Sunday, September 28, 2014

Protesting the High Cost of Washington State Campgrounds

Shortly before summers start I attended a ladies campout at Riverside State Park in Eastern Washington State.  It is a lovely Park but I was shocked to discover with recent price increases, the daily rate was nearly $40 per night and showers were an additional cost.  Nearly all campsites within the state system now require reservations making it impossible to travel casually without a set agenda.
The price increases have priced us right out of the state parks market.

I wondered how I could possibly travel for the summer within the state and pay that kind of price tag.  As I faced making reservations I discovered that weekends have been booked far in advance leaving fewer options for those without a home to return to after the weekend.   I wonder how families can possibly introduce their children to the joys of camping and the wonder of our outdoor world in addition the the high cost of living they are face raising children in today's high priced world. 

Many of the BLM campgrounds in the state have also been turned over to the State Campground system to manage and their fate is also reverting to higher camping costs and reservations further reducing the options available for low cost camping.  I understand our state is facing cutbacks and huge budget shortfalls raising questions on how to fund the wonderful campgrounds.


 Would we be priced out of the life I dreamed of ?

Somewhere deep in the crevices of my mind, a plan was developing......Would it be possible to avoid camping at State Campgrounds and still find options that would allow me to circle our state and enjoy the wonders of our state?   Would we find suitable camping alternatives in the areas we wanted to camp?  Can we camp the entire summer without staying in a state campground?

                 Could we do it?
   Would we have to go home early?
What would our camping costs add up to?

So we set out on our Washington Et All Tour with a goal of camping all around the State without camping in the State Campgrounds.  I know my simple protest will not be observed by the state bureaucracy or state officials but it is important (and necessary to me just the same).

During the 58 days I did not camp in a state campground any nights.  I have a portable solar panel so we were able to charge our electronics and keep our trailer battery charged for lights.  I did purchase a  discover pass so that I could access trailheads and other access points around the state as many of the 'best' sights require a discover pass to park in the day use areas. 

So I have been at the calculator adding up the cost of our eight week trip and came up with the numbers.

Total miles traveled    3797 miles                                                              Cost of gas  $1183.82
                                                         $ 591.91 per month of travel

Number of total nights      58 camping nights
Number of free nights       18 x 0 = 0                                                     40 nights camping = $ 307
                                     Average cost per night for 58 nights camping.............$5.29

              Stay tuned for the next post.......... 
       How We Found Free or Low Cost Camping Options

~ Happy Trails~



  1. I agree that state parks in many states have gotten totally out of hand. They often cost significantly more than a privately owned RV park. This is really sad. Looking forward to seeing how you found your your alternatives.

  2. AZ. also has done this but not as high as your state yet. There is also a $5. fee to make a reservation. And a few years ago they hit the RV Parks with a high Tx charge also. There is a county park that was $10. a night and you couldn't get in for the crowds. The price jumped to $20. and you can always find a space now. Yes we all understand the rise in costs for things but if no one uses these Parks anymore where is the win?

  3. Yes,there are reservation fees here also . $6.00 if made on the web, $8.00 if made by phone. Mostly the Parks are still full at least on weekend, it is just that many people are priced out of these wonderful resources.

  4. And add $5 more if you are a non-resident of WA State! I stayed at two state parks this summer -- Cape Disappointment, and Moran on Orcas Island. Both were the most I have ever spent on a campground in my life! It is a growing concern, especially when the mobile population seems to be expanding!

  5. We, too, steered clear of WA state parks this summer. I think the reservation systems are even worse than the high prices, since we hate having a set schedule. But I guess it works for people on summer vacations who don't want to arrive to a full campground. And most folks on short vacations don't care what a campsite costs. We have a different mindset being full time RVers.

  6. Way to go, girl! I need to learn where some of these less expensive sites are located. I have never added up the gas or the reservations but then I don't travel as much as you do. I am looking forward to camping at more 'homes' rather than State Parks. Looking forward to hooking up with you next summer.

  7. Great to see you found viable alternatives! Happy Camping


  8. Excellent post! I've found the same thing. I have several parks in South Carolina on the water that I just love and they have gone to $40 a night as well. Out of my price range for sure and there is no weekly or monthly rate. You can't stay for a month regardless of what you are willing to pay. So I've given up going there. The problem of course is that the parks are not getting the share of our tax dollars that we would like them to have. And there are enough week-enders and week long campers for whom this is their vacation and they don't care what it costs. It's still way cheaper for them than a hotel/motel. Wish someone could talk about low cost/free camping on the east coast. There aren't many alternatives to state parks in those states. And I too just hate reservations. Great post.

  9. Unfortunately camping in nice areas in some states will soon be for the wealthy only. Or vacationers who can afford the park fees. That's why I don't travel the West Coast states. If you guys could drive to New Mexico and purcahse an (out-of stater's) New Mexico State Park annual permit for $225, you could stay the entire year FREE after that and camp in some beautiful places. As long as you have your solar panels for power, the water and dump site are free. And with the pass the electric sites are only $4/night. This is the best bargain for a full timer I can imagine. I don't know how New Mexico does it, but I love this state! :)