Saturday, June 14, 2014

Camping along Washington's Highway 20

It has been interesting to see how few of the public campgrounds near Highway 20 in Western Washington appear in online or written resources. This post is really just about trying to get more information in one place.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has six campgrounds on or near the west shore of Baker Lake, about 15 miles north of Highway 20. Swift Creek ($18), Panorama Point ($16), and Park Creek ($12) all have some sites that will easily handle units with a total length of 35' or so. We were much less impressed with Shannon (north end of the lake - about 8 miles of gravel), Horseshoe, and Boulder Creek.

There are five boondock sites at the lake shore at the end of Forest Road 1122. Three are barely large enough for a Scamp or Casita (and the others are smaller) but they also seem to be quite popular. It was my impression that they require a Northwest Forests or a Senior Pass. There are a few other boondock sites in the area but I would suggest dropping the trailer before exploring some of the back country options.

Kulshan Campground is owned and operated by Puget Sound Energy at their Upper Baker Dam complex. It looks like an RV park with zero privacy between 107 sites but does offer water and sewer on about half the sites (no electrical) for $15 - fee is summers only. This first-come, first-served campground has good Verizon coverage. All of the above campgrounds offer 50% discount for the Senior Pass.

Skagit County has a primitive campground at Grandy Lake (not far north of Highway 20 on the Baker Lake Road) that was clear full when we went by. Apparently it was a "free fishing" weekend.

Howard Miller Steelhead Park is located in Rockport and owned and operated by Skagit County. It has elec/water hookups at approximately 50 sites (@$30) and a dump station. A few sites are directly on the bank of the Skagit River. Very clean, lots of well trimmed grass, showers, and no privacy between sites.

The County also has another primitive park in the area. The Sauk River Park Campground appears to be a boondock site for up to 15 units, located south of Highway 20 on Highway 530. There is apparently a summer-time fee but we haven't checked this one out yet.

The National Park Service has four campgrounds associated with North Cascades National Park on the west side of Washington Pass. Goodell Creek ($10) is a small campground with 15 sites, several of which were large enough for 35' total unit length. Some were on the water.

Newhalem Creek ($12) is a relatively new campground with three large loops and a dump site near the entrance. All sites have paved driveways and most have very nice, large tent pads. Some sites are large enough for 40' or more total unit length. This is site 31 in the B loop.

Both of these campgrounds are located just west of Newhalem, have very good Verizon 4G coverage, and offer 50% Senior Pass discounts. One loop of Newhalem is reservable sites - the rest are first come, first served.

Gorge Lake Campground is located just west of the company town of Diablo near where Highway 20 crosses Diablo Lake. There are six sites and no water. A couple of the sites would work for units of our size. The best part on this one is the price - it's free.

Colonial Creek Campground ($12) is a large campground (144 sites) split by Highway 20 where it crosses the Thunder Creek Arm of Diablo Lake. It has a dump station near the entrance on the south side of the highway. Some sites are up to 35' long and almost all are very shady. A handful have direct access to the water of Thunder Creek Arm. There is no Verizon coverage here but the Senior Pass discount does apply.

There are three Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest campgrounds on the east side of the pass. Lone Fir Campground ($12) is nearest the pass, then Klipchuck Campground ($12) about 18 miles from Winthrop, and Early Winters Campground ($8) (on both sides of the highway) about 16 miles from Winthrop. Early Winters would have the most road noise.

In mid June and mid week, we've found all of these campgrounds nearly empty.


  1. I've visited them all....Klipchuck is so nice as it's away from the highway road noise, such as it is.....It was a staging area when the highway was built in the 60's, for the builders.
    Too bad they have closed Rockport State Park, the campsites were among the huge trees,quiet and cool in the summer.

    1. You just pointed out a flawin my post. I think Rockport is open and an option. I'm just so offended by what Washington is now charging for their state parks that I don't even consider them when planning a trip if there are any other options available. I'll check tomorrow when we go by.

    2. Rockport State Park is open for day use but the camping area has been closed due to danger from the old growth trees in the campground. Rasar State Park is just a couple miles south and has both standard ($23) and water/elec sites ($31) although they'll charge out of state people $11.50 to make a reservation.

      Skagit County's Sauk River Campground charges $7 for very rustic sites - bring your own water. I guess the $7 covers the contract for the portable outhouses they use during the summer season.

  2. Thanks, I'm thinking of heading that way later this summer so this was a good post for me. I'm with you.... don't plan on staying at state parks due to the cost. What a shame!

  3. Hi, John,

    Just doing some historical research in prep for my move toward North Cascades in the next couple of weeks. Given my need for a pretty strong signal, do you think either Goodell or Newhalem Creek would be a good option for me? I know you said "very good 4G," but good enough to work, do you think? Thanks for any advice you can offer!

    1. Very good - I had fast, four or five bars on my Millenicom MiFi _without_ using the external antenna or booster. You shouldn't have any issue.

    2. YIPPEEE! Thanks! You just saved me a couple of hours of mind-numbing research!

  4. Very thankful for this info! Before now I had had alot of trouble finding any info about traveling & overnight stays (with a 40'5th wheel)