Labor Day hikes and last-minute camping ideas

It’s almost Labor Day weekend. I don’t want to say it, but for many that means the end of summer. Or at least the beginning of the end. So you really should make the most of it.

If you’d like to head out for a camping trip but don’t have reservations, here are some ideas.

I’ve also collected a few hiking suggestions below if you’d like to get outside but don’t want to camp.

Go early. If you arrive early at a campground, you have a much better chance of getting a spot. If your whole group can’t go, consider sending a single person ahead early to save a spot. Just tell your boss you’re sick. Go ahead, we’ll cover for you. Call it a mental health day.

Consider a non-official site. The Forest Service has many areas where you can camp that aren’t official sites. The Mountain Loop Highway is a good example. These sites won’t have any facilities, so be prepared to bring or treat your own water. And know that you won’t have a toilet, so know how to properly deal with human waste. Drop by a ranger station to check on details. Ranger stations are fabulous resources. And if you need one, you can get a Northwest Forest Pass for parking at trailheads. For state land, you will need a Discover Pass.

Consider your options. We have a list of places to camp in the county here. Many of these campgrounds have first-come, first-served sites. State parks fill up quickly, but many of them also have first-come, first-serve sites. Check here to explore your choices. National parks will also fill up quickly, but if you can go early, they do have first-come sites. Details: Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park and Olympic National Park.

Consider backpacking. If you’re the backpacking sort, then you can get away from the crowds. By this point in the season, most trails are snow-free, giving you plenty of options. The WTA is a great place to start for ideas on where to backpack.The weather looks like it’s going to be decent for the weekend, but, of course, check before you head out.

A note on fires: Be careful with fires. While we have had some rain recently, that doesn’t mean the fire danger is over. Fires are not allowed on DNR lands east of the Cascades, although they are allowed in approved pits west of the Cascades. Get more information on fire rules and prevention here. Get more information on active fires here.

Go hiking

I recently collected some of my favorite hikes here. Also consider Minotaur Lake. It’s short and steep but gorgeous. Blanca Lake is at the top of my list. I haven’t made it out there yet, but the brilliantly colored water is gorgeous in photos. Also consider hikes at Cascade Pass in the North Cascades. The access road was recently repaired after a washout.

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