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Ancient Lakes Camping | Guide to Camping in Ancient Lakes Basin

Ancient Lakes offers established campgrounds between three desert lakes with stunning views of wildflowers, waterfalls, and basalt cliffs.

The Ancient Lakes area in Quincy, Washington, is an incredible short backpacking trip or hike. It's in the North Columbia Basin State Wildlife Recreation Area, and you might also enjoy birding and swimming while you're visiting.

Ancient Lakes Camping

Ancient Lakes camping is a unique experience! The campsites are not large, nor are they filled with the amenities you're likely to find at other nearby sites (keep reading for camping near Ancient Lakes!), but they do offer a unique vantage on this central Washington oasis.

If you're interested in Ancient Lakes, Washington camping, keep reading to find out everything you need to know! The science of these incredible lakes is well-worth researching as well.

Getting to Ancient Lakes Campground

To get to the campsites at Ancient Lakes, you're going to need to take Highway 28 south along the Columbia River until you get to White Trail Road. Take this road to access the main trailhead and take Highway 28 to Rd 10 NW before turning onto Rd V NW and then Rd 9 NW. Continue driving down Ancient Lake Road for about 4 miles until you arrive at the lower trailhead.

From the trailhead, you're going to hike into the Ancient Lakes area to the campgrounds around the large lakes. The trail is approximately 2.3 miles one way or 4.6 miles round trip if you're just visiting for the day.

Keep in mind, you need a Discover Pass to park at the trailhead!

Ancient Lakes, WA Camping
Views from a Campground at Ancient Lakes

If you loved visiting the Ancient Lakes, you might also want to check out our Guide to Visiting the Alvord Desert in Oregon and Complete Guide to Hiking Navaho Peak.

Ancient Lakes Campgrounds

At Ancient Lakes, you're going to find a few established campgrounds around the many small and large lakes. The largest of these lakes, Ancient Lake, is the destination of most hikers exploring the area for the day. But, there are many small, less-defined trails that wrap around the lakes that are well worth exploring.

Where are the Campsites?

The Ancient Lake campsites are distributed around all of the lakes. The majority of the sites are near the largest lake, Ancient Lake. There is an unknown number in total, but they are fairly well-spaced, and most have a fire ring already built.


There are no real amenities to speak of at the campground. There is a porta-potty at the trailhead, but there are no bathrooms, water sources, or shelters available once you hike in.

The campsites do usually offer fire rings, though.

The campgrounds are accessible from all trailheads if you're hiking or riding a bike. It's only 2 miles into the largest of the lakes, making a trip to Ancient Lakes an ideal first backpacking experience.

Ancient Lakes Views
Views of the basalt columns around Ancient Lakes

Can You Drink the Water at Ancient Lakes?

No, you can't drink the water at Ancient Lakes. The water is polluted with agricultural runoff and is not safe for drinking, even if you've filtered it first! Make sure you bring in all the water you're going to need for your stay, as you won't have any other water sources available to you.

Can You Swim in Ancient Lakes, WA?

Yes, you can swim in Ancient Lakes, WA. Swimming in the lakes is common in the summer months.

Can You Have Fires at Ancient Lakes?

Yes, you can have fires at Ancient Lakes. There are fire pits at most established campsites. But, be aware that burn bans are in effect throughout the summer months, beginning in June and usually lasting into October.

Ancient Lakes, WA
The gorgeous blue water of one of the Ancient Lakes

Are Dogs Allowed on the Ancient Lakes Trail?

Yes, dogs are allowed on the Ancient Lakes Trail. But they should be on a leash.

Can You Fish at Ancient Lakes?

Yes, you can fish at Ancient Lakes. The largest of the lakes is managed for trout, and there are also largemouth bass and panfish.

Camping Near Ancient Lakes

If you want to visit the Lakes for a day but don't want to hike in with your camping gear, there are a few more options nearby that might work for you.

Crescent Bar Campground

Near Ancient Lakes is the Crescent Bar Campground. It's located north of the trailhead on the shores of the Columbia River. The site costs between $20 and $50 a night, and you can drive right in. The amenities include:

  • RV sites

  • Tent sites

  • Picnic tables

  • Trash

  • Drinking water

  • Toilets

  • Electric hookups

  • Showers

Sage Creek Campground

The Sage Creek Campground is south of Ancient Lakes off Highway 90.

The campground is popular with those attending concerts at the nearby Gorge Amphitheater as well as those passing through. Here are their amenities:

  • Toilets

  • Free outdoor showers

  • Ice machines

  • Drinking water

  • RV and tent sites

  • Full and partial hookups

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