Have you ever wanted to go camping minus the sleepless nights, but with all the fun of open-air cooking and star-filled nights around the campfire? Thanks to Cascade Adventure Vans, you can forgo the long, expensive camping gear list and instead hop in one of their customized Sprinter vans.  

You’ve probably seen a Cascade Adventure Van zipping along highways or parked at trailheads. There’s a reason these vans are a popular new way for families to explore the outdoors. From being able to set up a tableside lunch spur-of-the-moment to the general ease in which you can avoid crowds, camper vans were made for adventure. 

My own family is not new to the camper van scene. Once you rent one, it becomes a no-brainer to rent again. With an awning to block the sun when you pull over for a rest to a comfortable bed and a built-in slide-out refrigerator/freezer for keeping all your food evenly chilled, it makes adventuring with little ones a game-changer.  A portable stove and heater keep everyone comfortable at night no matter the temperature. You may never desire to camp in a tent again.   

After picking up our van in Seattle, we headed north to Grandy Lake campground. With 20 primitive sites on a lake, we knew it would be a quiet spot for our family. Grandy Lake is a popular spot for anglers as it is stocked with Rainbow Trout and home to resident Coastal Cutthroat and Largemouth Bass. However, we quickly realized you don’t need to fish to enjoy the lake’s scenic views or peacefulness.  

Making dinner was a breeze with the two-burner camp stove, pots, and pans all provided by Cascade Adventure Vans. After dinner, we headed up the road to check out Lake Shannon, a long, narrow reservoir on the Baker River. From the lake, you can see sweeping views of Mount Baker. 

Early the next morning, we decided to make a quick side trip to Diablo Lake for kayaking. We then spent the rest of the morning traveling to Larrabee State Park Campground, an idyllic destination situated along Chuckanut Drive. It  offers easy access to Samish Bay but has great hiking trails nearby. Fragrance Lake is a great choice for beginners, with only 950 feet elevation gain in 5.5 miles roundtrip.  

After kayaking and a scenic drive, we took our portable grill down to the beach and dined on hot dogs, fruit, and chips — my children’s favorite camp lunch. Afterward, we spent a few hours wading in Samish Bay while taking turns on a stand-up paddle board.  

Since the kids picked lunch, we adults picked dinner, and Taylor Shellfish was at the top of our list. After a busy day, we enjoyed the short drive to Taylor Shellfish’s Samish Bay Farm. Once there, we ordered a salad, bread, fresh oysters, and our favorite: barbecued oysters. If you love shellfish, there is nothing quite like eating them straight from the source. The picturesque backdrop of the water and the mountains was the cherry on top.  

For our last day, we headed to Washington Park in Anacortes. If we had more time, we would have eagerly taken the van island-hopping around the San Juans. Instead, we treated ourselves and went on a whale-watching excursion out of Anacortes. Ending an adventure is always a bit of a downer, so we knew we wanted to head home via the Deception Pass Bridge and stop at Deception Pass State Park for some tide pool exploring during low tide.  

One of the biggest things my family and I learned during the pandemic is how much joy we find in one another’s company and how much we truly love where we live. We don’t need an exotic destination or the hassle of an airport to have a good time. All we need is fresh air, jaw-dropping scenery, and an endless supply of good food to keep everyone happy and fueled.