Mount Rainier National Park: Reaching Out to Camping Newbies

Free camping trips are being offered to Seattle-area families...but few have shown interest. NPS photo.

How many of you would jump at the chance to join rangers at Mount Rainier National Park on a three-day camping trek? And keep in mind, this offer comes with equipment, food, and rangers tossed in for free.

Surprisingly, few in the Seattle area are jumping on this offer. If more interest doesn't surface by April 22, Rainier officials just might cancel the trips, which are scheduled for July and August.

The learn-to-camp program, aimed at Seattle-area families with kids in elementary and middle school, is being supported by the National Park Service and the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. It is open to all-comers with little or no camping experience, regardless of income level. The goal is to get kids hooked on nature.

To learn more about the "Youth and Families to Our Parks" program, contact Brad Carlquist at 206-220-4229.


I think that this is great for those of us that would like to go camping and can not afford it.
But, i have a feeling that if it was advertised more in the Seattle area there would be more intrest.
I have lived here 8 years and this is the first that I have heard of it.

I'm with you Anon, I live in the seattle area with a 3 year old, have subscribed to more park newsletters than I care for, read the P-I and Times online, and the first I heard of this program was today (once on this website and twice on Twitter) ... and two of the mentions were to say that it may be canceled!

This is news to me. My wife reads the local paper from "cover to cover" every day and has never mentioned it. Maybe Brad should advertise the program. He might get a bigger response.

It would be a shame to see such an outstanding program fail only due to a lack of public outreach. I was once a city kid myself. Camping in the parks was the highlight of my summers.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Perhaps part of the poor response is because many people, especially low-income, may not be able to get three days off?

I have just spoken to Brad and he let me know that the reason this program has not beenheard of is becouse it is fairly new. but he is very glad of the response that he is getting now.
There are requirment for this program, I strongly sugest that if you are intrested that you call and get the scoop from Brad.

Are you "discriminating" against forever young (55+) no kids. We have raised our children and they are gone, there was no program like this back then.
we always camped as a family, and would love to go and explore Mt. Rainer with a ranger. let us know if we are welcome.

Free camping at Mount Rainier for city kids (The Seattle Times)

"To make sure families of limited means don't miss out, organizers have been recruiting at community centers in South Park and other low-income and diverse neighborhoods. But interest, they say, has been low."

Does anyone know if something like this exists in the Oregon area? I have a son who is in middle school and my husband and I would love to see him gain interest in camping and the outdoors. Anyone that can help us with some info would be greatly appreciated.

There's actually a fantastic program similar to this that has been going on in Texas state parks for more than a year. It's called Texas Outdoor Family and teaches families everything from pitching a tent to kayaking to geocaching. It's not free -- $55 covers everything, including park entrance fees, except food and sleeping bags for a family up to 6 or 8 people. Granted, it's not in the national parks, but it's a great program at interesting and significant sites all over Texas.

For details:

This is an ambitious, generous program, and I applaud Ranger Carlquist and MORA and Seattle PRD management in their efforts to interest an often forgotten population in recreation opportunities in national parks. This is a new program and, based on my experience with several similar programs in the East, may be asking too much of many of the qualifying families. Aside from demographic issues that work against this program, many urban communities demonstrate an outright fear of "the woods," let alone a chance to camp in what they may interpret as remote wilderness. Perhaps this program should be carried out in stages where families could spend their first night camping in familiar territory closer to their homes. Once acclimated to this experience, families could be put at ease going "into the woods." Another strategy, one that has been extremely successful at Everglades, is a residential camping experience as part of an environmental education program. If I recall correctly, at one time families were encouraged to overnight with their child for one night during the experience. That program was - still is as far as I know - deeply embedded in the regional school system. There are any number of successful options regarding this subject. I trust those involved have explored many of these options beforehand so they can apply the working options and avoid discouragement. Success isn't happening overnight here, so management should support this opportunity for at least three years before pulling the plug. I wish them well.

I would love to know more detail about it. Our family likes all the outdoor activities, but doesn't have experience about camping at all. We usually go day trip or stay in the hotel overnight.

I lived in Bothell, WA as a child and could actually see Mt. Rainier from my front yard. I loved it up there! Happiest years of my whole childhood! We moved a lot and I now live in the hot Central Valley of California. If I still lived near Seattle, I would most certainly take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. My kids are grown now, but I could take my grandkids!

I just heard about this tonight from the "cool moms" webmail thread. I would love to take my son and since I was laid off from my job of 18 years -camping is all we can afford this summer for a getaway. I think he would love to camp at Camp Long which is in our neighborhood! super idea!

we are very interested...depending on the dates, we would love to come!!! -JB

Is it open to ppl who don't have kids?? I am very interested in this activity, however, don't have a kiddo yet. -- M.

April 21st, 2009
The Connecting Youth and Families to Our Parks program has filled. We have had over 300 families respond to get into this program, far more than we can serve. This has been a huge response with most of it coming shortly after and during the day it was in the Seattle Times newspaper came out on April 9th. (Note we did advertise for months before but targeted sectors within the Seattle Community for several weeks and gave presentations for several weeks to audiences in these areas). We are not sure we will run the program again next year but we hope to. Families which did not get into this program are encouraged to go outside, check out your local parks, regional parks, and national parks and learn from staff and through other ways of the wonders of your natural and cultural resources. The National Parks in our area offer programs for youth and families , they may not be like this but they are offen available to those who find out about them. Go to and click on the local parks you will find a wealth of information there about your national parks. There are also organizations such as Sierra Club, Seattle Mountaineers and REI which offer trips, information and insight on how to enjoy our great outdoors. Brad - Park Ranger

Hello All,

Does anyone know if this will be happening agian this year (2010) ?

Anybody could share their experience from last year ?


For a similar opportunity in Oregon, check out Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's 'Let's Go Camping' program, with a few openings remaining for 2010.