Seattle is famous for so many reasons — Jimi Hendrix, the Space Needle, Starbucks, plus Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in that one movie. But it’s also well known for the abundance of evergreen trees and forests in and around the city. There’s a reason they call it the Emerald City!
And while we often associate Seattle with rainy, overcast days, the city still gets over 150 days of sunshine a year. Besides, rain means mud, which means messy mountain biking and overlanding, so we’re into it.
Whether you live in the Seattle area or are planning a visit, you should know you don’t have to go far to find outdoor fun and plenty of camping. The city is surrounded on all sides by National Parks and National Forests, which means you can get your nature on without going far.
Here’s are a few of our favorite camp spots less than two hours from Seattle.
Verlot Campground in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Drive time: 1 hour 40 minutes
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This epic camping locale lies on the western edge of the Cascade mountain range, just northeast of Seattle.
The views are nuts: glacier-laden mountain peaks, never-ending old-growth forests, expansive meadows, even an active volcano (don’t worry, it’s pretty far away…and hasn’t erupted since shortly after the Civil War).
A big perk of this spot is that it’s a pretty well-kept secret. It’s not overrun with tourists, making for a peaceful getaway. Look for a spot near the South Fork Stillaguamish River to up your relaxation (and try your hand at snagging a salmon for dinner).
Beyond chilling out, hiking is the name of the game here. There are over 1,500 miles of trail in this National Forest. You might need a backup pair of boots.
Drive time: 2 hours
Head straight north from Seattle, then cross over onto Fidalgo Island, then down to Whidbey Island to find Deception Pass, the state’s most popular state park. This is Pugent Sound camping at its finest.
What brings so many people here? It’s all about the water. Between the coves, tide pools, and cliffs, you’ll find stunning sunrises and sunsets, excellent swimming and fishing, and killer shell hunting and bird and whale watching. These waters are prime for kayaking, too.
Head away from the water and there’s even more to explore. Hike along old-growth forest trails or up onto the bluffs for views of the surrounding area.
One must-visit is the Kukutali Preserve on Kiket Island. The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community helps manage this part of the park, and welcomes anyone to come and check out the rare, native plants and old-growth trees that thrive here.
Fay Bainbridge Park on Bainbridge Island
Drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes
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One of the best things about this spot is you get to drive your car onto a ferry to get there. At least, we think it’s cool.
Fay Bainbridge Park lies on the northern tip of Bainbridge Island, a short boat ride across the water west of Seattle. The park offers plenty of waterfront space to camp, with views of Puget Sound and the Cascades.
On a good day, you can even see Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. Take a relaxing walk along sandy beaches, explore the area on the many hiking trails, or take a boat out on the water.
While small, the camping area features access to bathrooms, drinkable running water, and hot showers. We recommend you reserve ahead of time on their website, since there are only a handful of camping spots here.
Larrabee State Park
Drive time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Drive straight north from Seattle up I-5 and you’ll run into Larrabee State Park, just south of Bellingham, Washington.
This is the oldest state park in Washington, and one of the finest. There are loads of camping spots along the sea-facing side of Chuckanut Mountain. And the San Juan Islands are so close you might want to try chucking a rock or two at them, just for fun!
No? Well if rock-chucking isn’t your bag, you’re sure to find fun in the shellfish harvesting, diving, and paddling offered in Samish Bay, which the park looks out over.
On the inland side of things, you’ll find fantastic hiking and mountain biking through woods of Douglas fir, along with freshwater fishing in Lost Lake and Fragrance Lake.
Lake Sammamish State Park
Drive time: 20 minutes
The best thing about this State Park is that it’s ridiculously close to Seattle. Just 20 minutes from downtown, if the traffic is mild (ahem, no guarantees there). But even when it’s busy, it won’t take you more than 30 to 40 minutes to get here.
Lake Sammamish State Park’s main feature is, you guessed it, a gorgeous lake. The entire park encompasses and area of over 500 acres, which means plenty of space for outdoor fun.
It’s got two beachfronts where you get some sun or hit the water, and loads of forests and wetlands to hike through. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and blue herons — both these avian masterpieces nest in this park.You can also rent kayaks and paddle boards to spend your day out on the water.
This spot is so close to Seattle you don’t even need to camp overnight to enjoy the area. But if you want to make a weekend of it, head just a few minutes west up and around the shoreline of the lake to Vasa Park Resort, where you can camp and enjoy even more time on the water. This is a great choice for families.
Camping Evolved with Roofnest
Camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors, no matter how you do it. But with a Roofnest hard shell roof top tent, camping is more convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable.
Imagine pulling up to your camp spot and having your entire tent ready to go in under a minute. Imagine a cushy built-in mattress. Imagine the views from the roof of your car. And then imagine that when it’s time to pack out, you’re on the road again in no time.
On top of all that, one of the greatest perks of a roof top tent is that you can camp in more than traditional camping spots. A Roofnest is the best roof top tent for taking your camping game to the next level.
With one mounted to your ride, you can camp on the side of the road in National Forests, on BLM lands, at music festivals, and more.