The Best RV Camping in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Camping in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains isn’t necessarily for everyone. Frequent rock slides, winding roads up steep mountainsides and wildlife–including grizzlies and wolves–may strike fear into the carburetors of many an RV, but for those seeking solace and wilderness, there are few places in the Continental US with as distinct a grandeur.
Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest is the crown jewel of this wilderness, at least as far as RV camping goes. Though this national forest stretches from the Canadian border to Mount Rainier National Park, some of the best camping you’ll find in the forest is that surrounding its partial namesake, Mt. Baker himself.
Adjacent to that part of North Cascades National Park which is closed to motor traffic, it’s the perfect area to find wildlife straying out of that park’s wilderness, all while still remaining relatively close to civilization. Though the main town in the area, Glacier, Washington, is little more than a wide spot in the road, it at least affords the opportunity to fill up on gas and supplies before heading into these Doug-fir bearded mountains full of the type of camping that trends more toward hiking, campfires and maybe a quick dip in a frigid, glacial-fed river than racking up selfies in a never-ending quest to digitize your weekend in the forest.
Washington Route 542 from Glacier into Mt. Baker offers everything from free camping in a wide open space like Razor Hone to campgrounds with vault toilets, picnic tables and the like, such as found at Douglas Fir Campground, both operated by the National Forest Service (or an approved concessionaire.)
A few clicks south on the map, several additional national forest campgrounds dip their toes into Baker Lake, where the cover of towering trees provides as much shade as it does seclude you from your neighbors. Don’t expect epic views or cell service, though, unless you’re willing to venture out onto this popular fisherman’s body of water. While the majority of camping lakeside is officially owned by the forest service, additional opportunities such as Kulshan Campground (free outside of the summer months) are “powered by” Puget Sound Electric and a county park named for and on the shores of nearby Grandy Lake offer more opportunity for things like Internet connectivity, with the former even having water and electric hookups.
Following Washington’s “Mountain Scenic Loop,” cell towers once again go extinct and traffic evaporates as the loop is not only still partially dirt, but prone to mudslides, which tends to limit your camping neighbors to those willing to risk life and limb for a little peace and quiet. The formula here follows most of what you’ll find in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest: paid national forest sites equipped with picnic tables and fire pits, positioned between a highway and a raging river, the latter drowning out the former, while eager beavers and their human counterparts cross their roasting sticks hoping for that Pacific Northwest sky to break long enough to get some of the “mountain scenic” views the road promises.
The river and highway combination continues even as the chances of a blue sky increase while one traverses the Cascades via US Highway 2. Blips on the map, easily missed with an untimely swish of the windshield wipers–like the town of Skykomish–offer little more than beer and gas station food, maybe a restaurant that’s more of a bar here and there. If you’ve stocked up before crossing this pass, though, that should be no problem should your goal be to spend some time watching the moss grow carpet-like over massive old-growth trees, where kingfishers and osprey share the sky with lumbering branches slicing through the wild blue yonder like buttery streaks of shade on a solar panel. When the river isn’t white-noising your afternoons away, it’ll be the sound of a freight train screaming its determination to outlive the inevitable momentum of progress that rings in your ears.
Should you prefer your mountain passes wide open, such as where Interstate 90 manages to cut its multilane way through Washington, more easy to access national forest camping can be found than anywhere else in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie. Particularly near the community of North Bend, Washington, views of mountains with names like Humpback and Bandera stand proud as RVers choose between the free camping along Tinkham Road or opt for slightly more convenience as they rally ’round the vault toilets at a handful of other national forest sites, including Denny Creek. Here Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie bleeds into the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, where opportunities to leave the interstate behind and nestle up lakeside can be had, such as at Kachess Campground.
Or take a break from all of that “roughing it” nonsense and get your full-hookup, lakeview lounging on at Lake Easton State Park.
Interested in continuing your trip southward through Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest? Take a look at our camping guide to Mount Rainier National Park, where the forest blends slowly into Rainier itself before the park officially takes over. Or make an entire summer of the Evergreen State with our camping guide to the best RV camping in Washington in general!