Washington Road Trip Nirvana: Dreamy North Cascade Campsites for an Airstream Trailer

Pacific Northwest trailer camping at its finest
| Updated: November 27, 2018

North Cascades National Park was the perfect destination for a recent road trip that involved pulling a sporty Airstream Basecamp that I got to take on a three-day test drive. I headed that northeasterly direction—a three-hour drive from Seattle—because it’s home to some of the best wild-ish campgrounds that can easily accommodate a trailer.

Gotta love those pull through sites that don’t require backing up skills!

Little did I realize that those campgrounds would also put me in prime position for some of the prettiest, most accessible hikes I’ve done in the Northwest, all while sleeping cozy and having a blast playing in the nicely designed kitchen. Prosciutto wrapped prawns in my grill pan… mmmmm!

My husband, fellow freelance writer, John Nelson, and I have been dabbling in the RV world for a while, strongly considering taking the plunge by experimenting with various vehicles. We’ve rented retro cool VW campers from Peace Vans, Road Trip Oregon and There Classic Campers on Maui. I love those quirky rigs. We also toured several British Columbia hot springs in a massive Class C vehicle from CanaDream.

But we hadn’t tried pulling a trailer until the Basecamp. It’s Airstream’s attempt to reach the weekend adventurer, who also appreciates comfort and style. (We got a ton of admiring looks, and a few folks who actually pulled off the road and asked for a tour of the adorable trailer. Sure, come on in!)

We tried a number of camping spots in that incredible park, and the surrounding National Forest and found a couple that are our absolute faves.

Newhalem is huge, with nearly 200 sites, but they’re nicely spread out, so you don’t feel like you’re up in your neighbor’s business. The thick stands of pines keep things cool, and you can also wander down a trail to the Skagit River and take a dip. There are no hookups, but there are a number of sites that can accommodate RVs up to 45-feet long. No matter what you’re driving, fees are just $16 a night. Reservations are essential this time of year.

Walk to the nearby visitor’s center to check on what trails are open. We unhitched our Basecamp and headed up to catch magnificent views from the Thornton Lakes trail, and while driving to the trailhead, we nearly ran into a family of bears on the rough road. Two cubs scrambled up trees and I almost got out of the car to take some photos until my husband gave me a reality check. Yet, even from the passenger seat, this ranks as one of my top close encounters with the wild animal kingdom!

On the east side of the stunning mountains -- are we in the Alps? -- Klipchuck Campground sits near Early Winters Creek, which you can hear from many of the spacious, well-kept sites. Again, no electrical hookups, so leave the satellite TV at home, but that’s what helps make these primo places so peaceful. After grinding to the top of Driveway Butte, head back to the camp for dinner. We picked up some extra special goodies at the rightly famous Mazama Store, 20 miles east of Klipchuck, including a bottle of Sleight of Hand’s 2016 Spellbinder red blend that help make a plate of mushroom ravioli taste like heaven. Best to hit this popular campground early or on a weekday, as it’s first come, first served. It’s $12 a night, and is open until the end of October.

BTW! We’ve had so much fun playing in the RV world that we’re officially heading out for a year on the road. Yup, we sold our home in Queen Anne, and in mid-August, we’ll head way up north to Alaska. You can follow our adventures at Going Mobile.

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