Tips for Planning a Last-Minute Camping Trip

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

Upper Dungeness River Trail, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

The beginning of this summer seems to be themed “last-minute camping trips.” We haven’t planned much ahead and limit ourselves to walk-in backpacking sites that are dog-friendly and don’t require extra permits or reservations.

Ben and I have made a point to plan ahead a little more for our weekends in August, but for now I’m embracing the spontaneous camping choices we’ve made. I’ve shared some tips for planning a last-minute camping trip at the end of this post. 

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

A few weekends ago we camped along the Dungeness River Trail. (For trail stats, direction, and more info, visit the Washington Trails Association.) The trail is mostly in the forest, following the river. We started our hike around 10 a.m. and hiked to the Camp Handy Shelter area, arriving at lunchtime. A lot of people had already set up camp near the shelter, so we walked back to a campsite we’d spotted earlier along the trail.

There was a Washington Trails Association (WTA) work party near our campsite building a new log bridge. We had to cross several log bridges on this hike, and it was cool to see a group in action and how the bridges are made. They worked on the bridge until about 4:00.

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

Our campsite was right by the river, so we had more than enough access to water (which we always filter or treat before using). It was really nice to fall asleep to the sound of the river, and we didn’t have any issues with bugs at this spot.

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

Upper Dungeness River Trail | Road Trips and Skymiles Blog

Tips for Planning a Last-Minute Camping Trip

  • First-Come, First-Served: pick a place where you don’t need to make a reservation or get an extra permit.
  • Be the Early Bird: get an early start on the morning you are driving to the trailhead.
  • National Forests: check national forests near you instead of state parks or national parks, which tend to be more popular.
  • Gear Stash: keep your camping gear stocked and ready to pack up in a hurry. Realizing you are out of camping fuel or bug spray can derail a last-minute decision to hit the trail. We have our supplies organized, and make a point to restock things as soon as we realize they are low so it’s super easy to pack.

Have you had success with spontaneous camping trips? Do you have any good off-the-beaten path camping locations to recommend?

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