Ipsut Creek Campground is a relatively easy 5 mile trek or bike ride with a 700’ elevation gain, down a closed road (due to the road wash out about 3 miles in) to a wooded campground nestled along the Carbon River.
Located at the trailhead are two bathrooms, a covered picnic area and a handful of parking stalls with additional parking located along the road.
The trail begins behind the closed gates into the shade of the old growth forest. The trail then alternates between the shade of the forest and sunny skys with river views and wildflowers along the way.
There are a few side trips off the main Carbon River Trail even before reaching the Ipsut Creek Camp;
1) Mini Rainforest Loop, 0.25 miles
2) Old Mine Trail, 0.6 miles round trip
3) Green Lake & Ranger Falls trail, 3.6 miles round trip
Note: Sadly, the trail to Chenuis Falls has washed out, so now there is just a log bridge into the water to nowhere.
Once you reach the campground, it has about 20 campsites with about half the sites located on the river. We were lucky enough to swoop up site number 15 though, strangely, another family decided to share it with us for our easy river front access. Thankfully the river is pretty loud and drowned out the noise of our close campers. We did choose to camp on the high-profile weekend of the 4th of July, so all the cool campsites along the river were obviously full, which is why we think we had “friends” join us. There was a large fallen tree sort of splitting the camp site in half, so we took the left half, with the smaller 1 picnic table option, while the strangers took the right half with 2 picnic tables.
The trees in camp are great for setting up hammocks. We set up a hammock triangle upon arrival in camp near the river for lazy afternoon naps. My siblings both slept in their hammocks fulltime, while my husband and I set up a tent in a small clearing on the opposite side of the picnic table, closer to the bear lockers (bear lockers are a huge plus, meaning a bear canister isn’t necessary if you’re not heading deeper into the backcountry).
The campground had a decent amount of wildlife running around. We had a number of chipmunks running around our camp cleaning up any scraps left daily; we found a live mouse chilling in a water bottle one morning upon setting up for breakfast, and deer came through the camp just about anytime it was quiet.
The campground does have two restrooms but they smell like the bog of eternal stench, so bring strong essential oils, a scented hanky, or a shovel to dig cat tracks in the woods far from camp and water sources.
The campground is a good base camp to explore the surrounding Carbon Glacier/ Mowich Lake area. We visited Ipsut Falls, which was less than a half mile round trip out of camp, making for a sweet little trip to break up the day in camp.
We also chose to make the adventure up to the Suspension Bridge and to the Carbon Glacier view point. Our morning started off cool in heavy fog, which burned off throughout the day, giving way to magnificent views of the mountain and glacier. The trail was covered in wildflowers, cairns, creeks and mini waterfalls. It made for a beautiful day trip out of camp with plenty of opportunities to go further into the backcountry closer to Winthrop Glacier, out to Tolmie peak area or back out along the Wonderland Trail. Backcountry options seemed endless.
Though the trail and camp (and site) were crowded, the hike to the glacier made the entire trip worth our cozy campsite. The Carbon Glacier is a bit dirty looking but to be standing in front of something so ancient and magnificent is truly amazing. My husband, sister and I have now added a new item to our bucket lists and that is to see as many glaciers as we can before they melt, here’s to our first. =)
Note: The campground is located within Mount Rainier National Park (no pets are allowed) so you’ll need to stop by the Carbonado Ranger Station for a Wilderness Permit and National Park Day Pass or Annual Permit to display for parking. No campfires within the campground.
Arrived here in august it was definitely a different place. We were surprised at how little people were here in august. The place was pretty basic.. bathrooms and thats about it. Not really much wood to gather so planning on finding wood outside the park and bringing it in might be a good plan, Buying it is just ridiculous. The sand dunes were outer worldly and the view from our site was epic.
If you are looking for a quiet lake in the trees with the option of a picturesque hike…this place is for you. We stayed on a warm Friday night in July and had the entire lake to ourselves! Bring bug spray because the established camp sites are in the shade with the the mosquitoes. There is also a primitive pit toilet which is slightly better than digging a hole. In the National Park so I would recommend consulting with the local Ranger about a camping permit (White River Ranger Station).
Lake Santeelah is a really great camping spot on a lake that doesn't get the crowds that some of the other lakes in the area draw. There are a lot of primitive sites along the lake on Joyce Kilmer Rd. It's paved the whole way and easy to find. More sites on a gravel road on the east side of the lake, some are car camping others are hike in. None of these sites have hookups, water, NO RVs. Sites have a tent platform, fire pits and parking area off the road. Camping in February was a perfect. We saw a small handful of cars and one or two boats with fisherman. Otherwise it was extremely quiet and private, bears are in the area so make sure food and garbage are stored during the warmer months. Plenty of fishing for trout both in the lake and in Santeetlah Creek right up the road.