Editor’s note: We’re spending the month of August looking at some popular campgrounds (and, of course, all are popular these days). Camping has boomed in recent years, particularly since Covid-19 eliminated many vacation options. This brief series will, hopefully, provide encouragement to get on the road and enjoy life outdoors – whether you’re pitching a tent or “glamping” in a luxurious motor home.
This series began with a look at Cape Disappointment State Park. Last week’s issue highlighted Maryhill State Park. Today we look at Alder Lake Campground, operated by Tacoma Public Utilities near Eatonville; and we’ll conclude next week with a peek at Grayland State Park, just a bit south of Westport.
These four sites were visited in recent months by the author, his wife and two dogs. They aren’t exactly “roughing it” in their travel trailer.
Alder Lake Park has been a favorite destination for several years and for several reasons. First, there’s proximity: it’s a boring notion, sure, but it’s nice to have a nearby getaway (the campground is perhaps 90 minutes from Enumclaw, assuming one isn’t traveling across the White River Bridge almost any afternoon).
But the park – operated by Tacoma Public Utilities – offers more than simple convenience. It’s a destination for campers, has a wide expanse of lakefront lawn and beach for day use and the lake is home to anyone hoping to land a fish, put their boat in the water or enjoy a quiet bit of kayaking. And don’t forget the stunning view of Mount Rainier, all the better if you’re on the water.
ALDER LAKE PARK, BY THE NUMBERS
The park takes in four separate-but-related areas: there’s the primary campground with its east and west loops, along with the Osprey, Elk Plain (kid-friendly, with a small playground) and Rocky Point sites, and that doesn’t include a large area dedicated to group camping. In all, there are 35 individual campsites with full hookups (electric, water and sewer), 74 with both water and electric and 62 tent sites; the group camp area adds 35 sites, all with full hook-ups.
The Rocky Point Campground is roughly four miles east of the entry to the main campground.
Reservations can be made up to nine months in advance for dates between May 15 and September 15. The rest of the year it’s first come, first served. For reservations, visit tacomapower.goingtocamp.com/home or call 833-290-8180.
SOME OF THE AMENITIES
Alder Lake campers have access to a day-use area that sits directly on the water. It is a popular destination, so visitors need to be aware that the area can get very crowded on sunny days. There’s ample lawn and beach space, but things can fill up quickly – along with the available parking.
The swimming area is roped off but there are no lifeguards.
For the boating set, there’s a launch immediately before entering the campground and access to a small marina.
Included in the footprint of Alder Lake Park is the nearby Sunny Beach Point, a nine-acre parcel on the lake that is for day use only (no camping). It’s about a half-mile east of the entry (School Road) to the primary park entrance off SR 7, also known as Mountain Highway.
For those who enjoy a heavy dose of hiking with their camping experience, Alder Lake doesn’t exactly satisfy. There’s a short, identified path – a nature trail – but not a whole lot else. There are plenty of great hikes, however, without traveling too far.
ABOUT THE AREA
Alder Lake Park is found about 10 miles south of Eatonville. The lake was created by the Alder Dam project (completed in 1945) and holds back the Nisqually River. It’s part of a Tacoma Power project that also includes a nearby dam at LaGrand.
Completion of the dam project left the historic community of Alder underwater, prompting everyone to relocate to higher ground.
TPU also operates recreational facilities at Mayfield Lake, Mossyrock and Taidnapam, all byproducts of the dams’ hydroelectric power.
Located at the southern edge of Pierce County, the Alder Lake area presents easy access to the natural wonders of the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park. It’s also a short drive to scenic Mineral Lake (minerallake.com) and the small communities of Elbe and Ashford. Heading further south, travelers can easily (during decent weather) reach the Lewis County communities of Morton and Packwood and the tinier spots between.