Best Winter Camping Destinations in the Pacific Northwest
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Best Winter Camping Destinations in the Pacific Northwest

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Best Winter Camping Destinations in the Pacific Northwest

Winter camping can be daunting in many places because of freezing temperatures and snowfall. In the Pacific Northwest, where the weather is milder, winter camping is more accessible to people of differing experience levels. The thing you have to be most prepared for when winter camping in the Pacific Northwest is the rain. With colder temperatures, staying dry is essential - learn how to prepare for camping in the rain

Looking for the best winter camping destinations in the Pacific Northwest? As a Vancouver-based camper, I will start with some of my favourite places for winter camping in BC, but I will also provide some great destinations in Washington state. 

Best Winter Camping Destinations in BC

This is a great place to quickly check the hours and amenities in private and provincial campsites. Unfortunately, many campsites in BC close for the winter. So, make sure you check your favourite camping location before you go. 

Manning Park

Looking for somewhere to camp and ski or snowshoe? Manning Park is a beautiful destination all year round. The park contains many scenic, historic, floral and fauna attractions and provides a wide range of summer and winter recreational opportunities. Manning Park has incredibly diverse terrain, varying from the towering cedar rainforest of Sumallo Grove to the rare 2000+-year-old Subalpine Larch forest on Mount Frosty. 

Skyview Campground at Lightning Lake is open year-round and has power hookups for RVs. 

Riverside Camping, Whistler

Whistler is another breathtaking location with access to skiing and other winter sports. Riverside campground is open year-round, and while it's a short distance from Whistler village (where the ski lifts are located), there is easy access to transit. You can have the camping experience while also being connected to everything Whistler village has to offer, and it's incredible in the winter months. 

In addition to basic campsites for tents, Riverside camping has fully serviced, winterized RV sites, rustic yurts and cozy log cabins. The yurts are a unique experience that is definitely worthwhile. 

Kilby Park Campground, Harrison Mills

Kilby Park is located on the confluence of the Harrison and Fraser rivers in the city of Harrison Mills, BC. It's an incredible location with some campsites among the trees and others in more open areas near the beach. The park itself is famous among bird watchers. Hundreds of bald eagles come to feast on spawning salmon in late autumn, and trumpeter swans migrate from Alaska. 

The area also has an incredible pioneer history. You can experience a historic site and the Kilby museum within walking distance. Museum exhibits reflect the turn of the century, where you can get a feel for life in Harrison Mills in the 1960s. 

Bayside Campground, Sechelt 

The following two locations are located on the sunshine coast of British Columbia, with Sechelt found closer to Vancouver (less than 3 hours). Bayside Campground is the closest campground to the city of Sechelt, and beaches in Davis Bay and Porpoise Bay (tides dependent) are 5-10 minutes away by car. 

In the winter, Dakota Ridge is great for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and backcountry ATV trails. 

Kent's Beach Resort, Powell River 

In beautiful Powell River, three hours further north from Sechelt, is Kent's beach resort. As its name states, this is a lovely beachfront location with cabins only 10 feet from the beach. Of course, there are campsites as well for RVs and tents. 

Oceanside Camping, Victoria, BC

Of course, we must include Vancouver Island. There are so many beautiful destinations on Vancouver Island - Oceanside camping is close to the ferry from the mainland and driving distance from the city of Victoria. Experience the stunning Pacific Ocean surrounded by beautiful landscaping on the peaceful Saanich Peninsula.

Best Winter Camping Destinations in Washington State

Washington state has the same climate as southern BC and has similar winter camping destinations. 

Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment State Park is located on the Long Beach Peninsula. It's named Cape Disappointment for the dangerous currents where the river meets the ocean. These currents are known to topple boats and befuddle even the world's sharpest skippers. This campground is open year-round and has yurts and cabins available for those who don't want to tent through the winter. 

The yurts are particularly popular not only because of their unique camping experience but because of their proximity to the beach. It's a bonus that they're heated for camping in the winter months. 

Moran State Park 

Orcas Island, known for its freshwater lakes, is one of the largest islands in the San Juan archipelago. It contains more than 30 miles of trails perfect for hiking and mountain biking. You can also get 360-degree views from Mount Constitution. Visitors come to swim, kayak, stand-up paddle board and fish during the summer. During the fall and winter, you can experience something completely different - quiet. 

Moran State Park has 124 campsites; however, the Midway Campgrounds and Mountain Lake Campground and Midway Campgrounds are open year-round. These sites are tough to come by during the summer, but in the off-season, you should be able to get the best spot without trouble. However, making a reservation is still a good idea. 

Deception State Park

Deception state park is a popular location because of its mysterious coves and rugged cliffs, making a booking in advance important. Unless you're willing to brave the cool, wet, windy off-season. 

Camping is limited to Quarry Pond during the winter months (after October 31). If you're not camping in a tent, five cabins are available.

Lake Wenatchee State Park

Lake Wenatchee State Park is just 16 miles past Leavenworth, Washington and the perfect camping destination. Lake Wenatchee is a beautiful clear blue lake tucked into the mountains.

While Lake Wenatchee is an incredible camping destination, the standard campsites close after the first snow of the season - typically around mid-November. That being said, the park also offers what they call primitive camping year-round. But a big plus for families is that it has a tubing hill and is great for playing in the snow.

What is primitive camping, you ask? The park notes you will need to pitch your tent with deadman stakes, platform and all. This means you need to use your snow-camping skills, which is rare for many areas in the Pacific Northwest. But it is still an excellent location for beginners because the area is relatively flat, and you can drive up to the sites, so you don't have to pack in any equipment. Additionally, you have access to a warming hut, bathrooms, hot showers and a shelter for cooking, so it's easier than you may think at first glance.

Winter Camping Tips - Pacific Northwest

If you still need to read my article on how to prepare for camping in the rain, start there. There is a lot of rain in the Pacific Northwest, and being wet is one of the worst things when camping, and it's worse in lower temperatures. 

A few other things to consider when it comes to winter camping in the Pacific Northwest is, of course, being prepared for the colder temperatures. 

  • Wool is your best friend. Merino wool base layers are a great way to stay warm. Also, wool blankets.
  • Change of clothes, especially socks. You absolutely do not want to go to bed wearing the same clothes you wore during the day. 
  • Many layers. Always have a base layer, mid layer and waterproof layer at the very least. As I mentioned, Merino wool is a great base layer, a down layer is perfect for the middle and a gore-tex style jacket.
  • Remember your extremities. Toques that cover your head and ears, a scarf maybe and gloves. Consider the type of gloves you have; you may want something warm that also has a grip so you can wear them while setting up camp and doing other activities like chopping wood.
  • Keeping your feet warm is essential, so consider proper winter boots.
  • Bring enough wood to keep a fire going most of the day.
  • Don't sleep directly on the ground. A thick sleeping pad is great, but bring enough blankets to have a blanket on top of the pad, then the sleeping bag and another blanket on top. 

If you're camping in an area where there could be snow, there are other things you will need to consider, but that's for another article. 

Have you ever camped at any of these places? Or do you have another favourite camping spot in the Pacific Northwest? Let me know in the comments. 

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