August is prime tourist season in the Northwest; the weather is great, campgrounds are booked and state and national parks are packed with visitors. Where’s a Puget Sound RVer to go on a spur of the moment RV outing to enjoy the summer weather?

Think outside the box by visiting lesser known or fringe areas of popular parks and lesser known/ less accessible RV parks, campgrounds and other campsites.

One great example is Mount Rainier National Park’s Spray Park via the lesser known northwest park entrance through the old coal mining town of Wilkeson.

The moderate family friendly (no pets) 6+ mile round trip trail traverses through a mature forest gaining 1,300 feet of elevation on the way to Spray Park. Along the way you will pass Eagle’s Cliff scenic overlook offering a spectacular view of Mount Rainier as well as a short side spur to the namesake 354 foot Spray Falls which is best photographed late in the day. If you love the flowering meadows found at Paradise on the mountain’s south side (one of the most visited sections of the park and often crowded in summer), you will be in seventh heaven upon entering Spray Park, on the mountain’s lesser visited northwest side. As you hike up and through Spray Park you will be dazzled by the display of lupine, avalanche lilies, and a rainbow of other alpine flowers in midsummer. Stunning views of Mount Rainier improve with every step as you approach the high point of the trail. Observation Rock and Echo Rock, remnants of past volcanic eruptions, will also come into view as you gain altitude. If you continue to the crest of the trail you will find yourself on a 6,400 foot high ridge overlooking Seattle Park to the northeast. This is a great spot to call it a day and head back to the RV for the evening.

View from Eagle's Cliff

Driving Instructions: From the intersection of Hwy 410 and Hwy 165 in Buckley head southwest on Hwy 165 through the towns of Carbonado and Wilkeson. After crossing the nearly hundred year old Fairfax Bridge high above the Carbon River, take the right fork in the road toward Mowich Lake. The pavement will soon end and turn to a gravel road. While suitable for any two wheel drive vehicle, the road does become washboard as the summer progresses. Continue of Mowich Lake Road for approximately 16 miles to Mowich Lake.

The Trailhead: The hike to Spray Park begins at the southeast side of Mowich Lake walk-in campground.  The trail descends about a quarter of a mile to a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Go left (east) on the Spray Park trail. You must pay an entrance fee at the self service kiosk or display a National Park Pass to park at the trailhead.

Beauty Awaits Your Climb

Camping: As mentioned above, to find available campsites during peak tourist season requires a little thinking outside the box.
RV Park – Fairgrounds are often overlooked as camping options and fortunately
the Enumclaw Expo Center (aka King County Fairgrounds) offers RV spaces with water and electric for the RVing public.
Fairgrounds Camping Article
Enumclaw Expo RV Park

Forest Service Campground: Little known Evans Creek Campground is conveniently located just off Mowich Lake Road.  It is primarily used by weekend warrior off road enthusiasts and will likely be near empty on weekdays. You must display a valid recreation pass to park a vehicle, there is no additional fee required for a campsite. Note: You will have to travel a gravel section of the Mowich Lake Road to get to this campground, but the early section of the road is not as bumpy as farther up towards Mowich Lake. Leave the RV at camp and take your tow vehicle or dinghy to the trailhead,
Evans Creek Campground
Recreation Passes & Permits

Boondocking (aka Dispersed Camping): Taking the left fork after crossing the Fairfax Bridge will put you on the Carbon River Road. Follow the road to approximately N46° 59.678  W121° 55.183 where you will find a bridge across the Carbon River. You will find dispersed campsites suitable for smaller RVs as you approach the bridge on the Carbon River Road and two pull outs (sometimes used for target shooting) across the bridge and a short distance up the road toward Coplay Lake.

Note: As mentioned above, Mowich Lake Campground is for walk-in tent camping only.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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