(insert bubbling brook noise)
I'm from Kittitas County in the central part of Washington State. It supplies an interesting mix of terrain that includes the eastern slopes of the Cascades to high elevation deserts to rocky canyons along the Columbia River.
For our latest car camping adventure, we were on the downside of the Cascades surrounded by aromatic pines and craggy terrain. It's a common scene found generally in the middle of the county up any forest service road you happen to choose. In my experience, as long as your willing to put some miles on washboard bumps, a remote car campsite can be yours for the weekend.
Over Labor Day, I and some friends took a bet on that notion and it paid off beautifully.
Coming from Seattle, I-90 West is your route over the mountains and through the woods. At any point after Snoqualmie, you can take any exit, drive up some road, and find a great site. Some of my favorite car camping sites have been found on gravel roads off of:
- Salmon La Sac Campground
- Teanaway Rd.
- Manastash Rd.
Each of those options will surely provide you with a fire pit, bubbling brook, and a bit of distance and elevation from the light traffic searching for the deeper recesses of Central Washington's wilderness.
As stated above, I can't speak for every campsite as I'm discussing Kittitas County in general. That said, where a fire pit is most likely present, formal toilets and water spouts will not be. Sort of a trade-off when putting privacy and solitude up against amenities.
For better or worse, you're also looking at first-come-first-serve sites up central Washingtons forest roads. This minimizes the amount of competition as it weeds out those who don't want a bit of adventure before their adventure. I was delightfully surprised this past weekend when we found not one but three open sites just off of the main road only four miles after hitting gravel the road. Lucky? Due to the light traffic coming and going the rest of the afternoon / evening (around five vehicles) - I don't think so.
Deer are ever-present but you shouldn't expect anything crazy as far as bears or goats in these areas, especially since most of the sites are still lower in elevation compared to an alpine lake, for instance. Still, bugs are generally low around Central Washington, and our only issue came with some bees. Would've been nice notice the nest the afternoon we pulled in instead of the next morning, but then again, they didn't get active until the morning (they wanted some of that maple bacon - don't blame em').
Overall, I enjoy car camping in Central Washington as much as anywhere else. The scenery is interesting and sites are abundant. Rivers and creeks are always around for water needs, and most importantly, a great diner is never far away.