Where to camp away from people?
September 6, 2011 5:46 PM   Subscribe

We are looking to do a two night camping trip in the extreme northeast corner of Washington state. We would love to find a place to camp that is sort of remote- far enough away that we can have our dogs off leash, but close enough to a road to be able to pack in a decent amount of supplies. I have two questions: Is it legal to just drive up a mountain road and camp somewhere? Could we have a campfire without worrying about someone reporting us? We would avoid private property. Does anyone know of a place like this from personal experience? We would love to be by a lake.
posted by virginia_clemm to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not in Washington, but very close by are the selkirks. The selkirk crest extends down into idaho very close to the border. It is very quiet and rugged. The main issues I see with dogs are snakes and porcupines more than rangers or other people.

I have been to Mt. Roothaan twice now and find it very beautiful and rugged.

And priest lake is one of the largest lakes in the area.
posted by TheBones at 6:04 PM on September 6, 2011

If there is a campfire ban in the area you choose, please don't light a fire regardless of the risk of being reported. Forest fires are serious business and the bans are there for a reason.

That said, are you opposed to crossing the border? There are some forestry (i.e.) government sites in rural BC that have very basic amenities but won't new too crowded on a non-long-weekend.

I don't have the link handy but the province has recently made a website listing and describing all the forestry sites. These aren't to be confused with the better-appointed, and more crowded, provincial sites.
posted by Pomo at 6:24 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: I don't know the northeast corner, but this summer I had some good experiences in the middle camping on National Forest land. It's called "dispersed camping" and it's legal. There are fire restrictions over in your area, though, and please don't violate them even if you don't think you'll get reported.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:32 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you avoid private property, you will likely be on public property, which will have rules regarding campfires, off-road driving, and camping. Depending on where you go, you may be able to go unnoticed but be aware, fines can be substantial if you get caught (and it is no fun at all to be wakened at 0-dark-hundred by a federal employee with a bright flashlight who hands you a citation and asks you to pack up your gear and go). Equally un-fun is starting a wildfire. Northeast Washington is very hot and dry right now, and fire danger is very high. Please be careful and obey fire restrictions. So, my advice would be to check out the local restrictions for whatever public land you're on.

In the far NE corner of Washington is the Colville National Forest. They currently allow campfires in campgrounds but nowhere else.

Also up there are the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, the Okanogan Nat'l Forest, and some other lands. You can find more public lands to research in NE Washington here.

More news on campfire restrictions for other public lands in NE Washington can be found here.

Have fun!
posted by arnicae at 6:34 PM on September 6, 2011

Response by poster: thanks guys, don't worry we have come to terms with the fact that we can't have a fire. luckily cookstoves are permitted.

keep the location ideas coming...
posted by virginia_clemm at 6:44 PM on September 6, 2011

Why don't you look at that corner of Washington on a map and find out what the public lands there are? I don't have a good map of Washington handy but I just googled and found Colville District of the USFS. Why don't you give them a call and ask them where you should camp and whether there is a fire ban? I've found USFS ranger district offices to generally be full of nice and helpful folks.

I have followed this process with a lot of success.....of course, if someone comes along with a personal recommendation that is even better.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:01 PM on September 6, 2011

I'm sorry, I didn't read the above advice or your question very well. In general you can do what is called dispersed camping anywhere in the National Forest or BLM that doesn't have rules to the contrary. Usually areas that you can't do dispersed camping are well signed but that doesn't necessarily help you when you are planning. I'd still recommend calling some of the offices and asking them -- though maybe don't mention the part about letting your dogs run off leash since that might raise some concern from them (perhaps just say that you would like some solitude).

Also, you don't mention whether you are driving a 4 wheel drive vehicle or a 2 wheel drive or whatever. In my experience this makes a big difference (ie. if you are driving a real 4wd you can more often get away from people and find a place to car camp...though being by a lake might be asking for a lot).
posted by fieldtrip at 8:08 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: I spent a summer working in the Colville National Forest. I really liked the Elbow Lake campground there -- it's right on a lake, and even on a weekend we were the only people there. (Admittedly, this was in 2002, but I doubt much has changed.) Do call the ranger's office to make sure there are no fires where you plan to go, and to find out what the fire restrictions are. Have fun, it's beautiful country!
posted by vytae at 8:52 PM on September 6, 2011

Maybe you could give Ozette a try. I haven't been up there since the 5th grade, but it's a stunning area and fairly unique in that it has access to the coast *and* to a lake. There's also an interesting Native American archeological dig there with at least 7 different cities that had been buried by mudslides over the centuries and people would simply rebuild in the same area. So, the archeologists had this really handy "layer cake" that they could dig down into to see how items like pottery, weapons, etc. had changed over the years.

I'm sorry that I couldn't point you towards any specific places to camp, however.
posted by ssmith at 9:29 PM on September 6, 2011

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