Pacific Northwest: Camping

More detail about the campgrounds our Pacific Northwest trip. We stayed at a couple municipal campgrounds (Campground by the Lake, Saratoga Lake Campground), a commercial campground, NFS and BLM campgrounds, national park campgrounds and dispersed camped.

Picture galleries are interspersed through out this post. Click on a picture to view in a new window.


  1. Kalaloch Campground: Camping on the a bluff over the Pacific Ocean? Only way it would have been better was some sunnier weather. We had to play the walk-up game and camped the first night in B-17 (spur within the A loop). This site was spacious and relatively level. It was farther away from the bluff in the trees. On the second night we scored the bluff site A-25, a large rather private site with trees and bushes separating us from neighbors on both sides. A-27 is a very similar site. Some minor leveling was required in A-25. D loop prime sites are D-24 to D-30; D-24 is on the bluff while the other sites are across the road from bluff. All have clear views of the ocean.
  2. Lone Fir Campground: Just off of WA-20 in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, this campground is tucked in amongst the trees with a creek running along the back campsites. These sites (~14 to ~20) are the prime sites and were occupied when we came through. We camped in site 23, which was level and a pull through. This was one of the larger sites at the campground. Sites 23 – 26 are large and would be top on our list for camping in despite the proximity to the (little traveled) road.
  3. Water Canyon Recreation Area: This is a campground on BLM land near Winnamucca, NV. This canyon has a creek running through it. Along that creek are apsens; creating a stark contrast with the surrounding desert. After crossing onto BLM land, there is a campsite up the road approximately 1 mile. This site has  along the creek and is lower than the road. It is a little hard to see because there is a site adjacent to the road, don’t be fooled, this a separate site in a prime location. Continuing another mile up the road, there is another site right along the creek in a large clearing. We didn’t level up on this site as well as we would have liked, but it nice. Alex was able to play in the creek and we hiked up the upper access road (closed in the winter). There are additional campsites accessible if you have a high clearance vehicle.

Least Favorites:

None really. If anything we found South Beach State Park to be a little crowded, but it was close to town and had beach access. We weren’t on the beach, but close enough.

Also note that the bike path in South Lake Tahoe is a joke. It is narrow and unpaved at places. Where it is unpaved the transition is from bumpy black top to sand. If riding at night, a bright light is a must.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise:

Lava Beds National Monument: We did not know what to expect heading to this campground. The campground is at the south end of the park, and fortunately for us, we came in the south entrance. We arrived to find a nice mix RV and walk-in tent spots. We stayed in B23, one of the larger sites that could accommodate a RV in the mid-30 foot range. Most sites were relatively flat. Be sure to check the site stubs closely, we found that were several days expired; it doesn’t seem that the rangers come through that often to remove the expired stubs.

The campground was within a quarter mile of two caves (Indian Wells and Mushpot) and the visitors’ center. The visitors’ center had a great brochure outlining the difficulty of the caves. There were several trail heads within the campground or at the visitors’ center that provided access to a variety of caves.

Commercial Campground:

Camp Coeur d’Alene got our business because we needed to dump and our RV dump station app had already failed us twice. Combined with Alex waking up early from a nap, our goal to push further east was thwarted. Technically camped along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene and took Alex out on a paddle boat. There was plenty of space for Alex to run around. We dumped our black and grey tanks, filled up with fresh water, and did laundry to ensure clean underwear all the way home.

Dispersed Camping:

After a successful dispersed camping experience in Bighorn National Forest during our Northern Rockies trip, Dave was looking forward to another positive experience. This experience did not start out as well as it was difficult to determine where the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest began and private property ended. It also didn’t help that we were on the fringes of the national forest and the road passed in and out of the forest.

We found a decent spot to pull off the road and set up camp. Slightly pitched to the left and front, we decided to walk further up the road. The view did not disappoint.

The night was a little creepy – Jess heard a four wheeler come down the hill and was positive it stopped near the RV. She then thought she heard someone(s) walking around the RV. The dogs did not bark, but she woke up Dave anyway. It was not a restful night, although everyone came out of the experience unharmed. If we had continued on MT-43E for about 10 more miles, we would have come upon a campground just shy of I-15. This campground was along the Big Hole River in a stand of trees. If you are in the area, check this campground out before going off into the wilderness.


Northern California: Summary

Route for our Northern California Adventure.

Our northern California excursion made leaving much harder. We realized that there were so many more adventures we wanted to go on while in California. Unfortunately, the timing did not work out. We will be back someday.

Our route was just shy of 1000 miles, at 982. We averaged approximately 16 mpg for the trip. Abby felt very sporty without the cargo trailer.



Favorite Campgrounds

  1. Wesport-Union Landing State Beach: Our favorite campground of the trip. Camped on a bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean. What more can you ask for? Beach access? Even better. Fantastic campground that the locals know about. You can grab a spot as soon as someone leaves. Make sure there isn’t an item left at the site indicating that a camper is coming back.

    Beach that can be accessed from the Westport-Union campground.
    Beach that can be accessed from the Westport-Union campground.
  2. Manzanita Lake Campground, Lassen Volcanic National Park: Our second favorite campground. This park has versatility. Hiking, skiing and snowboarding (in June!), and lake activities. A very nice park and informative visitors center. Really enjoyed our hike up to Crags Lake. Other trail-heads accessible in or near the campground; other trails through out the park.

    View near Crags Lake.
    View near Crags Lake.
  3. Stand of young redwoods.
    Stand of young redwoods.

    Mill Creek Campground, Redwood National and State Park: Some sites were in some very dense tree cover. We had a sunnier site with a creek directly behind us – Alex loved splashing in the water. Lots of hikes accessible from the campground.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise

  1. Hidden Spring, Humboldt State Forest: Primarily tent camping and some smaller RV and trailers. Abby is only 24 feet and we were glad she wasn’t bigger. We could hike to a beach/swimming hole at the Eel River. Sites are well spaced.

Least Favorite Campground

  1. Mad River Rapids RV Park: Commercial campgrounds are not our first choice. But there was cell service here and that is what we needed for Jess’ phone interview. So here we stayed.

June 23, 2016 – Westport Union Landing State Beach

Route: US-101S

CARoute05We did not do this drive in one day. It actually took us two. We stopped and stayed at Mad River Rapids RV Park (clean, nice bathrooms, laundry, just a little too developed for our preferences) in McKinleyville, CA the night of June 21st. Cell reception was critical for the morning of the 22nd because Jess had a phone interview for a job. The saving grace of this stop was Six Rivers Brewery, just 5 minutes away from our campground. We enjoyed their beers.

Just south of Eureka, we debated on taking Mattole road along the lost coast. It is a beautiful drive; we have done it before in a rental car and motorcycle. However, it is twisty with lots of up and downs. We decided not to abuse Abby that badly a few weeks before our move to Colorado. We decided to enjoy the drive along Avenue of the Giants for the scenic portion of our drive.

History: Westport and Union Landing were towns supported by the lumber industry. A complex wharf and chute system was used to load the schooners anchored beyond the dangerous rocks with lumber, tanbark, shingles, wool, oats and railroad ties from the bluffs. The town struggled through boom and bust cycles, and the Great Depression diminished Westport further. The town survives today, unlike other lumber towns along the coast.


With our late start on the 22nd, we started to look for camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. We were shut out the previous night at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park; this park is very popular and after hiking to Patrick’s Point, it was clear why. Make a reservation, it will be worth it. We were cautiously optimistic about finding a spot in Humboldt Redwoods. The Burlington campground, where we (minus Alex) camped in 2010 was full, and the park staff recommended Hidden Springs. This was a fantastic recommendation. We selected site 9, which was level and had a nice area for Alex and the dogs. There was some road noise, but the number of cars traveling on the road decreased significantly after dusk.

We got off to an early start on Thursday and as we drove by Westport Union Landing State Beach we saw campsites set up. We stopped to investigate and discovered that this is a first come, first serve campground. We snagged a spot for two nights. Initially, there looked to be a limited number of spots, but there are three camping areas.


View from Patrick's Point towards Wedding Rock.
View from Patrick’s Point towards Wedding Rock.

Various hiking trails are available at Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Prairie Creek. Prairie Creek will have ocean view trails. At the Eel River swimming hole in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Alex took great joy in throwing rocks into the river. It is an activity he enjoys.

Alex waiting for a wave to come in so he can throw a rock into the ocean.
Alex waiting for a wave to come in so he can throw a rock into the ocean.
Penny and Chewie running on the beach.
Penny and Chewie running on the beach.

2016_Coast05Westport Union Landing State Beach has, well, the beach. This can be walked to and at low tide you can find sand crabs, crabs, giant anemones, and mussels. Alex took a little bit to warm up to the beach and preferred to walk on the harder sand exposed during low tide. Once he discovered this surface, he was eager to run up and down the beach. The dogs were excited to frolic in the surf.

Fort Bragg is about 15 miles down the road. Fort Bragg is the home of North Coast Brewing Company and their very tasty beers. There is a tourist train, called the Skunk Train, that takes riders on a forty mile tour through redwoods and mountain meadows. We missed an opportunity to take Alex on a train ride that he would have loved. There is also Glass Beach, where beauty has resulted from a former city dump.

Overall: Fantastic camping spot. Need to be quick to grab a site. The proximity to Fort Bragg provides extra activities. We could have spend our entire trip camped out on the bluffs.

Morning view from our campsite.
Morning view from our campsite.