Vince Richardson and Dan Ruthemeyer like to camp.
The Skagit Valley Herald staffers will each spend about 40 nights this year with their families in the great outdoors.
With much of that camping coming on two- and three-day weekends, Richardson and Ruthemeyer have a handful of area campgrounds they consider the old standbys.
They are all within about an hour of Skagit County. That means more time — and money — is spent on camping, rather than just getting to the campground.
And all the standbys take reservations, so the Ruthemeyers and the Richardsons don’t have to worry about getting shut out.
Below are their favorite public campgrounds in the region.
Howard Miller Steelhead Park
Skagit County Parks and Recreation shines with this gem of a campground located along the Skagit River just below the hamlet of Rockport.
This campground boasts 49 sites — the vast majority of which are located within three massive lollipop-loops and offer hookups for power and water. There are 10 tent sites, two rental cabins and a pair of group sites.
Bathrooms with showers are centrally located and always immaculate. Camp hosts and rangers are always friendly and welcome any questions.
Large, finely manicured lawns offer plenty of room to roam and when combined with a solid playground and paved roadway for biking, this campground is extremely family friendly.
The Wetland Wildlife Trail is an interpretive trek while the Skagit-Sauk Reach Trail leads to the confluence of the two rivers. The numerous paths are grassy, well marked and flat, making the route easy for even the smallest of legs.
Reservations for this park are taken year-round. A definite plus for those campers who don’t let the fear of low temperatures and frost deter their affinity for getting outdoors.
This park needs no introduction. The state’s busiest, with visitation reaching in the millions, it offers a myriad of experiences for those willing to make reservations months in advance and share their experiences with many others seeking the same.
Whether it is a glimpse back in time, saltwater or freshwater experiences, hiking or biking, Deception Pass State Park provides something for everyone.
It’s a massive area, with 143 utility sites, 167 tent sites, five hiker/biker sites, 20 restrooms and 10 showers.
Then there are the 38 miles of trials and 1.2 miles of ADA accessible trails. Whether it is hiking to the top of Hoypus Hill, along the Goose Rock Perimeter Trail, trekking the length of West Beach or exploring the tidepools of Rosario Beach, this park brings it in regards to activities.
Civilian Conservation Corp era structures dot the landscape of the park, adding to its laundry-list of sights.
There is never a dull moment in this park. The hardest part may just be deciding where to reserve your spot.
Located on the west-end peninsula of Fidalgo Island, this city-managed park of 220 acres offers plenty of beach-combing as well as hiking opportunities.
A mix of both reserve and first-come, first-served sites makes it a destination for those who plan and those who don’t.
Sunset Beach is a popular destination with families during the warm summer months. Bring the sand-box toys and a picnic lunch and enjoy the extensive playground as well as the beach. Kids love the opportunity to play in the surf, sand and then hit the playground equipment.
The boat launch is a bustling and entertaining place during the summer time.
A 2 1/2 mile road loops its away around the campground. It is closed in the early morning to vehicles and becomes solely the domain of walkers and bikers. It makes for an excellent stroll for the entire family. Along the route, pass Green Point, West Beach, Juniper Point, Havecost Monument as well as a viewpoint of Burrows Channel. The Olympic Mountains as well as the San Juan Islands also come into view.
If pavement isn’t your thing, there are numerous trails crisscrossing the park.
The staff here is stretched thin, so facilities such as bathrooms can suffer. Sites tend to be narrow.
The 68-site campground is in A, B and C sections, with Section A being remote and closest to the popular West Beach. It’s a short stroll through salal-bordered trail to the salt water and several massive wind- and water-bleached stumps.
Bayview State Park
The park has a cozy campground of a mere 25 acre with easy access to Joe Hamel beach and the Breazeale Interpretive Center.
Joe Hamel Beach is accessed from the park’s entrance while the center is a 1/4 mile away to the north.
The park itself doesn’t have a lot of amenities. It’s a very straightforward campground with 46 tent sites, 30 utility sites, six cabins and two restrooms. There is no playground and the only open space is a field circled by the road which loops around the largest section of sites.
A big draw is swimming in the chilly waters of Padilla Bay, which is allowed off the shores of the Joe Hamel Beach. There are no life guards. If the kiddos aren’t into swimming, then beach exploration is a definite possibility. The rocky shoreline is home to an abundance of sea life.
The aquarium and educational opportunities located at the Breazeale Interpretive Center make for a great family outing while staying at the park. There are also several trails to hike.
Rasar State Park
This is about the tidiest campground you’ll ever see.
The staff keeps up with the mowing of the Concrete-area campground’s large grassy areas, and the restrooms are always spotless.
The campground is pretty small — 38 regular sites — which usually means it will be quiet.
The day-use area has playground equipment, and though in terms of mileage there aren’t a lot of hiking opportunities in the park you can still make yourself a pretty good loop.
And from the grassy area by the Skagit River you can get great views of the surrounding mountains.
There are a good number of campsites with water and electricity, and this is one of the few campgrounds where reservations are taken year-round. The utilities and year-round reservations make Rasar ideal for early spring or late fall.
This North Cascades National Park campground gives you bang for your buck.
The campsites are $12 a night, and there are no fees to make reservations. You can’t do better than that.
And it’s not like you’re not getting anything out of it. The restrooms have lights and flush toilets, and on summer weekends there are usually campfire programs.
Reservations are taken for only one one of the campground’s three loops, so your options can be a little limited.
Though you’re only an hour or so from home, there is a real forest feel to the campground. That gives you the feeling that you are really getting away from it all.
There are plenty of hiking trails — along the Skagit River, up Newhalem Creek and up Ladder Creek Falls near the Gorge Powerhouse.
And if you find out you need a little treat on a hot summer afternoon, you can always take the short walk to Newhalem’s general store for ice cream.
Fort Ebey State Park
The best sites in this Coupeville-area campground are those closest to the water.
They allow for easy access to the trails along the bluff so you can quickly catch a sunset, and as you drift off to sleep you can listen to the buoy bell in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
A big plus here are the trails.
There are some dedicated solely to hiking, but many of those in the Kettles system are great for mountain biking.
And if you’re interested in history, you can also spend an hour or so checking out the gun batteries in the park.
Ebey’s weather can be fickle.
One week you may get sun and temperatures in the 70s, the next fog so thick it seems as if it’s raining.
Birch Bay State Park
Get your reservations early for this Blaine-area campground.
Though it has 147 sites, it fills up fast. And there is difference in the quality of the sites.
To get the full feel of this coastal campground, you want to be in a site along on the bluff overlooking the bay.
There is nothing like sitting in your camp chair along the bluff sipping a cool drink at sunset.
There are sites with water and electricity, but they aren’t along the bluff. And you really don’t want to sacrifice view for a little extra comfort.
If you get in the mood for exercise, try kite flying in the day-use area, or riding bikes along the flat, paved road into Birch Bay.
This is part of Deception Pass State Park, but it’s got a different feel than the campground loops on the west side of Highway 20.
First, it’s got a pond.
And second, the hiking trails that are easily accessed at the northwest end of the campground take you along Cornet Bay and up to Goose Rock.
They aren’t better than the trails across Highway 20 that run along Deception Pass, but they’re equally scenic and typically less crowded.
The big selling point about this campground is that reservations are taken year-round. That makes it ideal for late fall or early spring.
This is a no-frills campground.
There are only 13 sites, no piped drinking water and no flush toilets.
But if you’re OK with roughing it a little bit, you’ll enjoy the scenery.
The campground is along the Sauk River near Darrington, with 10 of the 13 sites sitting along the river.
There is something relaxing about being able to camp that close to running water.
There are hiking trails in the area, but it’s also nice just to explore along the river or nearby Clear Creek.