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Nestled alongside Waddell Creek in the Capitol Forest is an adventure lover’s paradise. Camp among the tall trees with miles of all-terrain vehicle trails easily accessible from your campsite. Middle Waddell Campground in the Capitol Forest offers access to unforgettable summer ATV adventures with a peaceful spot to rest after a long day of riding in the summer sun.

Middle Waddell Campground and Trailhead

Camping at Middle Waddell Campground is free but does require a Discover Pass. Visitors should buy the Discover Pass before their stay at Middle Waddell Campground and display it on their vehicle’s windshield. There are no reservations at this Capitol Forest campground. From spring through summer, campers must register on-site with the campground host on a first-come, first-served basis. After Labor Day, Middle Waddell Campground is open on a first-come, first-served basis until the end of November, with no host.

Tall shady trees surrounding the campsites at Middle Waddell Campground offer respite from summer heat and privacy from other campers. It’s quintessential Pacific Northwest camping with the bonus of all-terrain fun in the sun.

With three loops, find 24 campsites complete with packed gravel parking, picnic tables for meal times and fire rings to enjoy the space into the night. Most sites are narrow, but are pull-through and suitable for camp trailers up to about 27 feet. There are no utility hookups, so be prepared to camp without all the frills. There are four clean pit toilet restrooms, firewood available and, most of the time, a friendly camp host to help you with any questions.

sign for Middle Waddell Campground at Capitol Forest
Middle Waddell is a popular recreation destination and is just a short distance from Olympia in the Capitol State Forest. It is well-known as a local’s go-to place for off-roading, Photo courtesy: NorthAmericaTalk

You can also just enjoy the ATV trails for the day at Middle Waddell. A seasonal day use area is just a short way down the road with a large, paved parking lot, picnic table and campfire ring in one corner.

Riding ATVs at Capitol Forest’s Middle Waddell

Nearly 90 miles of motorized use trails are accessible from Middle Waddell Campground. Be sure to download a map before heading out on your ATV adventure. Beginning riders will enjoy the trails in close proximity to the campground with nearby loops suitable for all skill levels. For the more advanced riders, set out on Middle Waddell East trail for access to Rock Candy, or hit the Middle Waddell West trail to reach Twin Peaks and Larch Mountain; or make a day of the ride and get some miles in with a loop up to North Rim.

The trails from Middle Waddell Campground into Capitol Forest offer challenges to keep the adventure fun. Find well-marked trails with mostly hard-packed surfaces with a few rocks and mud, hairpin turns, some hills and water and bridge crossings.

women on a motorbike at Capitol Forest
Have a summer to remember with an ATV camp trip to Capitol Forest’s Middle Waddell Campground. Photo courtesy: NorthAmericaTalk

Be sure to check the DNR website for any current recreation alerts, including any burn bans on campfires. Currently, the Waddell Basin West trail is closed near the C-9000 for the Onion timber sale. The trail will likely remain closed for the rest of the season.

Rules for ATV Riding at Capitol Forest

  • Be alert for other road users, from heavy vehicles to bicycle riders and hikers, so check your speed accordingly.
  • Off-road vehicle riders can enjoy Capitol State Forest trails from May 1 to November 30.
  • Follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace to keep the area clean and enjoyable for everyone, including the local wildlife.
  • Do not ride in streams or on road berms.
  • A U.S. Forest-approved spark arrestor and a vehicle license or ORV permit tag are required for all off-road vehicles.

Since the trails in the Capitol Forest are for everyone, including hikers, bikers and horseback riders, make sure to follow DNR rules when it comes to right-of-way yielding when sharing the trail with other users:

  • little kid on dirt bike at Middle Waddell Campground at Capitol Forest
    With access for all of western Washington’s residents and visitors, Middle Waddell Campground is the place to go for fun on wheels! Photo courtesy: ThurstonTalk

    Horseback riders or people with pack stock always have the right-of-way.

  • Hikers yield to horseback riders.
  • Mountain bikers yield to hikers and horseback riders.
  • Off-road-vehicle riders yield to all traffic.
  • Downhill traffic yields to uphill traffic (yielding rules may vary by landscape).

How to Get to Middle Waddell Campground

Take exit 95 off I-5. Turn west onto SR-121 North, toward Littlerock. In .3 miles, turn Left onto Maytown Road SW toward Littlerock. Turn right to stay on Maytown Road SW. Turn right onto Waddell Creek Road SW. Continue west on Waddell Creek Road from Margaret McKenny’s entrance for 1.2 miles. Turn left .1 miles to Middle Waddell.

Managed by the Department of Natural Resources, the Black Hills of Capitol Forest provide countless recreation opportunities, including ATV riding from your campsite. So, pack up the family and the bikes and have a summer to remember with an adventure at Middle Waddell Campground.

Get more information about outdoor activities by visiting: Outdoor Activities in Olympia & the Pacific Northwest | Experience Olympia.

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