GUIDE: Last-Minute Camping in the Pacific Northwest

No reservations? No problem. Welcome to the return of the spontaneous camping trip. You just need to know where to go, and how to snag a campsite!

Below is Northwest TripFinder’s exclusive guide to more than 85 great public campgrounds in Washington and Oregon with campsites that don’t accept reservations. Now you can wake up, have a yearning for fresh mountain air, pack the camping gear into the car and just… go!

Don’t forget the tent poles, stove fuel or bug spray! Read about every item you need for camping and what it is used for, and never leave an item at home by using our car camping checklist.

This map has been updated for 2018. Note, this is an embedded Google map and it may not display correctly in outdated browsers. If you do not see the map, try a different browser.

How to Use The Map Above

Each blue tent icon on the map above represents a campground (a state park, national park, or national forest campground) where some or all of its campsites are “first-come, first-serve” meaning they don’t accept reservations. To find some possible campsites for your last-minute camping trip, just zoom in to the region you wish to go and click on an icon. A pop-up window will appear that is loaded with information you’ll need to plan your camping trip. Click through the the campground’s official website to confirm details.

Tips for Summer Camping with No Reservations

  • Go mid-week. July and August weekends are the  most popular times for camping throughout the Pacific Northwest, and you’ll have a better chance of snagging a campsite if you go mid-week during those summer months.
  • On weekends, arrive before noon on a Friday. Some of these no-reservations campgrounds are very popular (for example, White River Campground at Mt. Rainier) and may fill up by early Friday afternoon on busy weekends.
  • Have a backup plan, just in case. If your preferred campground is full when you arrive, you’ll want to have a few other nearby campgrounds in mind, or even a cheap roadside motel.
  • Call ahead to the local ranger station and ask for advice. Before you drive all the way to Leavenworth or Bend, a call to the local ranger station can give you a rough idea of just how busy their campgrounds are at the moment, and they may be able to suggest specific campgrounds that are likely to have vacancy.
  • Forget about finding RV hookups. You probably won’t. If you camp in an RV and want hookups, get used to making campground reservations in advance. Plenty of these last-minute campgrounds welcome smaller RV’s and trailers, they just don’t have hookups.
  • Pack a few days in advance. To ensure you get on the road early in the morning, have all your stuff packed in the car by the night before. Make packing easy by using our printable car camping checklist.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

sidney July 4, 2018 at 2:17 pm

places for a 24 foot rv


Lauren Braden July 4, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Hi Sidney,

One quick sidenote: if you’re looking for hookups, most last-minute campsites won’t have them. Just FYI.

However if you just need the space and bring your own propane, etc, you will find a few last-minute options for a 24-foot RV. Not many, though. The best spots for last-minute no-hookup RV camping on public lands are national park campgrounds, and they only allow RV’s to 21 feet.

I regularly use the book “Camping Washington: The Best Public Campgrounds for Tents & Rv’s” by Ron Judd (get it here: which details the exact max RV length a campground allows. This book might be handy for you to have.


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