The darkest, wettest, windiest months of the year may not seem like prime time for camping.
But it does have its own unique charms, starting with: The crowds are gone.
“If you come on a weekday, a lot of times it’s like having your own waterfront resort,” said Tina Dinzl-Pederson, an interpretive specialist at Cama Beach Historical State Park on Camano Island.
Visitors to the park’s 33 beachfront cabins might spot porpoises, harbor seals, sea lions, orcas and, often seen stalking near the shoreline, great blue herons on the prowl for a fish.
Loons, buffleheads and goldeneyes are among the migratory ducks that can be seen from the park.
The days are short — not much longer than eight hours in December. But the fun doesn’t stop at sunset.
If it’s clear, you can enjoy the stars and moon. If it’s stormy, listen to the wind in the trees and waves breaking on the beach.
All the cabins are electrically heated and have a small refrigerator, microwave and coffee pot. There are handmade quilts on the beds, courtesy of Cama Beach Quilters.
“They have to be prepared to cook meals in the microwave or the barbecue grill, or a camp stove that they bring,” Dinzl-Pederson said.
Off-season (Nov. 1 to March 31) nightly rates for the cabins runs from $72 to $87 a night on weekends. A larger bungalow that can sleep up to eight rents for $146 a night weekdays and $177 a night for weekends and holidays.
Some enjoy coming to the park to watch the season’s big storms. When high tides and strong winds coincide, waves break into the seawall and spray lands on the boathouse roof.
“It’s exciting to watch these big sheets of water fly up into the air,” Dinzl-Pederson said.
Another highlight to camping there in the winter: The park lies in a rain shadow and gets less rain than Everett or Seattle. “We might be clear and not have any rain at all,” Dinzl-Pederson said.
The off-season charge for the five cabins at nearby Camano Island State Park is $61 weekdays and $72 weekends and holidays.
Five cabins, which can accommodate up to five, are available to rent year-round at Wallace Falls State Park. Winter season rates are $45 a night.
If you’re a dedicated tent camper, you have options, although they’re more limited in the winter.
Year-round tent camping is possible at Camano Island State Park. Reservations are not required in the winter, so it’s first come, first served. Seasonal rates are $20 a night.
All campsites and cabins at state parks come with an overnight vehicle pass for the duration of the stay.
Another winter camping option — yurts — are available at two Snohomish County parks. There are 10 at Kayak Point and six at River Meadows, both of which are open year-round.
“They have heat and electricity, and they’re really popular in the off-season,” park ranger Emily Young said.
The yurts can easily accommodate four and, in a pinch, up to eight. Pets, however, have to stay home. Bring your own bedding. No alcohol is allowed. Private showers are available in nearby restrooms.
Yurts range from 16 to 20 feet in diameter and cost $60 to $90 a night to rent. Reservations are required.
A pass is required to visit a county park. The charge is $10 per day or $75 per year. However, if you’re camping or have yurt or cabin reservations, the pass is included in the rental price.
In addition to the yurts at Kayak Point, there is Kayak Kottage (yes, it’s spelled with a K) — a craftsman-style dwelling with all the comforts of home: a pellet stove for heat, TV and DVD player, a kitchen range, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer, dining and cooking utensils.
Rental fees for the house range from $120 to $190 a night, plus a $75 cleaning fee.
“Like a little bit of paradise,” is how Susan Schulz, from Riverside County, California, described the Kayak Kottage. She and her husband, Jerry Schulz, recently met up with family there. “It’s clean, well-organized and really easy to use.”
They were tipped off to the site by Dan and Merlene Goan, Susan Schulz’s brother and sister-in-law, who were serving a stint as camp hosts. The family cooked group dinners in the Kottage and explored local sights.
The Schulzes have taken cruises and traveled throughout the world, but Susan said their trip and stay at Kayak was one of the best.
“Beautiful memories — wonderful,” she said. “We want to come back and stay longer.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
Wallace Falls State Park, 14503 Wallace Lake Road, Gold Bar. Call 360-793-0420. A 1,380-acre camping park with shoreline on the Wallace River, Wallace Lake, Jay Lake, Shaw Lake and the Skykomish River.
Cama Beach Historical State Park, 1880 SW Camano Drive, Camano. Call 360-387-1550. A 38-acre park on Camano Island that preserves the site of a 1930s-era fishing resort.
Camano Island State Park, 2269 S. Lowell Point Road, Camano. Call 360-387-3031. The 134-acre camping park on Camano Island has views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier.
Kayak Point Regional County Park, 15610 Marine Drive, Stanwood. Call 360-652-7992. The 670-acre park located along the shores of Port Susan with a beach, picnic shelters, boat launch and fishing pier.
River Meadows Park, 20416 Jordan Road, Arlington. Call 360-435-3441. The 144-acre park includes large open meadows and forests along the banks of the Stillaguamish River and has trails, fishing, picnic shelters and camping.
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.