Top 10 family campgrounds

Splash in the ocean, wade in a lake, ride a bike, or paddle a kayak—these sites will keep kids and parents happy for days

Colorado

Piñon Flats Campground, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

The dunes alone would make this park a must-do for families, but mid-May through June, the sands morph into a delightful swimming hole: Medano Creek’s ephemeral flow creates a shallow channel through the sands that’s perfect for water play. Reservations are essential—the 88-site campground often fills up during “beach” season—but the experience is worth the extra planning. Fishing; $20; $3/person park entry; nps.gov/grsa.

Nevada

Nevada Beach Campground, Lake Tahoe

Wake to the sight of Lake Tahoe shimmering in the morning sun at this quiet 46-site campground occupying the sandy eastern shore, south of Zephyr Cove. Sites 22, 23, and 24 sit closest to the water and offer pine-filtered mountain views. A short walk to the swimming beach (Tahoe’s widest) lets families splash in relative solitude: This lakeside paradise almost never feels crowded, since the huge, nearly mile-long beachfront disperses visitors. Fishing; $32; open May 16–Oct 12; fs.usda.gov.

Oregon

Fort Stevens State Park, Hammond

The military structures at Fort Stevens State Park protected the mouth of the Columbia River from the Civil War through the 1940s—and now they’re just one attraction at this 4,200-acre, 530-campsite tract along the Pacific 93 miles northwest of Portland. Nine miles of flat, paved biking trails? Check. Nine miles of easy hiking? Check. Beachcombing, a historic shipwreck, three swim- and canoe-friendly freshwater lakes, underground tours, and even a ride in a period military transport truck? But of course. And if hot showers are an attraction, well, the fort has those too. Showers, grocery, fishing, yurts/tent cabins/cabins, and RV/ trailer hookup; from $21; $5 park entry; oregonstateparks.org.   

Tumalo State Park, Bend

Parents will love the piping-hot solar shower and the proximity to Bend (early-morning latte run, anyone?). Kids will love floating down the lazy, crystal-clear Des­chutes River, leaping into swimming holes, and taking part in the Junior Ranger program—collecting passport stamps by identifying plants and animals and learning about the local environment. And no one’s going to complain about the surplus of sunny days at Central Oregon’s Tumalo State Park. Tip: The sites in Loop A are closest to the water. Snag one if you can. Showers, fishing, yurts/tent cabins/cabins, and RV/ trailer hookup; $21; $5 park entry; oregonstateparks.org.   

Washington

Ohanapecosh Campground, Mt. Rainier National Park

Groves of insanely tall old-growth forest. A wild river that runs right through camp. A nature trail that winds past a bubbling hot spring. And, if you’re more adventurous, a 3-mile hike to a nearby waterfall. Ohanapecosh isn’t intimate—it has about 170 sites. But traditionally it’s where families visiting Mt. Rainier gather, marshmallows and all. Fishing; from $12; $15 park entry; nps.gov/mora

Salt Creek Recreation Area, Port Angeles

Once you pull into Salt Creek Recreation Area, you can stay put—no matter if your brood likes basketball, creek swimming, hiking, World War II bunkers, or beaches. Even better: Tongue Point Marine Sanctuary, on-site, has what could be the best tidepooling in the Northwest. And many of the 92 campsites have views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca; on a clear summer night, you might even be able to see all the way to the lights of Victoria, B.C. Showers and RV/ trailer hookup; $22; clallam.net.

Unless noted, these 10 campgrounds have potable water and flush toilets.

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