Washington State is teeming with free dispersed campsites – if you know where to look.
From the Olympic Peninsula to the Cascade Mountains to Eastern Washington, free camping is extremely easy to find in the Evergreen State, whether you’re camping in a tent, van, trailer, or RV.
Rather than attempt to list them all, I’ve rounded up my favorite free campsites in Washington to share with you today.
See also: Best Dispersed Camping Gear for 2021
Best Dispersed Campsites in Washington
Jump to the free dispersed campsite you want to learn more about:
- Olympic Peninsula
- Mountain Loop Highway
- Salmon La Sac Area
- Babyshoe Pass
- Methow Wildlife Area
- Off Mount Baker Highway
- Trout Lake Campground
- Frenchman Coulee
- Mary McCroskey State Park
You can also use our Washington dispersed camping map to browse the state’s best free campsites.
My Favorite Dispersed Campsites in Washington
Start your search for the best dispersed camping in Washington with my three favorite places to go free camping in the state.
Location: Olympic Peninsula
Campers flock to the Olympic Peninsula to explore the beaches, mountains, and rainforests that make up Olympic National Park.
Although the national park campgrounds (Kalaloch Campground is my favorite) are a wonderful paid option, there are plenty of conveniently-located free camping opportunities on every side of the peninsula.
You’ll find an abundance of dispersed camping in Olympic National Forest in addition to 10 free developed campgrounds run by the Department of Natural Resources.
Dispersed Camping in Olympic National Forest
For the most private Olympic Peninsula camping experience, set your sights on dispersed camping in Olympic National Forest.
Broken into three non-contiguous ranger districts, free dispersed camping is allowed pretty much anywhere within the national forest’s boundaries (remember, dispersed camping is not allowed within Olympic National Park itself).
My three favorite dispersed campsites in the Olympic National Forest are Quinault Ridge Road near Lake Quinault, Forest Road 29 just outside of Forks (the best option for RV boondockers), and the many forest service roads near Lake Cushman, most notably along Forest Road 2419.
Finding dispersed campsites in all three of these locations is relatively easy. Just keep your eyes peeled for dirt pullouts and clearings (most with handmade rock fire rings) alongside the road.
Olympic Peninsula DNR Campgrounds
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources operates 10 free campgrounds scattered around the Olympic Peninsula.
Well, they’re not technically free – you’ll need a Discover Pass (just $35 per year) – to stay at a DNR campground. But a Discover Pass does give you “free” access to hundreds of other campgrounds and hiking trailheads throughout the state.
Although these are developed campgrounds (albeit quite primitive with just vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings), I typically prefer them over dispersed camping while visiting the Olympic Peninsula thanks to their convenient locations.
Hoh Oxbow Campground is perhaps the most scenic. It’s set on the Hoh River just off Highway 101 very near the Hoh Rainforest.
Hoh Oxbow as well as nearby Cottonwood and Minnie Peterson Campgrounds all fill up quick, so look to nearby Coppermine Bottom, Upper Clearwater, and South Fork Hoh Campgrounds as backups.
All of these DNR campgrounds accommodate small RVs (between 24 and 30 feet), but Bear Creek and Sadie Creek Campgrounds are best for RV campers.
All Washington State DNR campgrounds are first-come, first-served. No advance reservations are accepted.
For More Info:
Our guide to the best free campsites on the Olympic Peninsula breaks down each free DNR campground in more detail, including maximum RV lengths, road conditions to expect, and any additional amenities (a few do offer running water).
It also shows you exactly where each Olympic Peninsula DNR campground is located on a map.
Call the Olympic National Forest Supervisor’s Office for more information on dispersed camping: (360) 956-2402.
Or, call the ranger station for the ranger district you’re camping within:
- Hood Canal Ranger Station – (360) 765-2200
- Pacific Ranger Station (Forks) – (360) 374-6522
- Pacific Ranger Station (Quinault) – (360) 288-2525
Contact the Washington State Department of Natural Resources at their Olympic Region Office for more information on DNR camping: (360) 274-2800.
Mountain Loop Highway
Location: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Between Darrington & Granite Falls
Mountain Loop Highway is one of the best places for dispersed camping near Seattle.
The seasonal scenic byway (usually open from late spring to early fall, although this depends on snow and road conditions) connects the towns of Granite Falls and Darrington.
Although there are a handful of dispersed campsites available along the paved sections of the road, the best campsites are located along the roughly 14 miles of single-lane unpaved road (dirt/gravel) that connect Barlow Pass and White Chuck River Road – just make sure you’re within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest boundaries before setting up camp.
The best of these campsites sit right on the South Fork Sauk River. Many have easy access to the river itself. A handful of these campsites are hidden from the road, but the majority are partially visible from the road – which does get moderate traffic, so don’t expect complete privacy.
You’ll find a little more peace and quiet by exploring the spur forest service roads. There’s generally less passerby traffic on these roads, although there are far fewer pre-established campsites, at least in my experience. And the campsites are typically much smaller.
RV boondocking on Mountain Loop Highway is possible, but I don’t necessarily recommend it. I’ve seen plenty of smaller trailers and even RVs up to about 25’ make the trek. But there are only a handful of flat open spots, limited areas to turn around, and some very narrow sections with low-hanging branches.
Road conditions are hit and miss. The unpaved section is usually graded just before summer, in early June after the snow melts, but it’s always somewhat rough. It’s best for passenger vehicles (you don’t need 4WD or high-clearance, although they both help). Just expect lots of potholes and washboarding – it’s a slow drive.
Don’t forget to check out the nearby hiking trails while dispersed camping along Mountain Loop Highway. Lake 22 and Big Four Ice Caves are among the most popular. Mount Pugh and Monte Cristo Ghost Town are also worth a look. For a more casual stroll, Old Sauk River Trail is a family-friendly hike that’s mostly flat. There’s even a one-mile ADA-accessible loop.
For More Info:
Mountain Loop Highway is part of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Call the Darrington Ranger District for current road conditions and more information: (360) 436-1155.
Salmon La Sac Area
Location: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Near Cle Elum Lake
The area near Salmon La Sac Road in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is another one of my all-time favorite places for free dispersed camping in Washington.
It’s located just outside of the town of Cle Elum, making it very accessible for those traveling from Seattle (it’s only about two hours from Seattle to the first campsites).
Head towards Salmon La Sac Campground (a very nice developed campground). You’ll see a handful of dispersed campsites along the main road starting right around the northern end of Cle Elum Lake. You can camp at these – just make sure they’re within the national forest boundaries.
My favorite dispersed campsites, however, are located along NF-4330. Take the fork to the right just before Salmon La Sac Road enters Salmon La Sac Campground.
You’ll find amazing dispersed campsites almost immediately. Look for pullouts along the dirt road. Most have handmade rock fire rings. NF-4330 continues for a little over 12 miles before it ends at Tucquala Meadows. Countless dispersed campsites are mixed in with developed campgrounds along this stretch of road.
Know that NF-4330 isn’t great for RVs and trailers. The unpaved road isn’t all that rough, but it is very narrow and steep with many tight, blind curves and several areas with sheer drops.
RV boondockers are better off turning left onto NF-46 towards Cooper Lake. You’ll see dozens of great dispersed campsites (usually dirt pullouts off the main road) on the way up to the lake.
Unlike NF-4330, NF-46 is mostly paved. It’s also much wider and much less steep with fewer curves and no real cliff-like drops. A handful of the campsites here are spacious and level enough for small to medium RVs and trailers. There are no RV size restrictions, but I’d say rigs larger than about 30’ will have issues. I’ve successfully camped here in a 25’ RV with some funky maneuvering.
Lucky tent and van campers can find campsites with access to Cooper River. One campsite, located just before the bridge on NF-4616, sits right where Cooper River meets Cooper Lake. It even has its own private beach. The pullout to the campsite is quite rough but doable in a 4WD or high-clearance vehicle.
With these two general areas in mind, know that there are countless additional options for dispersed camping near Salmon La Sac. The many forest roads here are really fun to explore. Even though the area gets very busy on summer weekends, you can always find a place to camp for free.
This area is only accessible from roughly late-May to late-September (open dates depends on show).
For More Info:
Salmon La Sac dispersed camping is part of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Call the Cle Elum Ranger District for more information: (509) 852-1100
Other Places for Free Camping in Washington
The Olympic Peninsula, Mountain Loop Highway, and Salmon La Sac Road are my three favorite places for free camping in Washington, but here are six more great options.
Location: Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, Near Mount Adams
Forest Road 23 in Gifford-Pinchot National Forest takes you to some of the most remote dispersed campsites in Washington.
Although there are countless dispersed campsites in the area, my favorite are located near Babyshoe Pass (some even have fantastic close up views of Mount Adams).
Arrive from Randle to the north or Trout Lake to the south. Head to either Babyshoe Pass or Council Lake (home to a small free campground) and starting searching for campsites. My favorites are located off Forest Road 2334 and Forest Road 335.
Know that the roads into this area are rough. Expect 9% grades, loose gravel, and rough washboard. Even the paved roads are extremely potholed. Don’t attempt the drive at night. This area isn’t suitable for all but the smallest trailers and RVs.
Because of the high elevation location, the road is only open from early summer to early fall, depending on snow. Check with the Mount Adams Ranger District – (509) 395-3400 – if you plan to visit before July or after August.
Learn more about dispersed camping in Gifford-Pinchot National Forest.
Methow Wildlife Area
Location: Near Winthrop
Try Methow Wildlife Area for some of my favorite dispersed camping near Winthrop on the east side of the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20).
Although your camping options here are numerous, my favorite spots are those near Cougar Lake. I like to camp on the large sandy beach near the lake, but campsites are also available on the way in near the vault toilet.
The campsites at Bear Creek on the way to Cougar Lake are also worth checking out. Even more dispersed campsites are available along the dirt road just past Cougar Lake.
Additional dispersed camping opportunities are available in nearby Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest as well as at Boulder Creek Sno-Park (wide open with lots of room – perfect for large RVs and trailers).
You do need a Discover Pass (just $35 per year) to camp in Methow Wildlife Area and at Boulder Creek Sno Park.
Learn more about dispersed camping in Methow Wildlife Area.
Off Mount Baker Highway
Location: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Near Bellingham
For free dispersed camping near Bellingham, look no further than the forest service roads off of Mount Baker Highway (State Route 542) on the way to Mount Baker.
Dispersed campsites are numerous here – just make sure you’re within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest before setting up camp.
Forest Road 3070 past Silver Fir Campground is an excellent bet as are Forest Road 37 and Forest Road 33 just past Glacier – but turn on pretty much any forest service road and you’ll find plenty of dispersed campsites.
If you’re up for a serious trek (high clearance and 4WD are all but required – no trailers or RVs should attempt the drive), head up to Twin Lakes.
Free camping is available in primitive sites near the lakes. You can also camp at the summit of Winchester Mountain (even in the old fire lookout tower if you’re lucky). A Northwest Forest Pass ($30 per year) is required to park here.
Yet another option, especially for those in RVs and trailers, is to check out one of several sno-parks in the area (such as Salmon Ridge Sno-Park and Canyon Creek Sno-Park) that are open for camping in the summer months.
Learn more about dispersed camping in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Trout Lake Campground
Location: Colville National Forest, Near Kettle Falls
For free camping in northeast Washington, look no further than Colville National Forest.
Although there are countless amazing dispersed campsites and free (or very cheap) developed campgrounds in this area, I personally prefer to head up to Trout Lake Campground near Kettle Falls.
This conveniently located free campground is just 5 miles from Highway 20. It has 6 well-spaced, fairly private campsites. None are all that suitable for RVs or trailers, although smaller rigs can fit into about half of the spots.
The forest roads around Trout Lake, including Trout Lake Road, have ample dispersed campsites.
Keep your eyes open for moose when camping here – and don’t forget to bring your fishing pole!
Learn more about free camping at Trout Lake Campground.
Location: Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, Near Vantage
Just minutes from I-90, Frenchman Coulee is a great free camping spot between Vantage and George.
The scenery here is excellent, but be forewarned – it gets extremely windy. So windy, in fact, that you probably want to sleep inside of a hard-sided vehicle. There’s plenty of space for RVs and trailers.
My favorite camping area is the first one you see as you drive in. It’s a large open space on the righthand side of the road with views of Frenchman Coulee Waterfall.
For tent campers braving the wind, continue past the first dispersed camping area and look for the second open camping area, this time on your left.
These campsites butt up against the Feathers, a popular rock climbing destination. Continue past these rocky pillars for the third and final free camping area, also to the lefthand side of the road.
The dispersed campsites in the third camp area are also well suited for tent camping, especially those closest to the road which are tucked away against a hill which will ideally act as a wind block.
Like many “free” campsites in Washington State, Frenchman Coulee is free – as long as you have a Discover Pass ($35 per year or $11.50 for a single day).
Because of the heavy winds, hot summer temperatures, and abundant rattlesnakes, I only really recommend camping here for those need a cheap resting place just off of I-90, unless you’re a rock climber looking to spend some time at the Feathers.
Frenchman Coulee has great cell service for most, if not all, providers.
Learn more about dispersed camping at Frenchman Coulee.
McCroskey State Park
Location: Palouse, On Border of Washington & Idaho
Mary McCroskey State Park is one of the best places for free camping near Washington’s Palouse region.
Although it’s located just over the state border in Idaho, it’s just minutes from Washington and offers absolutely fantastic views of the Palouse as well as nearby Steptoe Butte.
What I love about camping at McCroskey State Park is the peace and quiet. You’ll see an occasional daytime visitor but I’ve rarely seen other campers here.
The campsites (all free and primitive) are located along the 18-mile Skyline Drive. There are a handful of dispersed campsites as well as many developed campsites, including those in Iron Mountain Campground.
Many of these campsites are spacious, flat pull-thru sites with amazing views. Idaho State Parks recommends a maximum RV length of 28’, although I personally think you can go a little longer – if you’re comfortable driving on winding, gravel roads with minor washboarding.
There are a handful of different ways to access the park. From Washington, you’ll arrive from just outside of Farmington. Coming from Idaho, start in Tensed. Access from Tensed (via King Valley Road) is best for RVs and trailers, in my opinion.
Learn more about free camping at Mary M. McCroskey State Park.
Another Option – Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds in Washington
Washington State has several free campgrounds built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
Almost all of these COE (Corps of Engineers) campgrounds are located along the Lower Columbia River and the Snake River which make them perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming.
I’ve yet to visit all of these, but the ones I have visited have a large paved or gravel parking area for RVs, vans, and other vehicles to park overnight rather than individual campsites. Most also have large grassy areas for tent campers.
Know ahead of time that Washington’s COE campgrounds look more like boat launches, day-use parks, or swimming areas rather than campgrounds.
All of these are first-come, first-served with a 14-day stay limit. All have vault toilets – and a handful have flush toilets. A few even have hot showers. A couple have on-site camp hosts during early spring to early fall. I’m not aware of any that offer RV hookups.
Finding information on Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds is a little difficult. Here are the ones I know about:
- Ayer Boat Basin
- Blyton Landing
- Devils Bench
- Illia Landing
- Little Goose Landing
- Matthews Boat Ramp
- Nisqually John Landing
- Offield Landing
- Riparia Campground
- Roosevelt Park
- Texas Rapids Recreation Area
- Walker Habitat Management Area
- Wawawai Landing
- Willow Landing
- Windust Park
Out of these, Roosevelt Park, Nisqually John Landing, and Windust Park are my favorites.
Roosevelt Park is particularly nice thanks to the flush toilets, free hot showers, and on-site camp host (these amenities are only available from late spring to early fall), although there is some train noise at night plus a heck of a lot of wind (wind surfers and kite boarders flock here).
Use our map to find a free COE campground near you:
How to Find Even More Free Campsites in Washington
The free campsites outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg for free camping in Washington State.
The Evergreen State has literally dozens, if not hundreds, of other free places to camp on public lands. Here’s how to find other dispersed campsites in Washington:
- Apps – FreeCampsites.net, iOverlander, Campendium, and the Dyrt are all useful tools to find free camping in Washington.
- Online Maps – Follow forest service roads in satellite view on Google Maps to find potential dispersed campsites. I also use Gaia GPS and FreeRoam.app to better identify national forest and BLM boundaries.
- MVUM Maps – Stop by a ranger station to pick up a motor vehicle use map for the national forest you plan on visiting. Rangers can also help direct you to nearby dispersed campsites.
Yet another option for free camping in Washington is overnight parking (sometimes called blacktop boondocking) in a parking lot.
This is usually limited to just vans and RVs (you can usually get away with sleeping in your car) – no tents allowed. Walmart often welcomes overnight parking for camping, although this varies from location to location.
Perhaps an even better option in Washington is casino parking lot camping. Many casinos in the state welcome RV campers with open arms, often for free.
As a backup plan, I encourage you to read up on stealth camping in the city. I personally only stealthing camp as a last resort, but it’s a useful way to get a good night’s sleep on a road trip.
Washington State Dispersed Camping Rules and Regulations
Always, always, always follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when camping in Washington.
Dispersed camping outside of a developed campground is one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors – but it’s essential to limit our human impact as much as possible.
Here are a few of the most important things to do:
- Pack Out All Trash – Always pack out all of your trash, including human waste (I use the Luggable Loo as a portable camping toilet), when dispersed camping.
- Properly Store Food – Bears are prevalent in Washington State. Always practice proper camping food storage to avoid attracting wildlife.
- Respect Fire Restrictions – Never have a campfire where they’re banned. Always check and follow all posted fire restrictions.
- Choose Previously-Used Campsites – Technically you can disperse camp pretty much anywhere in national forests or on BLM land (unless otherwise posted), but dispersed camping best practices say to only camp in previously-used campsites (look for dirt pull-outs, fire rings, and other signs of previous visitors).
- Don’t Overstay – Respect all dispersed camping stay limits. Most public land in Washington has a 14-day or sometimes 16-day camping limit.
Following these dispersed camping best practices not only ensures a fun camping experience for the next visitor, but it also helps protect local wildlife and helps avoid closures (both temporary and permanent) that stem from overuse and mistreatment of public lands.
Have Fun Camping in Washington!
Washington State – really, all of the Pacific Northwest – is home to some of the most incredible camping in the United States.
Start your search for the best dispersed campsites and free campgrounds with my suggestions above – but know there are countless other free campsites worth exploring.
Our beginner’s guide to free camping breaks down how to find free campsites in Washington (and anywhere else in the United States) in even more detail to help you find the perfect campsite for your next trip!