5 Last-Minute Camping Adventure Tips
One of these days we may get around to finding a solution to … you know………………. procrastination.
Until that day, many a Procrastinators Anonymous member will suffer from that eternal summer problem…an overwhelming, last-second urge for a night under the stars and no campsite reservations to be had. Wait (you know you’re good at that!) just a moment more, unhappy camper! Sure, it’s prime camping season, but don’t put your tent and sleeping bags back on the shelf just yet. We’re here to help!
Granted, waiting until the last minute is going limit your options. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are completely out of the running for an outdoors adventure. A little travel savvy and a LOT of flexibility can not only net you a great getaway, but can take you to places you may otherwise have never discovered! To help you get started, we’ve compiled some tips and destination suggestions for scoring a sweet place to play at the 11th hour. Ready? Set? Fingers crossed? Let’s go!
5. Get Online & Start Looking…now!
Spend some time perusing our online reservation system. Washington State Parks online booking is easy to use, and with just a little browsing there’s a good chance you can still find a reservation if you start AT LEAST a few days in advance. On the left-hand part of your screen are tabs for choosing your preferred dates, type of site you are looking for (e.g., tent site, rustic cabin, etc…), preferred campground (TIP: You may want to leave this choice open to all parks during last-minute searches), and type of equipment you wish to camp with (TIP Less is more—vacation houses, yurts, cabins and sites with hook-ups for RVs or trailers are most often at a premium—tent campsites are more plentiful). Browse parks on the right side of the screen. Use the “On a Map” feature to look for parks with openings in a particular region. The “In a List” tab instantly pulls up an alphabetical list of parks and lets you know their site availability for your date range. “On a Calendar” shows you open days and sites for a particular park. This park list provides a quick reference for what parks are open when and whether or not they can be reserved.
4. Go During the Week
3. Try the Shotgun Approach
Instead of setting your sights on a single destination, why not choose a whole region to visit? Here’s an example: You are hoping to camp at Maryhill State Park in the Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately, all the sites are taken on your chosen days. Don’t despair! Search the map function in online reservations and find a nearby park with open sites, such as Brooks Memorial or Columbia Hills State Historical Park. Then, you can visit Maryhill during the day to swim, play and enjoy the nearby attractions such as the Maryhill Museum of Art, which has great summer arts and theater programs for all ages and the full-scale partial replica of Stonehenge just outside the park. At night, stop in to Goldendale Observatory State Park and enjoy summer astronomy programs and an intimate view of the heavens from the dome!
And don’t forget—your Discover Pass is good for access to not only state parks, but Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lands. That’s literally MILLIONS of acres of public lands to choose from. Check them out!!
2. Get Far Out! but Have a Backup Plan
During the day, you can go to little-known but cool historical state park heritage sites such as Ranald McDonald’s Gravesite or the limestone caverns of Gardner Cave at Crawford State Park Heritage Site. Or use online maps (on the state parks website and those onGoogle) to create your own destination camping vacation. That means not only alternative campsites but potentially “roughing it” in a local hotel in case you can’t find a spot—make sure there are some nearby so you don’t get in a pinch!
1. There’s Always Next Year…
Need a few more tips to try?
Check out this great article from KPLU and give these a whirl!
Have you ever scored a great a last-minute camp trip at a Washington State Park? Got tips?
Tell us about it and share your pictures here!