Big Cedars Campground (Gifford Pinchot National Park)

Big Cedars Campground (Skamania County Park)

We recently had a great campout with a group of other teardroppers at Big Cedars Campground, which is just outside the tiny town of Willard, WA (population 46) in the Gifford Pinchot National Park.  This is a beautiful site and the name isn’t joking!  There are some really big cedars there!  On a walk, we could see some very large stumps, that still had the notches in them from the logging that happened in the area long before it was part of the park. 

The drive out was beautiful!  Coming from Portland/Vancouver, you will drive up the Columbia Gorge towards Hood River/White Salmon (depending on which side you decide to on…either I-84 or SR-14), where you can see waterfalls cascading down cliffs, you can stop off at fish hatcheries, go for hikes (to stretch those legs), and more (see our list of activities at the bottom).

Along the drive, Mt Hood was out in all her glory

The sites are rustic.  There is no water or electric hook-ups, which works just fine for us.  There are water spouts at the campground, but I was hearing mixed reviews whether the water was good to drink or not (probably best to bring your own water along, as I haven’t been able to confirm).  There are flushing toilets and sinks with very cold, running water to wash hands.  That was definitely a nice feature.  Each site has a fire pit (bring your own wood, but please get it locally), but you will need to bring chairs and if you like to eat at a table, you will need to bring that along (they do not have them at the individual sites, but you can use the one at the field).

There is a really nice walk at the site, that takes you through a grove of cedars and opens up to the Little White Salmon River, that borders the campground on the south side.  There are some nice spots where you can wade into the river (it is slow flowing in some spots and rather shallow).  While we were there, the water was really cold (late snow melt hasn’t allowed our rivers to warm up…so, please watch you kids so the fun doesn’t turn tragic), so toes got dipped quickly, but that was about it.  There are some nice areas to bring your lunch and sit along the river too. During your walk, watch out for the ‘No Trespassing’ signs.

The campground had a couple sets of really squeaky swings (at least you know where your kids are, right?) and a big field to play in.  We were actually camped in the big field…I am guessing that is where they put large groups.  The field also has a fire pit and there are tables to sit at.  Kids were riding their bikes here and we had brought different balls and frisbees to play with as well.

There is plenty of room in the field, even with a group there!

Here are the pros and cons for you:

Pros:

  • Rustic sites really get you away from it all
  • Flushing toilets! YEAH!!!
  • Swings and a big field to play in!
  • Fire pits
  • Giant trees provide lots of shade, keeping sites nice and cool
  • The site can accommodate tents and very small RVs (like teardrops), but you will not see big RVs here.  In fact, it was mostly tents.
  • It is a really beautiful campground.  Big trees, a river running along one boundary, way off the main road…what more could you want!
  • 2 deer came right into our campsites for a visit.  I think they may be pretty used to seeing people, but it was fun for the Lad to see them so up-close.
  • Other than the night we were hearing gun shot after gun shot (seems there was a gun show with a test fire area), the place was really quiet, even with the kids playing!

Cons:

  • Bring your mosquito repellent, especially this year.  With the late snow melt, the bugs were out later in the season.
  • There is a big field and swings, but you might want to bring along balls or frisbees to play with.  We found it wasn’t the best place for kites.
  • No picnic tables at the sites, but there are tables in the field.
  • If you need access to cell-phones, you will either need to find a spot that works in the campground (coverage is really spotty) or drive down closer to one of the bigger towns.  But hey, you are trying to get away from it all anyway, so just turn off that phone!

Kid-Friendly?

YES!!!  In fact there were loads of kids there.  They were all playing really well together despite not knowing each other before hand and the gaps in ages was big (ranging from 3 to 13-ish).  I would definitely set some boundaries, especially when it came to walks along the river  (all of the kids in our group were fantastic about following the rules).  Other than that, the place just felt really safe.

Final details:

Sites are $15/night for non-residents of Skamania County.  All sites are first-come, first-served.

http://www.skamaniacounty.org/facilities-rec/homepage/campgrounds/big-cedars-campground/

Activities in the area (click on underlined item for website):

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