As summer arrives and social distancing is still encouraged, people are looking beyond their backyard for outdoor activities that offer a change of scenery. The outdoors provide serenity and peace of mind and allows for families to bond and interact with nature. Fresh Chalk has created a list of businesses that can help you maximize your time in the outdoors and make the most of your summer.
Tent and Van Camping
Tent camping, or what some refer to as “car camping,” is the simplest and most basic form of camping. It involves driving up to a campsite, placing your tent, and spending time there for multiple nights. You can camp at a designated campsite, off a main road, or even at a beach. Car camping is a great opportunity to teach kids about nature and practice some of those outdoor skills.
Lots of Washington campsites require reservations and can be a bit tricky to navigate. Campers without a reservation may find themselves with no place to sleep, so it’s important to check in advance.
Reservations are not always accepted and different agencies have different rules about how far in advance you can plan your trip. It’s important to note that if you want to camp somewhere, snagging reservations 6 weeks in advance is probably a good decision and even farther in advance for summer holidays. Here are some tips about navigating some of the sites:
- It’s important to note that 40% of the land in Washington is publicly owned. To camp on land managed by the US Forest Service, you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass.
- Washington State is home to three National Parks: North Cascades, Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks. These parks require you to purchase a day pass at the park upon entrance.
- In July 2011, Washington State began requiring an annual Discover Pass to park at state parks. Most Washington State Park campgrounds take reservations up to nine months in advance.
- If you and your family are the spontaneous type, there are still plenty of first come first serve campgrounds. Mid-week is your best bet for finding campsites that are open for the taking.
Many great companies have contributed to making tent or car camping even more exciting.
Some vans are now outfitted with kitchens, beds, and bathrooms giving roadside camping an even more homey feel. Several Seattle companies make it easy for you to rent a van or camper, including:
There are also some great resorts and farms in the Pacific Northwest that have campsites for those looking for a quieter and more controlled adventure, including:
Backpacking or Hiking
This type of camping consists of walking during the day with all of your gear and (most often) a lightweight tent on your back, sleeping outside in a tent or a hammock when you find the right place, and often moving on to a new location the next day. Backpacking allows you to learn something new while putting your body to the test (and your relationships!)
Backpackers and hikers are abundant in Washington, most National Parks require permits for backcountry camping, and several quota areas exist in the parks. Be careful when planning backpacking trips in Olympic National Park where nearly all the camping sites are quota areas and require permits. Reservations are accepted, however, the rest of the permits are first come first serve basis and available at nearby ranger stations. Showing up to the ranger station is always a gamble.
It’s important to consider the gear you will be carrying when embarking on a backpacking trip--lightweight gear is key to a successful adventure. Make sure you also have good shoes and clothes that are comfortable. Hammocks are a great substitute for tents, but remember to check the bug reports before you head out!
Check out the following local gear companies:
- Hammocks are a great substitute for tents. Overland Hammocks sells lightweight, packable hammocks that will be easy to set up on overnight trips.
- Buying used gear for some of your adventures can save you money. The Wonderland Gear Exchange provides great gear that can help cut down on some of those initial costs.
- In honor of the high-quality goose down they used, the people of Feathered Friends aim to make quality gear for all your outdoor needs.
The most extreme type of camping is survivalist camping. You should not attempt it until you’ve mastered basic camping skills and prepared for all the possible problems you might encounter on the trail. For this type of camping, you’ll have to plan every single detail. And if you’re experienced but still unsure, here are some survivalist classes that give you an opportunity to test your skills:
Canoe camping is basically backpacking, but instead of hiking trails, you’ll be traveling by water in a canoe or kayak. This way you’ll be able to travel greater distances and visit some places you won’t be able to reach on foot. Washington has great waterways to explore, but it’s important to remember to do your research before you hit the water. Waterways can differ depending on your skill level, but they could also provide different types of attractions – some are better for fishing, scenery, or wildlife. If camping near water isn’t for you, you may enjoy an hourly kayak, stand up paddle board, cruiser bike, longboard and inline skate rentals to enjoy with the family.
Here are some resources for rentals and classes that can help you gain the skills that are necessary for this type of adventure:
There is some ongoing debate on whether or not bikepacking is really backpacking because— you guessed it — you ride your bike. Bikepacking differs from standard bike riding by deviating from paved roads and using trail systems to explore. So if you see a campground 10 miles up a closed forest service road, hook up a bike trailer full of gear or attach a commuter-style rear rack with panniers and ride off to your outdoor destination. Much like backpacking, it’s no fun to carry extra-heavy items or unnecessary bulk. The more compact and lightweight you can pack your gear the easier it is to pedal. The good news is if your gear is heavy, at least you won’t be carrying it on your back!
- Tune-up your bike
- Consider wider tires with low-profile treads for a better riding experience
- Purchase lights for night-riding
- Carry a repair kit with you at all times
Here are some local bike shops that can assist you in preparing for your bikepacking adventure:
Some non-profits and clubs offer classes and ideas on how to begin your bikepacking adventure.
Another debated form of camping is Glamping. “Glamping” is a style of camping in which you have access to non-traditional amenities that you wouldn’t have access to on a traditional camping trip. This modern luxury is a unique experience and provides you with endless comfort while experiencing the outdoors. A lot of companies have joined in the fun in trying to create a memorable outdoor experience while maintaining traditional camping.
Other Outdoor Adventures
If camping isn’t for you, Washington has plenty to offer those who are seeking an outdoor adventure without sleeping in the dirt.
Among its wide array of recreational adventures, the state of Washington offers amazing white water rafting. With plenty of rainfall on the western side of the state, Washington's rivers provide some exciting rafting adventures for the whole family.
Relaxing in a hot spring tucked away in nature is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Washington has some great family-friendly spots and some that include a hike. Here are some to check out:
Gamma Hot Springs is so secret there isn't even a website! This hot spring is located in Glacier Peak Wilderness and is difficult to find and requires some wayfinding skills.
Many consider Washington to be one of the best states for rock climbing. The Cascades offer an abundance of places to climb with great views. Rock climbing takes practice and skill. There are plenty of companies out there willing to help you sharpen those skills and give you the expertise needed to venture into a rock climbers paradise.
Ice climbing and guided adventures are also available for those looking for a more extreme climbing experience.
Do you know of a great Seattle business that helps you experience the outdoors? You’ll earn DOUBLE Karma points if you recommend your favorite local outdoor company this week.