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Camping spots not easy to find for Memorial Day weekend

Washington DNR website screenshot
Campers can identify and sign up for campsites on Washington state land at the Department of Natural Resources website.

People must sign up months in advance for some sites, but there are tricks for finding places on shorter notice.

Memorial Day Weekend is often the first chance many families have to go camping and Washington's state parks department expects public lands to be busy.

It helps if families plan ahead, says Amanda McCarthy from the Washington State Parks Commission.

"Camping in our state is very popular, especially on a long weekend. Most of our campgrounds require reservations in advance, a couple of them do have same-day spots for camping, but almost all of our advance reservations are booked," she said.

McCarthy says this weekend's expected wet weather could mean some cancellations, but she urges people to check availability of any campsites at the Washington State Parks website. 

Campsites are also available on Department of Natural Resources lands. There are 80 campgrounds that are available on a first-come, first-served basis at no additional cost if you have a Discover Pass.

For those who don't have any luck with that, there’s still a way to go camping this weekend.

Department of Natural Resources spokesman Ryan Rodruck says the public can camp on DNR lands where there are no official campsites, something referred to as 'disbursed camping."

“We allow disbursed camping on most DNR lands, unless it's otherwise noted, and those exceptions are fairly few and far between," he said. "Obviously, natural area reserves don't allow disbursed camping, and some community forests don't allow disbursed camping.”

There is also the option of camping in national forests, either in those same disbursed sites or at an actual Forest Service campground.

Idaho Panhandle National Forest spokesman Patrick Lair says this spring's weather has created some issues with high elevation campgrounds.

"A lot of higher elevation campgrounds still have a lot of snow," he said. "Some won't even open because the roads are snowed in and a lot of the roads are just wet and muddy.”

The popular Bumblebee Campground and Shadowy St. Joe campsites will be closed this summer for tree removal and reconstruction.

Lair recommends that people looking for campground info check with the Idaho Panhandle National Forest website.