Nestled in the forested foothills of Washington’s Cascade Mountains, Battle Ground Lake State Park is an easy escape from the local urban jungles. Located just 20 miles northeast of Vancouver, WA, and 30 miles northeast of Portland, OR, this small recreation area sits in quiet, evergreen woods, in the city named for an 1855 incident between the local Klickitat peoples and U.S. Army soldiers from nearby Fort Vancouver. The lake itself, in the center of the park, is actually in a volcanic crater, formed when a magma-induced steam explosion blasted a large hole in the ground, which subsequently filled with water. Visitors to Battle Ground Lake will find plenty of camping and outdoor opportunities in the park, with even more to discover in the surrounding area.
There are numerous ways to stay and play at Battle Ground Lake. The main campground offers 35 sites with picnic tables and fire pits; a few have partial hookups for RVs. There are showers and picnic facilities nearby. The park also has 15 hike-in campsites offering more rustic camping opportunities. For groups, there is a large area with four Adirondack shelters and a covered cooking area, and for equestrian campers, there’s a group area that provides corrals, picnic tables and a vault toilet. Inside the main campground, there are also four rustic cabins to rent, each with covered porches, outdoor grills, picnic tables and electric lights and heat; BYO bed linens. Seasonal campsite rates range from $12–$45; cabin rates range from $45–$79
While you may be inclined to just kick back and nap by the lakeshore, there’s plenty to do in the park and the surrounding area, including several miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails and a self-guided nature trail. Cool off with a dip in the lake, go for a paddle, or cast a line for rainbow trout and small-mouth bass. Just 20 miles west of the park, you can visit Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy some of its exceptional bird watching. Or, drive one hour north for an exciting underground journey into the Ape Caves, a 2.5-mile long lava tube on the southern flank of Mount St. Helens. The lower portion of the tube is easy and family-friendly; the upper portion is a strenuous endeavor for the truly adventurous. Wear sturdy shoes, a jacket, and bring your own flashlight, as this volcanic subway is as wild as it gets.
Battle Ground Lake State Park Campground has a wonderful choice of campsites. I hiked in with a group of 4 and we looked at all the different campsites. Some campsites had a beautiful view, some had smooth ground, some had nice hikes around it, and some had more! We chose one with a beautiful view, smooth ground, nice hikes, and a perfect place for a hammock! There was also a very nice beach right next to it that you could swim and fish in.
When we got there, we were told that the water can be quite dirty. But we saw everyone still swimming! So we did a little swimming to see what it was like and the water was fine! So if they tell you that, just swim anyway. Also, the bathrooms were disgusting. They do have showers that were fine, but some of the toilets were gross.
All in all, Battle Ground Lake State Park Campground was a pretty nice place!
Review by Fraser Barnes (Age 10)
This little camp ground was great for a two night stay. Lots of hiking near by.
We have had our family reunion here since about '78. Love this place and have been in several sites. Also a very popular day use especially with the lake on hot days. There is no gas power boating allowed.
The 'lake' is filthy, and most seasons it is too contaminated to swim in. The campground has no electricity, and the public restrooms are cleaned very infrequently. We quit camping there a few years ago, because of the garbage, contaminated water, and obnoxious drunken campers who were not made to leave. There are so many other awesome campgrounds in Washington--skip this one!
Non motorized lake is quiet and peaceful. Watching the bald eagles catching fish is awesome!
This campground is easily one of the most remote yet accessible and quiet that I have ever come across. Site staff on hand if needed but honestly the primitive sites are exactly what you are looking for: remote, spacious, quiet, fire and pet friendly and great views. The fact that this campsite is only 30 minutes from the 5, you couldn’t honestly tell. Open year around and on site water if needed, no amenities, but honestly, who cares? Perfectly spaced north of Portland and south of Tacoma/Seattle, easy access to both or in between but be warned, park access closes at dusk, and they do mean dusk. In the off season was one of maybe 10 groups in the whole park. Definitely will come again.
My friend and I had a great three day weekend here at one of the walk-in sites. Sites fill up quick and I recommend reserving online in advance. Important takeaways:
- There are no lakeside camp sites. I enjoyed this because it means more privacy and quiet.
- The main beach gets very busy on the weekends with day visitors. However, there are several small private coves just off the lake trail if you are willing to walk a bit.
- The lake is pretty warm for the PNW and does not allow motor boats, making for a very family friendly swimming hole.
- Regarding the walk-in sites, the sites are between 1/4 to 1/2 mile from parking. There are supposed to be wheelbarrows available near the parking lot, but people often keep them at their site. If you have a lot of gear and are coming on a weekend, I recommend bringing your own wagon if you can.
- The sites have toilettes and water spikets. There are also restrooms with running water, showers, and a convenience store near the main parking lot.
Just 45 minutes from Portland, sans traffic, this is an awesome weekend camping spot. I would also love to go on a weekday when it is less busy.
Great places for families. Traditional campground with great swimming area, spots for fishing, and a small loop trail around there lake. Hard core outdoor enthusiasts will not enjoy this campground, not a lot to explore or do.
Our favorite campground near Portland (normally a 45-minute drive). Not a ton of camping spots (20-30 drive in, a dozen or so walk-in), but I've had good luck booking mid-week spots the day before in the summer. There's also a couple of cabins with great lake views. Has pretty much everything you'd need: a small lake (caldera), a swimming beach, a camp-store with hot dogs, bait, etc., and a dock for fishing. Plus Battleground the town is maybe a 10 minute drive if you want to hit a restaurant or grocery store.
Nice campground, though busy during the summer months. You can walk around the lake, swim in the water, or fish from a non-motorized boat. Plentiful evergreen trees provide shade for around-the-lake walks.