Kim K.
Pasco, WA
Joined March 2019
Star Gazing Galore!

I'm not sure what the other reviewer is talking about regarding a lake, as this ridge is at 6000' above sea level and there's no lake there. Granted, it's been a few years since I've camped here, but there's no lake.

We camped here for a free a few times. The Forest Service added some improvements and tacked on an $8 per night fee - still a bargain. The campground is on a road, but the road gets very little use at night. 

We've hiked in the area, and it's a real treat. There are springs, and there is nothing better on a hot day than the cold water coming out of a spring. During one visit, The Hubs brought his telescope & spent a chilly night stargazing. The southern end of the camping area has an unobstructed 240(ish) degree view of the sky, facing south. The nearest town is too far & too small to create any loom, so on a moonless night it's incredibly dark here. 

Expect this campground to be very busy during hunting season.

No-Fee (Almost Abandoned) Campground along a Lovely River

Although it's named after Big Meadow Creek, this campground primarily lies on the Chiawawa River. There's no fee and from the looks of things, no services. If you're okay with roughing it and you either have the campground to yourself or the neighbors are good, it's not bad. There's a single outhouse that I imagine gets pretty ripe when it's warm. I'm not sure I'd use it. (If you're pooping in the wild, remember you need to be at least 200' from water & dig an appropriate hole for your poop. Pack out your TP.) 

There's a site right on the river that's tiny; it looks like the river bank has eaten away at the site. One of the trees in this site is marked with a mining claim. In other words, DO NOT PAN FOR GOLD HERE. There's a good-sized site next to it. Both sites have trees that'll support a hammock. There are two other sites. The one closest to Big Meadow Creek has the most privacy. 

This campground isn't on the gazetteer I keep in my truck, but there's a sign for it along Meadow Creek Road. From there, take FS Rd 6300 & follow the signs. Coordinates, according to my USGS 7 1/2 map: 47.86813 N, 120.69305 W

NOTE: The US Forest Service web page says this campground is closed. However, there is no gate across the road nor any indication they consider people accessing the campground to be trespassing. If you're considering a stay, it's probably best to contact the Rangers Station first.

Sleep in a Bit of History

I recently rented the cabin for the weekend in February. I've already made a reservation for a summer weekend, but this review is based on winter use.

The cabin comes with a stove & a battery lantern, with the expectation that you'll provide the fuel & the batteries. A previous user had left a propane canister and left the batteries in the lantern. It's a nice gesture, but come prepared with your own. I'd also brought along a propane lantern, and I'm glad I did. (Although this did violate the "no open flames in the cabin" rule - more on that later.) The interior of the cabin is very dark, and while the battery lantern provides light, it's only bright up close. Plan to bring your own lanterns, especially in the winter when the night's dark comes early. There are some board games and books in the cupboard, as well.

The bunkbeds are covered in plastic, but it's a thin cellophane so it wasn't noisy. There are provided pillows; I didn't use them. The bunks' mattresses are comfortable. Because of the way the Forest Service installed the bunkbed & the cupboards, the bunkbeds don't fully benefit from the heat of the woodstove. In the winter, you'll want a warm sleeping bag.

I broke the "no open flames in the cabin" rule because it was 16°F outside, and my meals needed to simmer. I imagine this rule is designed to protect the cabin as well as to protect visitors from CO poisoning. I placed the stove near a window and opened the window a crack, and I never turned my back on the stove. There's a CO monitor in the cabin, and truth be told, the cabin's drafty. But if you're going to break the rule, understand the risk you're taking, and for the love of all that is holy do not burn down this cabin.

The lock on the woodshed is the kind that the tumblers need to be lined up before you take the key out, but it's also a little worn so it's possible to take the key out without it being lined up. If that happens - as it did with me - it's really difficult to get the key back into the lock far enough to unlock it. (I had to heat up the lock & the key with a candle to get the tumblers "unstuck.") Be very careful with the lock, or you may find yourself having a chilly night. (Wood is only provided during winter rentals, so this doesn't apply for the summer folks.)

The toilet paper in the vault toilet is kept in a heavy plastic tote. My guess is this is to protect it from rodents. Please keep the lid on tight.

I wish I'd brought along a pair of camp shoes to keep my bed socks clean. There's a warning that you should expect every surface in the cabin has been contaminated by mouse urine & droppings. Consider that during food preparation. (I used some plastic wrap to cover the countertop to give me some clean space to work.) I didn't see any rodents while I was there, but there were droppings in a few places. There's no running water, so I'd recommend bringing hand sanitizer as well.

I was carrying more than my usual backpacking load, and I'd planned to haul things in on a sled. Unfortunately, I failed to test out my sled setup & practice pulling a sled, and on the trail it turned out to be a dismal failure. I got very lucky in that a nearby cabin owner saw me, took pity on me, and hauled my gear in & back out for me. However, his was the only one of the cabins along the road in use that weekend. If you're going to do something similar, be smarter than I was and test out your gear & your technique ahead of time.

Although the river is nearby, it has a steep bank and I wouldn't risk trying to get water out of it during the winter. I utilized the woodstove's cooktop & melted snow. It's not the tastiest, but it's fine for cooking with.

I will definitely come back, and next time I will be better prepared. I enjoyed the brief glimpse of life in a remote cabin: splitting wood & kindling, needing to keep the woodstove going through the night, et cetera. But I'm grateful someone else cut the wood and stocked the shed, and that I had access to modern winter clothing & recreation devices like lightweight snowshoes & waxless skis.