denny Creek Campground: Located on the Snoqualmie River in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Denny Creek Campground is a gateway to miles and miles of gorgeous hiking trails in the Northern Cascade Range. Campsites are wooded and lovely.
Saltwater State Park: Just south of Seattle in Des Moines, Saltwater is another fabulous waterfront park with woods, driftwood and beach to explore, as well as a snack shack. There are 47 campsites.