There’s nothing more rejuvenating than waking up to the fresh scent of pine, birds chirping, and your morning cup o’ joe brewing over the fire. Whether you’re new to this whole “sleeping outdoors” thing, a self-proclaimed “glamper,” or an outdoor aficionado straight from the pages of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, there’s something for everyone looking to pitch a tent in Pierce County. To save you the search, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite camping spots in the South Sound, ranking them (and the journey to get there) in difficulty level from Beginner to Big Foot’s Bestie - or expert for short. 



beginner camping cabin

So perhaps you’re new to the great outdoors or a proud glamper who’s never graced the forest floor with your sleeping bag - not to fear, there are plenty of spots to either start fresh or stay in your comfort zone in the South Sound. Use our selection of beginner camping recommendations to get outside without losing modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and access to your Prime movies account.



For those not quite willing to forego their modern-day conveniences, glamping may be the best entry into the world of outdoor stays. Cabins, pre-set tents, and in many cases fully functioning facilities offer nature seekers the opportunity to get outside without the grit. 

For a true indoor-outdoor experience, some great glamping options to explore are Deep Forest Cabins or Mounthaven Resort at Mount Rainier.


Car Camping

Car camping is a great option for adventurers looking to get outdoors and pitch a tent (or perhaps just snooze inside the vehicle), while getting to avoid lugging gear along the way. With drive-up camping spots in abundance in Pierce County, there are plenty of options available for beginners to park and pitch their tents. One great place to start exploring is Penrose Point State Park near Gig Harbor which offers 82 sites as well as restrooms, showers, fire pits, and beach access for exploration.



camping campgrounds

For those who have camped before but prefer slightly more challenge to their outdoor experience, Pierce County has some enticing intermediate spots for your next overnight trip. Relish in the satisfaction of a well-pitched tent and some camp stove cooked meals, without compromising on the comforts of a convenient journey and proximity to society, should a failed meal require a journey back to the vehicle for additional snacks (or a search for them nearby).


Walk-In Sites

Get the effect of an isolated nature stay just a short walk from the car with a walk-in camping trip. We recommend a visit to Mowich Lake Campground, a short walk from the parking area (all accessed via the Carbon River entrance) but still a slice of natural serenity. No permits are necessary to camp here and all sites are on a first-come, first-served basis. Fires are prohibited in this area so be sure to bring a camping stove for all of your tent-side treats. You can also visit Sunrise Camp, 1.3 miles by trail from the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park for a slightly more challenging hike, as well as a bigger challenge, permit-wise. Backcountry permits are required for these sites.


Hike-In Sites

For those who prefer to be active but aren’t prepared for a full-blown back-country adventure quite yet, hike-in sites are a perfect starting point. Sites like Ipsut Creek Campground, accessible via a 5-mile hike from the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, are a good introduction to your journey towards being an outdoor expert. Technically labeled a backcountry site, it was previously a drive-in campground and still offers bear boxes and toilets (which may be questionably clean, according to some reviewers).

Pro-tip: You can find additional walk-in, “primitive,” and even additional car camping spots at and Tacoma Power Parks websites.


Big Foot’s Bestie

mount rainier campsite

For Pierce County visitors determined to fully experience the true nature of the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got some expert-level camping recommendations sure to keep you on your toes. From backwoods backpacking to miles of mountain trails, there’s no shortage of extreme camping in Pierce County if that’s what you’re seeking. Just kiss the plumbing and heavy gear goodbye!

Know before you go: Camping in the wilderness of Mount Rainier requires a permit.


Backwoods Camping

Do you stay up at night imagining the exploration of miles of trails and untamed wilderness with a 20-lb. sack on your back? If so, then backwoods camping may be an option for the experienced outdoorsman in you. Luckily, Pierce County is one of the greatest places in the country to commune with the wild and perhaps catch a glimpse of Sasquatch along your journey! Keep in mind that backwoods camping typically comes with no amenities and requires a solid working knowledge of survival skills, leave no trace best practices, necessary permits, and a plan for all weather conditions. If you’ve made it to this point in the article and still find yourself seeking a true Wild experience, we recommend any of the wilderness trailside camps along the miles of stunning scenery in Mount Rainier National Park. 

One of the most iconic trails around Mount Rainer is the Wonderland Trail. Spanning 93 miles that encircle the mountain, the trail is a majestic and strenuous hike that should only be traversed by the most experienced and dedicated hikers (true Bigfoot Besties). In between beautiful views of forests, glaciers, and rivers, you can pitch a tent and rest up at different campsites along the way, including Granite Creek, Indian Bar, and Mystic Camp. These hard-won permits to hike the Wonderland are the start of a life-changing journey through some of the most beautiful wilderness the country has to offer.

For a full list of wilderness trailside camps and best practices, check out the Wilderness Camping at Mount Rainier National Park Service page.

Have any Pierce County insider camp locations to share? Tag us @traveltacoma on Instagram and Facebook.