Camping in Southwest Washington

There are many terrific camping opportunities in southwest Washington. You really owe it to yourself to get out and see what Mother Nature has to offer in this corner of the state. But be careful! Southwest Washington is the home of the largest fire in Washington State History, the Yacolt Burn. The fire danger can be very high almost any time of the year due to the east winds. These warm winds can dry out our forests very quickly. Follow our helpful links below to ensure that your camping, hiking or day trip into the woods is fun and safe!  

 Can I have a campfire? Yes, But.....

  • In Washington, you must have the landowner's permission before building a campfire (except on federal land). On State land you may only build a campfire in designated, sanctioned, open campgrounds. Dispersed camping is not allowed on state land but it is allowed in National Forests.
  • In the summer it is common for fire officials to place fire safety burn bans in effect to help prevent wildfires, so it's best to check for restrictions before you go. How? I'm glad you asked... See the links below.

Burn Restriction and Fire Danger In Southwest Washington

If you're headed to a Washington State Park, call (360) 902-8844 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to check the conditions. 

 

How do I build a good campfire?

  • Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves.
  • Pile any extra wood away from the fires.
  • Keep plenty of water handy and have a shovel for throwing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.
  • Start with dry twigs and small sticks.
  • Add larger sticks as the fire builds up.
  • Use only dry, seasoned wood for a hot fire. 
  • Put the largest pieces of wood on last, pointing them toward the center of the fire, and gradually push them into the flames.
  • Keep the campfire small. A good bed of coals or a small fire surrounded by rocks gives plenty of heat. Scrape away litter, duff, and any burnable material within a 10-foot-diameter circle. This will keep a small campfire from spreading.
  • Be sure your match is out. Hold it until it is cold. Break it so that you can feel the charred portion before discarding it. Make sure it is cold out. Conserve matches---carry a candle as a fire starter.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could quickly cause the fire to spread.
  • Download our Camping Planner and Checklist to take these instructions with you.

How do I put out a campfire?

  • Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks---there may be burning embers underneath.
  • Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. Be sure all burned material has been extinguished and cooled. If you do not have water, use moist dirt. Mix enough soil or sand with the embers to smother them. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cooled. Be careful not to bury burning material!
  • Feel all materials with your bare hand. Make sure that no roots are burning. Do not bury your coals---they can smolder and break out.
  • Download our Camping Planner and Checklist to take these instructions with you.
 

What should I do if my fire gets away?

  • Don't panic! If you can extinguish the fire in less than 5 minutes, do so. If the fire is spreading too quickly, get out of there and call for help. Quick action is important, however, there is no reason to panic.
  • Think about your location. You will need to relay exactly where you are, including the county. If you have a GPS, take coordinates and write them down. If you don't, use a map and have a description ready. Use landmarks and distances from known points. For example 5 miles north of Tum Tum Mountain, or on SR-503 about a mile east of Jack's Store.
  • Get to the nearest phone and Call 9-1-1. If you're using a cell phone, make sure that you have reached a dispatcher in the county that you're in or ask them to transfer you to that county. If you can't find a phone, find someone with a radio or CB and ask them to call for help.
  • If no one is around, walk or drive to the nearest phone. Remember not to panic. Drive or walk safely. You won't be able to report the fire if you don't make it to help in one piece.
  • Tell the dispatcher that you need to report a wildfire and give the description of your location. If you can, tell them how big the fire is (for example: "Its about 20 feet by 20 feet and growing.") how quickly the fire is spreading, wind direction and speed and what type of fuel the fire is burning (grass, logging slash, forest floor etc.). You may be asked to help lead fire fighters to the fire.
  • Download our Camping Planner and Checklist to take these instructions with you.
 

Plan Ahead!

  • Make sure you are familiar with the area. Obtain all the maps you'll need for the roads and trails in the area.
  • Check on the weather!
  • Let someone know where you will be and when you will return. Have a plan in case you don't return on time.
  • Select a good campsite. Use existing campsites when you can and go easy on the land.
  • NEVER EVER take fireworks into the wild lands with you. It's a bad idea and it's illegal in Washington.
  • Always pack your trash out and put your campsite in order when you leave.
  • Remember take only pictures, leave only footprints.
  • Download our Camping Planner and Checklist to take these instructions with you.