Summer camping in the Pacific Northwest is a bit of a blood sport, from securing reservations to overcrowded campgrounds. Yet winter doesn’t quite lend itself to muddy, wet tent camping — when available. Luckily, a range of public and private outdoors-ish options await the intrepid and timid alike.
One newcomer to the regional scene is Getaway, a national chain with two Washington State sites near Mt. Adams (deep in South-Central Washington forests) and the newest in Skagit Valley, about 75 minutes north of Seattle. These tiny-house-style cabins feature giant wall-to-wall-to-ceiling windows with forest views.
Getaway cabins offer the basics — bed and linens, private bathroom, heat, stove, minifridge and cooking items, sink and more — but you won’t pick up a cell signal here, as stays are meant to keep you off the grid.
A similar small-scale stay can be found at the six Rolling Huts in the frequently-snowy Methow Valley, although the huts are Wi-Fi equipped. Simple accommodations at “The Herd” include a sleeping platform, modular furniture, fridge, microwave and fireplace. You’ll have to walk to a shared facility for full bathrooms and showers, similar to car camping in a state campground.
Yet nature-lovers can still roll into Washington State Parks for winter camping at yurts, cabins and other “rustic shelters.” Year-round, people can stay at Washington State Park’s Cama Beach’s historic bungalows and cabins, or yurts at seven state parks, such as Cape Disappointment’s yurts well-located for storm-watching on the Long Beach Peninsula.
Canvas-covered yurts range in size but typically feature a skylight so you can star-watch all night and lighting and heat so you won’t freeze or stumble while doing so. However, depending on the yurt or property, you may find a bathroom inside a communal facility down a path. With the state campgrounds, it’s camping lite: BYOL (bring your own linens) and cooking supplies and prepare to walk to bathrooms.
Privately owned KOA campgrounds offer simple (no bathroom, no kitchen) and deluxe cabins (full bathroom and kitchen), all with heat and TV. A few log-built structures with porch swings may be just the right amount of rustic for some. Particularly considering that the campgrounds are near popular winter destinations such as Leavenworth and Ellensburg in Central Washington. Ellensburg’s KOA also offers a riverfront tipi with four single beds, a heater, microwave and minifridge and a Keurig coffee machine.
Unsure whether you want to fully commit to winter camping? Stay nearby. About 27 miles east of Seattle, the Tolt MacDonald Park & Campground offers six heat- and electricity-equipped yurts across a 500-foot suspension bridge crossing the Snohomish River. The King County Park also offers a “camping container” radiant heat, upcycled from its previous life as a shipping container. Not far away, Snohomish County also provides stays in their “yurt village,” with off-peak Sunday-Thursday pricing.
Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island takes everything up a notch. Cozy up in the resort’s soft-sided, 24-diameter yurt with 450 square feet of living space and an outdoor hot tub. This suite side of camping includes a king-size bed, sleeper sofa, gas fireplace, dining table, fridge and microwave, Smart TV, bathroom and more.
Bird’s eye views can be enjoyed in treehouses sprinkled throughout Washington State. In Southwest Washington’s Columbia River Gorge, the Skamania Lodge’s luxurious six treehouses boast decks, indoor/outdoor fireplaces and options for couples or families. The newest treehouses are unusual due to height alone — built 40 feet up.
Dozens of secluded Airbnb treehouse stays are available along the I-5 corridor, including roomy homes on stilts, perches, and houses built around trees. One of the more notable may be Sir Cedric’s Cedar Tree House, which centers around a four-foot-wide Western Red Cedar in Ferndale, near the Canadian border.
Airbnb offers a host of glamping options open in winter, including yurts, tiny houses, airstreams, and quirky stays such as a hobbit house on Bainbridge Island, the Grain Bin Inn on a Pasco farm, or the underground Corner Getaway BnB in Sequim.
If you’ve ever been tempted by vanlife, consider trying it out first with a Peace Van rental. Take a 4-person restored VW Vanagon or modern Mercedes Metris camper van for a road trip between year-round campgrounds; each van comes with a built-in kitchen and pop-up sleeping accommodations.
Finally, for those hoping for a beachside getaway, mosey down to the 30+ trailers corraling at the Sou’wester Historic Lodge and Vintage Travel Trailer Resort on the Long Beach Peninsula. The resort’s trailers range from rustic, no-bathroom two-person options to a birch-paneled family 1950s trailer or luxury bus with clawfoot tub, all just a few minutes from the shore.
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