Do you have the desire to fall asleep listening to the ocean waves? Maybe you just want to take a luxurious trip to the water but don’t want to pay for an expensive luxury hotel. Many campers wonder whether they can pitch their tent right on the beach in Washington and what’s required.
You can camp on the beach in Washington with a wilderness permit displayed outside your tent. Bear canisters are required to keep wildlife out of your food and trash. You may have to travel via boat or hike to reach the designated campgrounds on the beach, so pack as lightly as possible.
If you’re considering going to Washington beaches for your next camping excursion, here’s what you need to know about beach camping.
When you want to experience the best the beach offers, you might want to spend the night.
You can go to bed listening to the rhythmic pounding of the waves and wake up to the sound of seagulls calling overhead.
While many areas are great for camping, beach camping is a unique experience requiring some preparation.
The good news is that camping is permitted on the beach in Washington state. However, there are a few things you should know and prepare for before you pack up your tent and hit the road.
Also, I’ve written an article on the laws on beach camping in the other states of America in case you want to know about other regions.
1. Get a Permit
The first and most important thing you’ll need to do to camp on the beach in Washington is obtain a camping permit. This permit allows you to stay overnight in the public areas of the beach.
Campers who intend to set up camp on the beach may be required to have a backcountry or wilderness permit.
Wilderness permits are required for overnight stays, no matter what time of year you intend to go camping.
In general, permits are issued about a week before your trip. You can print them out from your account on the recreation.gov website.
However, some parks allow you to reserve a walk-up campsite if you prefer to camp on the fly.
Be sure to check with the rules and regulations of the beach you’re interested in to see if a walkup wilderness permit is an option.
If you are camping in certain parts of the beach in Washington, you might be able to obtain your permit at the trailhead for the area.
These are often self-issued, making camping a breeze if you want to spend the night on a lake’s sand or the shore. Otherwise, Recreation.gov tends to handle all the camping permits for Washington beaches.
2. Keep Your Permit Visible
If you intend to camp on the beach, you must let authorities know you have a right to be there. To this end, you should keep your permit posted visibly on the exterior of your tent.
In turn, this allows park rangers and beach patrols to know that you are prepared for this trip and are permitted to be there.
It’s important to note that park rangers come by on patrol to ensure anyone camped out on the beach belongs there. Most often, they come by early in the morning.
If you plan to sleep in, you must ensure the permit is posted. Protecting your pass from wind and water is also a good idea. You can put it inside a Ziploc bag and pin it to the outside of your tent.
The ink may run with exposure to water from the waves, the air, or any potential rain you encounter. A plastic bag protects it without sacrificing visibility.
3. Bear Canisters
When planning a beach camping trip, ensure you’re prepared for the wildlife that can come for a visit. More than just a recommendation, bear canisters are required for beach camping in Washington.
This keeps the smells from your food and snacks from being too enticing for bears, which can cause chaos and real damage.
You should also ensure enough space in your bear canister to store trash. Other smelly items, including toiletries, must also be stored in these canisters.
Keep in mind that this must be a bear canister. Bear sacks hanging from tree branches aren’t permitted while beach camping in Washington.
In some areas, you may be able to borrow bear canisters from the park office. For example, you may be given one for your camping trip at the Olympic National Park.
You can keep the smell of your food away from bears (and other critters) without breaking the budget on some new equipment.
I have written this article on what attracts bears and how you can keep them away. Do check it out!
4. Plan Accordingly
It’s important to note that you can’t set up camp on every beach in Washington.
You must research to ensure your desired beach permits overnight guests and tents on the sand. Specific areas are often designated for campers.
There aren’t necessarily designated campsites, allowing you to set up your tent in the specified area wherever your heart desires.
You can try to stay away from other campers for a little more privacy or stay right in the middle of everything so that you never miss out.
This is great for group camping so that you can stay as close to one another as you like.
If your desired beach doesn’t permit camping right on the sand, you can likely still find nearby campgrounds just a few feet away from the beach.
You’ll still be able to hear the wind and the waves without the hassle of trying to figure out what type of permit you need.
These campsites tend to fill up fast during peak camping season, so be sure to narrow down your search and book early if you know you want specific dates.
I’ve also written an in-depth article on the beginning and end of the camping season in the US. Do check it out!
5. Prepare to Travel
Some of the prettiest beaches you can camp on aren’t accessible from the mainland. Instead, you may have to take a boat across to the seashore.
This means you’ll need to plan the necessary equipment and supplies for your trip. After all, you’ll have to lug them on the boat or ferry ride. Other campsites on the beach are only accessible via a decent hike.
If you must carry all your gear to reach your destination, you must ensure every pound counts. Fortunately, most beach tents are lightweight and won’t be too much of a problem for the hike.
However, you may struggle to carry enough drinking water to get you through the night.
If you want to know about the best beach tents, do check out my guide on some of the most reliable beach tents.
While you can camp on the beach in Washington, there are a few things to remember regarding getting a permit and accessibility.
Come prepared with your bear canisters and pack as lightweight as possible if you need to travel. With the right permit, you can relax and unwind by the ocean for minimal cost!