There is nothing quite like camping on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. We love established campgrounds and their access to amenities. These locations are always close to incredible adventures, just out the van door. Yet, for many of us, there is a calling to break from the mold and head out on a new path. We have a longing to get away from the crowds and predictability, enticing us to find someplace to camp for a night or two far from the regular route. With your Peace Vans Rental vehicle, you can follow this desire and find primitive and dispersed campsites, pulling into a place that is far from the trodden trips that everyone else takes. The Olympic Peninsula is perfect for adventures like these, as the National Forest and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land has hundreds of sites and locations for the most rugged styles of camping you could want. While there is an endless list of spots to spend a night or two, we have highlighted 12 of the best, giving you a taste of the ruggedness and wilderness without having to blindly drive down dirt roads.
These sites aren’t for everyone, though. If you have small kids that would benefit from playgrounds, or you’re not quite sure a poorly maintained vault style toilet is your style, feel free skip over these and stick the gorgeous state, national and private campgrounds on our main itinerary page.
When dispersed camping on DNR or Olympic National Forest land, please remember these three rules: 1) Choose a campsite screened from roads and trails, and at least 200 feet from water. 2) Use a campsite that’s already been established, if possible. 3) If you choose a new site, return the site to its natural condition when you leave.
Finally, before heading out to one of the destinations below, always contact the agency in charge of the camping area to make sure that the spots are open and accessible. For information on Olympic National Forest camping, click here. For information on DNR land, click here.
Found just west of Port Angeles, on the hills above the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Sadie Creek Campground is a perfect place to escape from the more crowded campgrounds in the region. Close to the Sadie Creek Trails, which are a 30-mile trail and road system, campers here can take a short hike and take in the stunning views of the Salish Sea, Vancouver, BC and the San Juan Islands. At the campground, you will find six first-come, first-serve campsites with minimal amenities. You’ll have a fire pit, a picnic table, drinking water and toilets. Surrounded by trees and access to the hiking trail from your site, this area is perfect for those hoping for a great basecamp on the northern Olympic Peninsula. The campground is just a few miles from Murdock Beach, giving you the option for a day along the salty shores. Be aware that the Sadie Creek campground is located on Washington State DNR land.
Lyre River Campground
Also found west of Port Angeles, the Lyre River Campground is a classic, providing incredible access to fishing just a half mile from the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. During the salmon runs of the spring and fall, this campground is a popular place for anglers from all over. The rest of the year, the campground is pretty quiet, drawing in visitors looking for a place to spend the night away from the masses of the other, more popular camping areas. If you are looking for a short jaunt to beach access, or just a day of sitting along a lazy river, this spot is for you. The 11 sites for camping at the Lyre River Campground don’t have a ton of amenities, but the campground does have drinking water, toilets and a shelter. Your site on Washington State DNR land will have a picnic table and fire pit.
Coppermine Bottom Campground
Located along the Clearwater River on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, the Coppermine Bottom Campground is a mostly-unknown gem along the Clearwater River. Miles from anywhere, those leaving Forks or Quinault for this camping area should stock up on supplies and gas before heading out. The campground is found roughly 20 miles from Highway 101 and is perfect for anyone looking to get into the backroads of the Olympic Peninsula. Most of the drive is along paved roads, but the last three miles to get here are on a moderately used gravel road. Once at the camp, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of the river and forest, as well as wowed by the seclusion. At the Coppermine Bottom camping area, there are 10 sites, vault toilets, a group shelter and not much else. Make sure you bring water or be prepared to boil/filter the water in the area.
Yahoo Lake Campground
Also located along the Clearwater River area, the Yahoo Lake Campground is one of the best, secret camping areas on the Peninsula. While the campground itself is a walking tent area, for just two parties, the area around it makes for great dispersed camping. Located at 2,400 feet above sea level, the area is one of the highest car-camping destinations on the west side of the Peninsula. The lake is the main draw here, surrounded by second growth forests and perfectly positioned for stunning sunrises and sunsets. At the lake, there is also a vault toilet, but no other amenities in the region. You’ll need to bring water, or boil/filter anything you get from the area. This is truly a gem; and if you are looking for the ultimate unique camping spot, Yahoo Lake is for you.
Found along the Queets River, the popular days of the Matheny Creek area have vanished, due to a washout of the road past the creek. Today, when most go to explore the Queets Rainforest, they take the road to reach the upper stretches in Olympic National Park. Matheny Creek is downstream and rarely visited, making it a perfect place for roadside camping in the Olympic National Forest. Here, you’ll find a few pulloffs along the road, suitable for camping. There are no other amenities around, so be ready to enjoy being completely in the wilds. Along the river, you’ll see elk, beaver, river otters, eagles and maybe even a black bear or two. This place is pretty wild, so be ready for solitude!
Beaver Lake Camp
Found roughly 20 miles north of Forks, Beaver Lake Camp is another hidden gem. Found along Burnt Mountain Road off of Highway 101, the camping at Beaver Lake is awesome, if you can grab a spot. Nestled against the overlooked lake, the camping here is pretty limited, with just a handful of pull off spots found. Don’t let that dissuade you, though, as this area is typically only busy on summer weekends. The best spots are found just four miles from Highway 101, on the right side of the hard-packed gravel. Here, you’ll find a turnout with two sites, one large and one small. Both sites have picnic tables and fire pits, giving you a chance to enjoy being outside along the lake.
Campbell Tree Grove
Found along the West Fork of the Humptulips River, roughly 50 miles from Aberdeen, the Campbell Tree Grove camping area is another largely overlooked place to spend a night or two. Tucked away, deep in the dense and wonderful forests of the Humptulips, or the “Hump” as locals call it, this campground is seasonally open from late May to November. When open, this area sees medium usage, giving you a taste of the wild without being completely alone. At the campground, don’t expect much. You’ll have a fire area and access to a vault toilet, but no water. While lacking in amenities, the Campbell Tree Grove in Olympic National Forest will give you the chance to camp in an impressive stand of old growth, making this a truly special place for all who stay here.
Found along the spectacular South Fork of the Skokomish River, near Shelton and Hoodsport, the Brown Creek Campground is a great place to stay for families or those looking for remote, yet maintained, camping. This Olympic National Forest camping area is pretty popular. Brown Creek is open year round, but May through September is the best time to go. During this time, Brown Creek offers 20 sites, three vault toilets, picnic tables, fire pits and drinking water. The rest of the year, there is no drinking water available. When staying here, you’ll have direct access to the scenic and family-friendly Brown Creek Nature Loop Trail, as well as be close to the myriad of trails that explore the region. Brown Creek is a classic and a favorite, making it the perfect place to go when you want to be somewhere a little less well-known.
Mildred Lakes Trailhead and the Hamma Hamma River
The Hamma Hamma River on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula is an outdoor explorer’s dream. Offering stunning trails to mountain tops, shimmering high alpine lakes and spectacular views, it is little wonder why this area is popular. Camping here may be crowded, especially in the summer months. However, if you get a chance, drive down and see if you can snag a spot; it is all gorgeous. Along the Forest Service Road, there are numerous dispersed camping options, as well as an actual campground. The best dispersed camping is found past the Lena Lake Trailhead. You’ll see a great spot on the right, down near a creek, roughly 1.5 miles past the Lena Lake parking area, while other spots can be found closer to the Mildred Lakes Trailhead. At the Mildred Lakes Trailhead, you’ll see a few spots to pull off and spend a couple of nights, giving you access to views of the Hamma Hamma River and the incredibly scenic Hamma Hamma Falls.
Mount Ellinor Road
A short drive from Hoodsport, off of Highway 101, will give you access to a favorite dispersed camping spot high above the Hood Canal. Located on the eastern side of the Olympics, the road to Mount Ellinor weaves its way up the steep slopes, eventually arriving at a trailhead to a stunning mountain top hike. Along the dirt road to the start of the hike, you’ll come to a wide bend with a pull off on the left as you head up. This is one of the most scenic dispersed camping areas on the Olympic Peninsula, sure to quickly become a favorite. Here, you will have zero amenities, but will have a view of sunrise over the entire Pacific Northwest. If you love views of lakes, the Puget Sound, Mount Rainier and the rest of Western Washington, this campsite is for you. Be aware that this Olympic National Forest camping area is incredibly popular, especially on weekends. To have the best shot at snagging this site, expect to arrive early on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Also found along the Hood Canal side of the Olympic Peninsula, the Collins Campground is a great place to camp in Olympic National Forest. Located a half hour north of Hoodsport, and along the scenic and often overlooked Duckabush River, Collins is seasonally open from May to September. At the camping area, you’ll find 16 campsites that will work for your van, each with a fire pit and a picnic table. There are vault toilets here, but no drinking water; so plan ahead. The campground itself is incredibly scenic and wild, near incredible hiking opportunities along the Duckabush River. Keep in mind that on weekends, this camping area can be quite popular. This is another local favorite, and we are sure you’ll love it, too.
Forest Road 2870
Found on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, close to Sequim and Port Townsend, Forest Road 2870 is an incredible place for dispersed camping in the late spring, summer and early fall. All along this road, you’ll find pullouts that make for perfect, amenity free camping. Some sites offer stunning mountain views, others are close to beautiful rivers, but all will get you into the wilds of the Olympics. The further up you drive on this road, the more wild and rugged it gets, giving any level of camper a chance to find something perfect. There is an established campground right off of Highway 101 called the Dungeness Forks Campground, but if you are looking for something far from anyone else, keep driving. Your best bet for great, remote camping just off the dirt road will be between the Lower Dungeness Trailhead to the Tubal Cain Trailhead.