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Known as the county seat of Cowlitz County, Kelso is a charming city with lots of history. In fact, Cowlitz County is named for the Cowlitz native people, who have inhabited southern Washington for millennia. After the first settlers and explorers from back east made their way to Washington, Kelso was ideally situated to become a hub for both the timber and fishing industries. It developed a reputation for its gambling halls, saloons, and brothels, and was commonly referred to as “Little Chicago”.
Now, Kelso has shed its reputation for debauchery and recreated itself as a peaceful, pleasant city steeped in history and surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery. Kelso’s motto is lovingly referred to as the “City of Friendly People”, making it a delightful vacation destination. Interstate 5 runs through the town so you can reach Portland or Seattle in a matter of hours when you rent an RV in Kelso. The spectacular Washington coast on the Pacific Ocean and a handful of national and state parks are scattered throughout the Evergreen State, and Kelso’s convenient location enables vacationers to easily travel to them all.
Chances are that if you choose to book an RV in Kelso, you are most likely doing so to see some stellar nature reserves and parks in an effort to enjoy the great outdoors in Washington. Seaquest State Park is quite close to town, making it as good a place as any to start your journey. The park is adjacent to a small lake where fishing, swimming, and boating can occupy your time. There are boat launches, hiking trails, and campgrounds for you to park your Kelso RV rental overnight.
You can head towards the coast after you rent an RV, and sit on the beaches of either Oregon or Washington and relax while you stare out into the open ocean. Fort Stevens State Park sits on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and is primarily known for its historical buildings and a retired military fort. You can tour the site and see the overgrown facilities, including the fort which was built after the Civil War. Aside from its historical value, there are incredible beaches, hiking trails, lakes to swim in, and a campground to host you and your Kelso camper rental. On the other side of the Columbia River back in Washington, Cape Disappointment State Park awaits you for the next leg of your adventure. Despite its unusual name, there is absolutely nothing disappointing about the park in any way. This coastal paradise has 2,000 acres of old growth forest, tidal saltwater marshes, rolling emerald hills, and small lakes to hike to and through, and miles of coastline to sit on or walk along the beaches. There is even a historic lighthouse that you can hike to and tour. You can use the park’s campground facilities to stay overnight when you rent an RV and bring it for an overnight trip to the Pacific Ocean.
Kelso is located only an hour's drive from Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, so it is only fitting that one leg of your trip should take you there. Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the ancient stratovolcano after it blew its top in an epic explosion back in 1980. This cataclysmic event shook the state to its core, filling the sky with black volcanic clouds which could be heard and seen from nearby towns like Kelso and Castle Rock. There are lots of exquisite hiking trails including some that climb to the peak of the mountain's volcanic crater. There is an observatory overlooking the mountain from afar where you can drive for excellent photographs and views too.
The prospect of finding a safe and comfortable place to camp overnight should not worry you in the least. There are several places that can accommodate you and your Kelso camper rental within a few miles of Kelso. Longview North / Mount Saint Helens KOA is part of a well-known chain of campgrounds found all over the US. The park is just off the interstate and full of convenient amenities. Brookhollow RV Park is actually situated in Kelso itself and is home to scenic hiking trails, a fitness center, and a clubhouse among other things.
Camp Kalama RV Park is a family-owned park with tent and RV camping. There is riverfront access for swimming and fishing, and a bar and restaurant too.
Seaquest State Park and other local state parks are viable options for camping if you like to rough it in the woods in an effort to reconnect with nature. National parks and forests are great places to camp too if you like being off the grid.
Kelso has always been a central hub in southern Washington since its early days. Because of this, there are lots of historic buildings in the downtown area. Since it is the county seat, a few of these buildings are old county courts, jails, and city halls. Like any county seat, Kelso has an incredible history museum called the Cowlitz County Historical Museum. Native trinkets, artifacts from the first settlers, hands-on displays for children, photographs and exhibits covering the Mount Saint Helens fiasco, and many more topics and features round out this fabulous institution which works hard to preserve the past.
Another place you can go for more insight into the Mount Saint Helens Eruption is Seaquest State Park in nearby Castle Rock. Although it is 30 miles from the volcano, the park has a Mount Saint Helens Visitor Center that has informative videos, tours, and exhibits telling the complete story of the mountain, including the fateful explosion that rocked the state of Washington.
The Lewis and Clark Bridge spans the Columbia River connecting both Washington and Oregon. This beautiful bridge is named for the Lewis & Clark Expedition that was sent by Thomas Jefferson to map out the Louisiana Purchase and find a viable route to the Pacific Ocean. Walking across the bridge enables you to see some amazing views from the middle of the river.