Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cle Elum River Boondocking

One of my favorite RV boondocking camping areas near Seattle is about 100 miles east on I-90 in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.  There are several campgrounds that can be accessed from the forest service roads branching off from the Salmon La Sac Road, but past the campgrounds are numerous old logging roads that provide dispersed camping spots for those who prefer more solitude.

Camping along the banks of the Cle Elum River

To get to the Salmon La Sac Road, from I-90, take exit 80 to Roslyn.

On the way, you will pass through the historic town of Roslyn which was used as the filming location for the TV Series, Northern Exposure.

After leaving Roslyn, a few miles further the road goes through the even smaller town of Ronald.

The Road to Salmon La Sac
A few scattered housing tracts extend for few miles out of town before the road enters the national forest.  After a total of about 10 miles from Ronald, just past the Cle Elum River Campgrund  is a signpost.  Take the left turn to French Cabin Creek.  After turning left, is a bridge over the Cle Elum River.

Cle Elum River Bridge

After crossing the bridge there are numerous camping sites.  From about April to October there are minimal amenities like garbage dumpsters and porta-potties and there is a small fee for camping.  For the rest of the year if the snow is gone, you can use it for free and have the entire area largely to yourself.

Or you can continue on past the campground and go either right or left at the Y in the road.

 A Fork in the Road - with the Knox Creek and Thorp Lake Sign

Taking the left fork leads to numerous sites on or near the Cle Elum River.

A side- road to a camping site
Of course it is a good idea to walk down these small side roads first to make sure they are passable and not too rough or narrow for your RV.  Underbrush and trees grow fast in the Pacific Northwest and some side roads may be too overgrown for many RVs.

A bridge across French Cabin Creek

Go slowly over the old bridge over French Cabin Creek - it is a little bumpy.  Beyond the bridge to the left is another great free boondocking camping area in the trees that extends down to the river.

A large camping area under the trees

If you take the right fork toward the Thorp Lake Trail and Knox Creek Trail, there are side roads with camping sites there, too.  The road is rough as it climbs through a series of switchbacks.  After it flattens out there are several campsites, mostly on the side roads left of the main road.

A creek flowing over the road
Although not along the shores of the river, there are several sites along French Cabin Creek.  In fact you will need to drive through French Cabin Creek to get to this campsite.

A Camping Spot with a View of Red Mountain
The creek is usually only a couple of inches deep and if it is safe to cross, on the other side of the creek is another of my favorite sites camping sites with a view of Red Mountain.

If you want more information about camping in the area, visit the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website.