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The Best Free Campsites in the Pacific Northwest

Campsites in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest is known for its beautiful and diverse landscapes, including temperate rainforests, alpine tundra, and a stunning coastline. The region features plenty of pristine undeveloped land where you can unplug and experience nature to the fullest. Looking to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the natural world? This list is for you.

We’ve rounded up thirteen of the best van-friendly BLM and USFS boondocking campsites in the region, many of them just a stone’s throw from National Parks, National Forests, and other unique attractions. Even better, every campground on this list is 100% free, so you can spend as long as you want to explore the PNW without breaking the bank.

 

Cannon Beach

 

OREGON

Crater Lake
Where to Van Camp: FR 960
Why we Love it: This hillside camping area is known for its expansive views over the forest. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a mere 30-minute drive to the pure blue waters of the volcanic Crater Lake, which is the deepest lake in the U.S. and a major attraction in Oregon.

Thor’s Well
Where to Van Camp: Free Overnight Parking at Thor’s Well
Why we Love it: While this spot isn’t actually a campground, the coastal location and ability to park for free overnight make it a winner for van dwellers. Be sure to check out Thor’s Well, an unusual rock formation that seems to drain the waters of the Pacific into a dramatic chasm.

Trillium Lake
Where to Van Camp: Trillium Lake Dispersed Camping
Why we Love it: Mt. Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon, is around 30 minutes away from this lakeside camping area. Wake up to spectacular views of the mountain, then enjoy warm-weather activities at the lake including swimming, fishing, and even kayak and canoe rentals.

Siuslaw National Forest
Where to Van Camp: Sparrow Park Dispersed
Why we Love it: This beachside campground is your jumping-off point for hikes in the lush forests of the coastal mountains or visits to the nearby Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. After a day of exploring different terrains, watch the sunset with your toes in the sand.

Cannon Beach
Where to Van Camp: Cole Mountain Rd Dispersed Camping
Why we Love it: The appeal of this spot isn’t the campground itself, but the access to Cannon Beach just 15 minutes away. Visit this iconic Oregon beach to marvel at Haystack Rock jutting out of the water, then head into town for shops and restaurants.

 

Olympic National Park

 

WASHINGTON

Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Where to Van Camp: North Fork Campground
Why we Love it: This hiker’s paradise is smack dab in the middle of three of the state’s most important peaks, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mount St. Helens. The campground itself is nestled in the bright green forest and has more amenities than most free sites.

Baker Hot Spring
Where to Van Camp: Dispersed Camping at Baker Hot Spring
Why we Love it: Nothing is better than camping for free near your own personal (and also free) spa in nature. Baker Hot Spring is a small public hot spring surrounded by conifers and ferns. Camping nearby means you can visit early in the day to avoid crowds and—fingers crossed—have the mineral-rich waters all to yourself.

Olympic National Park
Where to Van Camp: Dispersed Campsite in Olympic National Forest
Why we Love it: This campsite next to the Wynoochee River offers an unforgettable nature experience in the mossy, foggy vegetation of the only temperate rainforest in the contiguous U.S. With mountains, beaches, and forests, the adjacent Olympic National Park is a can’t-miss experience for visitors to the state.

Crawfish Lake
Where to Van Camp: Crawfish Lake Campground
Why we Love it: Most of the sites at this campground in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest look over the sparkling blue Crawfish Lake. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the tables provided, and keep an eye and ear out for common loons on the lake.

 

Sawtooth Range

 

IDAHO

Sawtooth Range
Where to Van Camp: Decker Creek Dispersed Camping
Why we Love it: Start your adventures in the Rocky Mountains in the dramatic Sawtooth Mountain Range. The range features almost 400 mountain lakes formed by receding alpine glaciers. Plus, the peaceful dispersed campground is next to a river.

Kaniksu National Forest
Where to Van Camp: Meadow Creek Campground
Why we Love it: Less than an hour south of the Canadian border, this campground looks like a postcard come to life. Wake up to the sound of flowing water at one of the campsites situated alongside the picturesque Moyie river.

Upper Mesa Falls
Where to Van Camp: Close to Big Spring River Launch
Why we Love it: This campground is around 45 minutes from one of Idaho’s top natural attractions, Upper Mesa Falls. Enjoy a scenic drive or hike around the stunning waterfalls, which are as tall as a ten-story building.

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
Where to Van Camp: Silver Creek North and South
Why we Love it: Enjoy a mellow camping experience next to a creek, then drive 1.5 hours to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. The otherworldly ocean of black lava rock is straight out of a sci-fi movie.

 

Upper Mesa Falls

 

These campgrounds are far off the beaten path, which is exactly what makes them so special. However, that also means you’ll have to take a few steps to ensure you can find them. These little-known campgrounds won’t appear in most places on the internet, but all of them are listed on the FreeRoam app—just search the exact name listed above and be sure to save directions beforehand as many of the spots don’t have cell service.

Whether your Pacific Northwest trip lasts a few days or a few months, traveling in a van offers the best of both worlds—you get to have authentic, raw nature experiences in remote locations and a cozy home base to stay dry in the PNW’s notoriously rainy weather. Visit Rec Van today to take the first step towards your next adventure.

 

Thor's Well

 

As you pack up for your rec van adventure in the Pacific Northwest, don’t forget to make plans for your meals! To help you prep your food, check out our guide on How to Plan A Variety of Meals in Your Van Kitchen. From recipes to master tips, we’ll help you ensure that you’re fueled for your time in the great outdoors!

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