Tactics to help finding a campsite in the North Cascades
June 15, 2017 4:14 PM   Subscribe

We're making last-minuteish plans to go car camping in or around North Cascades National Park next weekend (23rd - 25th). How to we find a site?

Any reservable sites are long since gone, but there are a number of first come, first served campgrounds in the park itself. We plan to arrive early on Friday. Aside from being there before check out time (noon), how do we improve our chances of finding a site? At which of the campgrounds will we have most luck (Goodell, Gorge, Colonial)?

We have a 3 year-old, if that help/hinders any suggestions you may make. Thanks!
posted by SirNovember to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
If you're comfortable camping without the services of a campground (e.g. restrooms, a campground host, etc), you could try to find a spot for dispersed camping. I've done this a handful of times, and each time was able to find a good or great campsite near a river.

Look for US Forest Service roads that travel over/along rivers or large creeks. Look for vehicle pull-outs, which are sometimes hidden. There are many somewhat established campsites that you'll find once you start looking.

The downside here is that there's no certainty, and you might end up searching a long time. Also, I've done this in National Forest land, but not in a national park – not sure if that makes a difference.
posted by reeddavid at 5:50 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]

It does make a difference. You need a backcountry permit to camp outside of an organized campground in National Park Service sites (and also you'd have to hike in). Dispersed camping is definitely allowed in National Forests, though.

I haven't been to that park, but the biggest tip for the parks I have been to is just to get there early.

As for the 3-year-old: get a Luminoodle for your tent. So much better than a lantern. We just have the 5 foot one, and it provided enough light to read or play cards by.
posted by fedward at 6:08 PM on June 15

For this trip, toilet (vault is fine) and potable water required.
posted by SirNovember at 6:52 PM on June 15

This is a risky strategy, and perhaps not best done with a child, but I figured I'd post anyway. Most campgrounds have a designated disabled campsite or two. Of course, these are reserved for disabled campers most of the time. However, the rule stands that after 8PM, if no disabled party has claimed the site, it becomes open to the general public (first come first served).

When I was out visiting my cousin last summer, we drove up to Colonial Creek Campground on a whim one Friday afternoon. Unsurprisingly, all the sites were reserved. But we hung around near the disabled campsite for a few hours and luckily nobody showed up. Once the clock struck 8pm, the site was ours! If you do try this strategy, I would definitely recommend coming up with a backup plan (such as dispersed camping).
posted by Jon Letko at 9:13 AM on June 16

Reporting back: we decided to skip the National Park and head straight for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, instead. I'm glad we did. We checked at Horseshoe Cove first, and, at 11am, all first-come-first-served sites were already taken. The camp host hadn't had any reservations canceled and didn't expect any to be.

We continued on to neighboring Bayview South. It turned out it had just been renovated and was entirely FCFS. Only one or two sites were occupied. There was no running water, but water at Horseshoe Cove was just a couple minutes drive. So, Bayview South is where we stayed. Lake access there isn't great, but we had a good time, anyway.
posted by SirNovember at 3:11 PM on July 20

« Older Boyfriend died, what do?   |   Adult mother-daughter bonding activities Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments