Travel | Family Fun | Outings + Activities

Take Us Away! Restful Retreats for Kids and Families in Washington State

Camping in the Hoh, hiking in the Cascades, family retreats at Lake Crescent and more

I felt conspicuous as I set my tent up in an empty spot at the state campground. Women don’t usually camp alone in the desert, and I felt the curious, yet friendly gazes of fellow campers. No, I wasn’t there for the opening weekend of fishing season, and no, I didn’t want to join their evening campfires and roast marshmallows with their toddlers. I just wanted to be alone, to breathe in the wide-sky sunset, to smell the sage and basalt dust and to clear space in my jittery brain.

I was on a personal retreat. My two kids were at Grandma’s and my husband was home earning a paycheck. I had lugged my camping gear to this spot far from the city to attend to my internal voice that was crying out for some time alone in the wilderness.

I am not always able to get the time alone for a personal retreat when I need it. Sometimes I take my kids and husband along, too. We all have found that we need time away from the city, from work and school pressures, from Facebook and Minecraft, and from the general noise of life.

While I have instinctually turned to nature for most of my life for respite, scientists are beginning to quantify our felt need to get away from it all. Time in nature has been correlated with lower cholesterol, less cardiovascular disease, better mental health, reduced inflammation, and fewer behavioral problems in children.

In one 2012 study, researchers measured an increase in creativity and ability to focus for participants after three days in nature, away from technology. It seems an extended time outside refreshes the parts of our brain used in higher-order thinking. (See also our 2014 story by Richard Louv, "Forward to Nature.")

All of us need the impetus to pull ourselves away from technology and reset our brains, breathing in the sharp scent of a ponderosa pine forest or the briny Pacific Ocean at sunset. And we need to reconnect with each other. Here are five extraordinary places in Washington state to go this year that provide opportunities for respite and reconnection.

Browse all the retreats or go to the first one.

Hoh Campground: Peace among the giants

Scottish Lakes High Camp: Up, up and away

Naturebridge/Lake Crescent Lodge: Learning and lounging

North Cascades Environmental Learning Center: Nature first

Holden Village: Spirited away

Ideas for retreating in the city

Read Next