North-central Washington is filled with wide-open spaces, enormous lakes and rivers, and highways that go for hours between towns. The weather is surprisingly warm here, too, with week-long stretches of 100-degree temperatures in summer, which makes the clear water of lakes and rivers here something magical in summer. Spring and fall are usually incredibly dry with days that can feel like summer around lunch and winter by dinner.
Alta Lake State Park has a wonderfully cozy feel, in a part of the state where everything else seems oversized. A mile-long lake is ringed by steep and rocky mountains, with trees on the campground side and bare rock faces on the other. The area was directly hit by the Carlton Complex fires in 2014 but has recovered so quickly that you might not even notice. The extra attention given to the park after the fire has resulted in a place that feels well-loved and exceptionally clean.
The nearby waters of the Columbia River and Lake Chelan draw crowds with ski boats and jet skis. Visitors love this spot because it facilitates quiet enjoyment. The lake is stocked with trout and has a dock and launch areas. The swimming area is huge, with lots of sandy shore and a long roped-off section. The hills block the afternoon winds and make a perfect place for paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. There is a small but steep trail that gets you to the ridge top.
This is a family- and group-friendly spot where many visitors come year after year. The day-use area has space for large gatherings and would be ideal for reunions and weddings. The warm, dry, and mosquito-free weather here in summer encourages everyone to be outside (instead of hiding by the air conditioner), so even around camp, you'll probably get to chat with your neighbors. Overnight guests can park in one of over 100 RV- and trailer-friendly sites. Amenities range from basic standard to full-hookup sites, all of which are available from April through October.
Alta Lake State Park is located in Okanogan County in northern Washington. Although the unspoiled nature of the area may have you feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere, you're actually rather close to civilization with major routes like US-97, US-2, and WA-153. The area is undoubtedly mountainous, so those with large rigs should take the roadways nice and slow.
Stick to US-2 on the east side of the Columbia River as it has shoulder, passing lanes, and more access to stops for gas and groceries when heading to Pateros and avoids the tunnel and steep climb up to Chelan. Luxurious Lake Chelan is just 30 minutes to the south with major shopping retailers and a terrific variety of dining options, as well as the beautiful Lake Chelan State Park. The area is known for very high winds at times, and if you decide to visit Lake Chelan, be warned that it is steep, no matter which direction you come from.
The park entrance is located off of WA-153, and once inside, roads remain wide and paved for easy accessibility. The Alta Lake Campground is located off of the main park road. The campground features spacious, back-in sites with well-maintained roads that are newly paved in spots.
The park offers 93 standard campsites and 32 full hook-up sites split between three loops. Loop 2 is situated near the lake, while Loops 1 and 3 sit on the other side of Alta Lake County Road. Each site is equipped with a picnic table and fire ring, and there are several bathrooms and showers throughout the area. Maximum length restrictions vary by site, and some are large enough for 38-foot RVs and trailers. There is drinking water, a dump station, a concession stand with supplies, drinks, and firewood, and an extra parking area for boat trailers. This pet-friendly campground is open from April through November, and reservations can be made online in advance.
Although reservations are required during the peak season of April through September, there are two months that reservations are not available. During October and November, all campsites are available on a first-come, first served basis. Sites range from electric sites to full hookup sites, and a dump station, restrooms, and additional parking can be found nearby.
There are lots of RV campgrounds available around Alta Lake State Park, so even if you couldn't secure a spot to camp there overnight, you won't have to go far to find a place to park the travel trailer.
The closest option is Daroga State Park, located about 40 minutes to the south of the park. The campground consists of 28 large campsites equipped with water and electric hookups.
Just a few miles further west, you will find Lake Chelan State Park. This is the largest of the three parks in the area and is equipped with over 100 RV- and trailer-friendly sites.
Located about an hour west of the park is Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park. Here guests will find 36 RV-friendly sites, some of which offer full hookups. If you plan to snag a campsite here during the busy summer months, you may want to make reservations well in advance.
Alta Lake State Park offers two group camping areas, so even if you're camping with a whole caravan, you'll have space to park your rigs for the night. The Field Group Camp area is the larger of the two and can accommodate a maximum of 85 people. The wooded Group Camp area is located on the south side of the park and can accommodate up to 45 overnight guests. Both group camps allow for RV camping in a group setting, although no hookups are available at either campground. The group sites are equipped with picnic tables and fire pits, and pets are allowed so long as they are kept leashed. There are restrooms, a dump station, and additional parking located nearby.
Washington summers can get hot, so don't forget to pack the bathing suit along in the motorhome. A large swimming beach is located on the north side of the lake, and there is a roped-off zone in the water so swimmers can splash around without worrying about incoming watercraft. The sandy shore also entices visitors to sunbathe, or simply relaxing with a good book for a few hours. Once you've had enough fun in the sun, there is a picnicking area nearby complete with a concession stand and restrooms.
Because Alta Lake State Park received so much help to clean up after the fires in 2014, it feels brand new. The grass is so inviting around the picnic shelters, you'll want to kick your shoes off. Whether you want to set up close to the swim beach to keep an eye on the kids, or you want to lay on a blanket with a good book in the shade, the day-use area has it all. There is lots of parking (even for big rigs), many picnic tables, a kitchen shelter for parties, modern restrooms with many showers, and even a tempting concession shop. It's a rewarding stop even if you aren't spending the night.
Lake Alta is a renowned trout fishing destination, and anglers can spend their days casting out either via boat or from the shoreline. Common catches from the lake include kokanee, rainbow, and triploid trout. There are many submerged logs and an underwater boulder field that are hot spots for bigger fish; trout up to 16 inches have been reported. Check with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for rules and regulations about fishing in this state.
If you're loving the scenery of this area, take the campervan north through the Methow Valley for some picturesque landscapes that will blow you away. The unique towns of Twisp and Winthrop are situated on the Methow River and become the end of the road every winter when the North Cascades Highway 20 beyond is closed for the season. There is a Rhythm and Blues Festival each summer, one of the best farmers markets in the state from April to October, and local bands every weekend at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. This is one of the most scenic drives in the country, well worth the trip even without plans.
Alta Lake is about a mile long and offers boaters two launches and 60 feet of dock. It's usually calm enough to feel safe in the center of the lake, even in a tiny raft. Larger craft are allowed though, and you may even find jet skis making some waves in the summer. Motorized craft are only allowed from 9 AM to 6 PM in order to preserve the quiet enjoyment of the lake. Those hoping to spend a day on the water will need to tow their own boats along behind the Springer, as the park does not offer rentals.
If you're looking to tee off during your RV vacation, you'll find two beautiful 9-hole golf courses just minutes away from Alta Lake State Park. The course is difficult enough to challenge seasoned golfers, but the casual atmosphere and ultra-low fees make sure that all ages and skill levels feel welcome. They have a well-stocked pro shop, cheap cart and club rentals, and a cafe serving breakfast and lunch. The resort is in a newer community of affordable vacation homes, and you'll probably meet the locals on the course.
Though there is a lot of water to explore in north-central Washington, much of it feels a bit too large and exposed to be at the mercy of the wind on a paddleboard. Alta Lake is big enough to feel adventurous but is also protected from the winds thanks to large rocky hills on both sides. The views are excellent, and the depth of 10-30 feet makes it ideal for paddling. It's easy to in and out of the water at the sandy swimming beach in the day-use area.
The steep mountain walls surrounding the lake may leave you feeling a little closed-in. The two-mile hike to the top of the ridge of Goat Mountain has you covered. The trailhead is marked just past the last camping loop headed farther down the shoreline road. The trail is mostly steep switchbacks and wastes no time climbing out of the valley, but the view from the top is rewarding. You'll have a birds-eye-view of the whole lake, and you may even be able to see beyond to the Columbia River. This is a great hike in the cooler spring or fall months, but no matter what time of year you park the pop-up at Alta Lake State Park, the views at the top are worth the climb.