The Camper’s Guide To Conconully State Park, WA
Published September 8, 2022
If you’re considering a getaway to Conconully State Park in Washington, this is the blog post for you! Three friends and I just spent Labor Day weekend camping there, and I loved the dramatic landscapes and picturesque lakes in the area.
Washington State is one place I’ve wanted to include on my blog for years now. That’s because I grew up in the Pacific Northwest! I lived in Seattle for almost a decade (from 2008 to 2017), and someday I will blog about the Emerald City. But for now, I’m glad I got to write about a Washington State Park!
This blog post will provide a short overview of Conconully, then provide some tips for camping there! To skip down to any particular topic, click or tap on the corresponding link below.
Where Is Conconully?
The tiny town of Conconully is located in the northern reaches of Central Washington, not far from the Canadian border. With a population of only about 200 residents, Conconully is nestled in the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The nearest major town is Okanogan, about a twenty minute drive to the southwest.
To get to Conconully from Seattle, we took I-90 east to Cle Elum, then got on WA-970 for a short while. From there, we headed north along US-97 until reaching Okanogan. The entire drive takes between four and five hours each way.
Why Visit Conconully?
To be honest, Conconully was one of only a few Washington State Parks with vacancy when we booked back in April. In other words, be sure to book your own trip as early as possible! However, I think we still lucked out. Below are some of the reasons Conconully is a great camping destination!
The Drive out to Central Washington
Our mini road trip started in Seattle, and the drive from west to east through the Cascades is reason enough to go camping in Central (or Eastern) Washington! You’ll pass dense evergreen forests that eventually turn into rolling hills of yellow grass with sparse vegetation.
On the final stretch from Okanogan to Conconully, there are a few places to pull off and enjoy the view. The climate out here is dry, with hot days and cooler nights than you’d find west of the mountains.
Conconully State Park
The state park has flat, grassy fields and massive trees that provide ample shade. There is a playground, a small historic log cabin, and a park office.
The Conconully Reservoir is a large basin directly south of the town. If you’re camping at the state park, you’ll have beautiful views of this reservoir and the hills further south.
Despite Conconully State Park’s location on the reservoir, it doesn’t really offer water access to visitors. That’s because there is a large marshy area between the park and the water. If you want to check out the water’s edge, you can walk along a short trail down to Liar’s Cove Resort. However, the water here looked pretty stagnant and murky, so we never went swimming.
Conconully Lake and Sugarloaf Lake
Conconully Lake is the town’s other main body of water. It’s west of the town, and you can drive along its northern shore via Sinlahekin Road.
The lake is more picturesque at its midpoint than at the edge adjacent to town, so I recommend taking a short drive out there to check it out.
Sinlakhekin Road eventually turns from pavement to gravel, but it will take you to the lake’s northern end, which tapers off to a narrow point. Directly north of there is Sugarloaf Lake. It’s tiny, but has a calm, glassy surface that beautifully reflects the evergreen forest around it.
The small town of Conconully is mostly residential. There is a general store, two saloons, a post office, and a few other campgrounds, but not much else.
The following tips are aimed at campers staying in the State Park, but some of them might apply if you’re staying at other campgrounds in the area.
Overview of Facilities
Overall, we were very impressed with how pleasant and clean the state park’s facilities were! There are five wood cabins that can be rented. Ours had a double bed plus a bunk bed (to fit a maximum of four people). It looked like all the cabins had the same size and layout, but I’m not completely sure if that’s true.
The interior of the cabin was cozy and well-maintained. It came equipped with a trash bin, a broom, a flyswatter, an air conditioning unit, and a door that locked with a key. The mattresses provided were a little soft and were covered in a plasticky cover (perhaps for bedbugs). We used sleeping bags on top of the mattresses.
Outside the cabin was a large picnic table that was great for playing board games and eating meals. The only thing I would note here is that wasps were relentless about food whenever we were eating, although they were never aggressive (e.g. trying to sting us). We bought a wasp trap on our second day, and although it helped, it didn’t fully draw the wasps away from our meals, snacks, and drinks.
I also really loved how clean the bathrooms were here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen cleaner camp bathrooms! Each bathroom was fully private with lots of space plus a shower. However, know that you will need quarters to operate the shower! This is especially tricky given that there is a national coin shortage.
Your best bet would probably be to see if you can get a roll of quarters at your local bank before you come out to Conconully. We tried to exchange dollar bills for quarters in Okanogan, but multiple businesses there said they had a two dollar limit for quarter exchanges. However, we were able to exchange more paper bills for quarters at Okanogan Laundry.
Where to Stock Up on Food
We actually did most of our grocery shopping for the trip at the Safeway in Cle Elum, but the nearest large grocery store to Conconully is the Okanogan IGA Market. We stopped there a few times to stock up on snacks and deli food. Conconully has a General Store, but it didn’t seem like it had a massive selection of food.
In terms of restaurants, Conconully has two bar-and-grill type places: the Red Rock Saloon and the Sit’n Bull Saloon & Cafe.
After lots of hotdogs and burgers on the grill, we wanted to eat something different for our final night in the area, so we passed those two places up. A Mexican restaurant called Los Agaves in Okanogan ended up being exactly what we were looking for! It’s in the back of a convenience store and definitely has a hole-in-the-wall vibe, but the enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and birria we got were all super tasty.
A Note on Campfires
During our visit to Conconully, the fire danger was rated as “extreme,” with a town burn ban in effect until further notice. Because of this, both wood and charcoal fires were prohibited. We brought a propane camp grill, and it’s a good thing we did, because there would’ve been no other way for us to grill our burgers, hot dogs, or breakfast sausages. The charcoal grill and firepit next to our cabin had plastic warnings zip-tied to the metal grating, so anyone brazen enough to defy the ban would probably have to answer to park rangers afterwards.
The aftermath of wildfires is apparent across Central Washington, where evergreen trees are charred and black and often missing lower branches, but still green on top. I honestly wonder if campfires will eventually become a thing of the past, since wildfire risk in dry areas seems to be high or extreme more often than not during the summer. That’s a little sad, but it is what it is. We didn’t get to make s’mores, but it’s not like our trip was ruined by the fire ban.
Most notably, we saw tons of deer at Conconully State Park! They don’t seem very afraid of people, but we never deliberately approached them. There are a number of “no hunting” signs near town, which suggests that there might be hunting grounds in the forests nearby.
The marshy ground around Conconully Reservoir also attracted lots of waterfowl. We didn’t see any signs warning of dangerous animals. Nonetheless, you can learn more about wildlife safety in Washington State by reading this article.
As of late summer 2022, no major carriers provide cell service to Conconully. It cuts out a few minutes or so after you leave Okanogan. I guess it’s good that we were able to disconnect more fully on our trip, but if you need to leave a message for someone, make sure to do it before you get to the state park.
Enjoy Your Camping Getaway!
If I’ve convinced you to book a weekend or longer at Conconully State Park, you can use this online portal to check availability! As I mentioned above, Washington State Parks seem to fill up quickly, so try to plan as early as possible. We might camp next year in Washington or we may go elsewhere. Either way, we’ll be sure to look even earlier than spring for Labor Day weekend.
Have you been to Conconully or Okanogan before? Are you heading that way soon? Leave a comment below and let me know! If you’re about to embark on a camping trip in Washington, have an amazing time, and thanks for reading!
This post was published on Sept 8, 2022