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What you need to know before camping this summer

The following was first published by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources on June 1st.


The weather’s getting warmer, and that means it’s finally camping season. Many Washingtonians have waited months to get back outdoors, and they’re more eager than ever for recreation after being cooped up by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) we are excited to welcome you back onto public lands and hope you will do your part to keep our lands, our communities safe while outdoors. Restrictions on camping are beginning to loosen, but as people start to venture back into campgrounds, it’s essential that campers do their part to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe. Read on for guidance on responsible camping in Washington state.

When is camping reopening?

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On May 29, the DNR, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commisison (Parks), and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced that camping in 22 counties would begin to to reopen on Monday, June 1 for 22 counties in Washington state.

What do I need to know before I go camping?

The most important thing to do is stay as close to home as possible. If your county is still in Phase 1, please only visit day use facilities in your area. If your county is in Phase 2, you are allowed to go overnight camping (in campgrounds and in dispersed camping areas) within other Phase 2 counties.

If you are in Phase 1, don’t gather with anyone outside your immediate household. If you are in Phase 2, don’t camp in groups larger than 5 people, unless you’re all within the same household. Learn more about Washington’s coronavirus phases here.

Not all counties that are in Phase 2 are opening up for camping. It is best to check with the land manager where you would like to camp to make sure that the camping area is open. Check the status of campsites for DNR-managed land here. Be sure to make a reservation on land managed by Parks and check the list of wildlife areas with established campsites available on WDFW-managed land. 

As always, make sure you and your whole family continue to follow the Recreate Responsibly Guidelines. Those guidelines are: know before you go, practice physical distancing, stay close to home, plan ahead, play it safe, and leave no trace.

Keep our firefighters home

Never forget to put your campfire completely out before leaving it unattended. Remember, campfires are only allowed in dedicated fire rings and are not allowed while dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is when you just find a spot to set up your tent while not being in a designated campsite. More resources on how to have a safe campfire can be found here.

Those are the basics, but let’s break it down even more:

Before you go:

  • Know what is open and make sure to have a Plan B. Most DNR campgrounds are first-come, first-served so they may be full when you arrive.
  • Take everything you need with you (toilet paper, soap, water, hand sanitizer, and face coverings). DNR campsites a primitive and most don’t have running water.
  • Don’t forget to bring your Discover Pass.
  • Be sure pack to all your food and supplies, as businesses may still be closed in the town where you are camping.
  • And, again, stay as close to home as possible.

When you get there:

  • Practice physical distancing, especially with other campers.
  • Make sure to put your campfire out. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
  • Try to avoid cash transactions and bring your own firewood, keeping in mind not to travel too far with firewood (that can spread tree pests — learn more here).
Photo by Adrian on Unsplash.com

More resources can be found at recreateresponsibly.org. If you are out recreating responsibly, make sure to snap a pic, share it with us on social media (use #RecreateResponsibly or #DiscoverDNR), and add a #RecreateResponsibly sticker if creating an Instagram story.

Camping is a great way to get the reprieve that so many people need right now. We at DNR are excited to welcome you back onto our public lands, but we all need to do our part. Recreating responsibly makes it more likely that we can continue to camp all summer long in a secure and sustainable way.

Now, let’s get outside while also staying safe.

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