Steamboat Rock State Park

Last weekend we took off to Steamboat Rock State Park. It’s been on the list since 2017 when we discovered the area driving up to Republic for fossil digging. What a beautiful area, called the Channeled Scablands. We watched a documentary about the area after the fossil digging trip. We were both enamored with the landscape and wanted to learn more. There’s something about nature—and this area in particular, knowing the super cool history—that makes me realize how incredibly insignificant we are. I find this comforting. Humans come and go—little blips in time—while nature carries on.


Camping isn’t really my thing. I used to say that camping is anything three stars or below. I know, I know, snooty. But hey, I like comfort. And, emphasis on used to say. After having kids, I hit the reset button on life choices. Haha. We camp now… and by camping, I mean we stay in cabins (and yurts!). I like electricity. I can do without water or a bathroom but electricity is a must. Steamboat Rock State Park has three cabins amid all the camping sites. Cabins with electricity. And bonus, a microwave and mini-fridge. We booked a cabin for last October but then my fractured foot thing happened… we rescheduled for April, which felt so far away back then. And now last weekend feels long ago.

We set out Friday morning, deciding last minute to take the 2 and drive through Leavenworth (instead of taking the 90, the faster route). We timed it so we could stop in Leavenworth for lunch. And it worked out perfectly! The drive there is absolutely beautiful, seeing all the snow through Stevens Pass.

Leavenworth is still charming and fun to visit, but I like it better in winter. Pizza was the plan, and unlike me, we decided to wing it. We pulled into town just before 2pm. Google helped us find pizza places… we went with Rudloof’s Pizza Und Brats because it opened at 2pm (the others opened later). Brian called and placed our order. We figured we’d grab the pizza and find a local park where we could eat. We decided to eat there, in their outdoor patio. It worked out so well. We couldn’t have planned it better. We had the patio all to ourselves. The only downer was Brian ordered a brat but they were out?! The pizza was great so there’s that to make up for the missing brat.

Leavenworth lunch.

Back on the road, to Steamboat Rock. Talk about the middle of nowhere. The drive felt so desolate. We passed through a few small towns—after getting through Wenatchee—that have maybe 500 residents? Possibly 200?! Tiny. And after the 200-resident towns, there is nothing. The beginning of the Scablands. I cannot express with words how amazingly beautiful and unique the area is… even pictures don’t do it justice. It is spectacular.

Signs of civilization appeared as we approached Banks Lake. And then the entrance to Steamboat Rock State Park. We arrived just after 4pm and I warned the kiddos to be quiet. Here’s where my rule-following self ignored my rule-following… the cabins have a max capacity of five. We’re a family of seven. Eh, two kids equal one adult, right? And a toddler doesn’t count?! Despite me worrying and asking the kids to be quiet as we checked in, it was no big deal. They didn’t ask, we didn’t say anything, and nobody seemed to care in the slightest.

Our friends rented one of the other cabins and had arrived about 20 minutes before we did. Brian and I quickly got to unloading the car and setting up the cabin while the kiddos ran wild. They were so excited. My parents were great and we wanted for nothing… but I can count on one hand how many vacations we took as a kid. This is why I make an effort to take the kiddos to so many places, even if just a few hours away for two nights. My dad was a world traveler but my mom gets any kind of sickness. I still can vividly remember her being huddled in the cabin of a boat when we went whale watching in Monterey.

The cabin!

The cabins are super nice! They feel newish and are set up perfectly. There is a main room with a futon, dining table, and a large counter space next to the microwave and mini-fridge. A second large room is in the back of the cabin, with a bunkbed. We immediately decided we’d put all the kiddos in the bunkbed room, and Brian, Maive, and I would take the futon. Not that Maive isn’t a kiddo… she’s in the toddler category for now. The toddler still sleeps with us, even on vacation. It worked out perfectly.

All unpacked and ready to roll, Brian and Jeff left to obtain firewood. Dana and I took all the kiddos to nose around the park. The cabins are just off the lake, with a nice trail that winds around a grassy area. The kids found a tree to climb right away. Then it was off to a marshy area along the shore of the lake. Not everyone was wearing boots so we didn’t stay there long. We backtracked on the trail and found a playground. Score!

Exploring kiddos.

Blaise and I took off a bit to explore around the base of Steamboat Rock. Blaise had his sights on a tree and wanted to check it out. We made it to the tree and enjoyed the views from the lower part of the rock. We were both excited to explore more the next day.

Blaise time!

It was getting close to dinnertime. Back to the cabins we went. Brian and Jeff were back with firewood. Brian started the fire to prepare for hot dog roasting. And then marshmallows. I have things down, and easily prepared for the trip. With five kiddos I am super organized and efficient at most things. It’s kind of a must. But man, I failed on one thing! Saige, Maive, and I are vegetarians. I planned for this, in regard to meals. I bought veggie hot dogs. But somehow I managed to not pack them. Ugh! The only thing I forgot. We dealt with it, while everyone else roasted their meat hot dogs. I did remember the vegan marshmallows—in addition to standard marshmallows—which were all roasted immediately following dinner. It’s not camping without s’mores.

Marshmallow roasters! And a passed out toddler.

Maive didn’t make it to marshmallow roasting. She passed out about 7pm. Maive doesn’t nap much anymore. She does not want to miss anything. So she rallies until she can’t, which is anywhere between 5-7pm. I’m not going to complain though… she typically sleeps until 7:30am straight. Everyone else called it a night around 9pm. Even Brian and me. The sleeping arrangements worked out well and everyone was fast asleep. The damn heater kept kicking on and off every five minutes, all night. It was unbearable. I finally asked Brian to turn the sucker off around 2am. Then I slept soundly.


Saturday was the day to pack in everything. The weather was sunny but it was windy. Even the weather app had wind as the weather for four hours in the morning. We decided to head into town and check out Grand Coulee Dam. It was windy there also. The visitor center is closed, Covid and all. We wandered around the outdoor visitor area and snapped some pictures. Then we went to the Crown Point viewing area, to see the dam in all its glory. What a view! Absolutely gorgeous.

Grand Coulee Dam. Maive and her pole hugging?! Brian finally remembered to bring his binoculars, which Baby quickly asked to use. She calls them goggles. I love her names for things! Yesterday, she called the driveway the car cement.

Crown Point viewing area. What a view!

It wasn’t even lunchtime when we loaded in the car to head back to the cabin. Brian and I briefly considered getting our Covid vaccine at the local Safeway. There were so.many.appointments compared to almost no appointments around home. We decided against it since we planned on hiking in the afternoon. Just in case we had any side effects. We did stop at Safeway to grab a few things since we were there. It was very obvious we were in Eastern Washington, with all the noses showing. I’ll never understand how wearing a mask became so politicized. In 100 years, when historians write about the Covid pandemic, I’m fairly certain anti-maskers will be on the wrong side of history. I digress. On the flip side of noses showing, I will say it was nice to not have the social pressure of wearing masks outside where we could social distance. We did the first night and stuck out like a sore thumb. Other than that other family who arrived Saturday afternoon, with a Bellevue license plate cover. We ditched masks outside after Friday night, keeping our distance from others of course. And the Bellevue family ditched their masks outside when I saw them Sunday morning.

Back at the cabin, it was lunchtime. We ate and the had some downtime before we got going again. There is sand behind the cabins which was perfect. We brought a bucket and some shovels. The kiddos played in there for a while, when they weren’t roaming around. We hit up the playground before hiking up Steamboat Rock.

Playground kiddos! Maive discovered a soccer ball.

It’s a short hike up. Maybe a mile? We all set off around 2pm for the hike. It’s a sandy trail until the steep, rocky trail up to the first plateau on Steamboat Rock. The kids all charged up, while Brian—with Maive on his back—and I took the rear. What a view! Stunning. I was anxious to get to the tippy top of Steamboat Rock but the kiddos didn’t want to go any higher. We went back down and back to the cabins.

The trail up! A view from the top of the steep part and Saige posing on a rock, taking a break from the steepness.

That view! Banks Lake below, from the top of the plateau in the bottom right picture. And the kiddos up there!

More downtime. Or so I thought. I was hanging with Maive and Brian while the other kiddos played and roamed some more. Dana came over and wanted to go explore, without kiddos. Sold! We decided we’d hike up to the tippy top of Steamboat Rock. It was waaaay more impressive than I imagined. I thought we’d get up there and have a beautiful 360 view. And we did. Except it’s so big up there! I hadn’t considered it would be so expansive. Sure enough, Google tells me there are about 600 acres on top of Steamboat Rock. It’s like a prairie up there. I was—and still am—amazed at the beauty of nature. We nosed around up there for a bit, following a trail to the center of the grassy area. The herd of deer was in the distance, grazing on the grass. We stopped and took it all in, and almost got blown away. Haha! It was SO windy up there. So windy we decided to turn around and head back down.

Let’s see, the rocky trail going up. A view of Banks Lake from way up there. And then prairie! Some rock formations we found that are super cool. A deer. And a rock pile.

It was approaching dinnertime. But we knew we had to send Brian and Jeff up there for the experience. I reluctantly agreed to take on dinner while Brian hiked up Steamboat Rock. I’m not a cook; I don’t enjoy it and I wouldn’t wish my cooking on anyone. The plan was to make hamburgers. Impossible burgers. Brian had the brilliant idea to bring our large griddle with us. Brian used it for Saturday breakfast and it worked out incredibly well. Another point for electricity. And bonus, it’s super easy to clean. After getting a quick tutorial from Brian how long to cook the patties, I started in on dinner while he hiked. Maive couldn’t hang on and passed out in the stroller. At 4:30pm. Tired toddler!

Dinner was super easy, surprisingly. I managed to cook all the patties, prepare all the fixings, and feed all the kiddos. Minus Maive, who was out for the night. Dinner, check! I cleaned up and planned on hanging with the kiddos around the fire. Brian started one before he left to hike. With all the sand around, my hair felt super dirty. I decided I’d sneak off for a quick shower. Since there are only three cabins and RVs galore with their own bathrooms, the public bathrooms were incredibly clean. Like they smelled like bleach clean. I quickly washed my hair. Back at the cabin, Maive had woken up and was not in a great mood. I got her back down, on the futon this time.

The rest of the kiddos were hanging around the fire, itching to roast marshmallows. I had them wait until Brian was back. I was watching Maive from the window, making sure she wasn’t rolling off the futon on to the hard cement floor. As I was watching her through the window, I had one cell bar and received a text from a friend about vaccine appointments the following Monday and Tuesday. There were 400 appointments on Monday and 1,000 appointments on Tuesday. Leaning up against the window, with barely any cell service, I scored appointments for Brian and me on Tuesday. Which felt fitting since I had no service anywhere else in the state park.

We had a bit of a hiccup with Saige… she ran off and hid. I had gotten frustrated with her asking about roasting marshmallows for the fourth time, after I had already told her not until dad was back three times. I told her to stop asking and that she was about to lose roasting any marshmallows if she asked again. I can’t stand answering the same question more than once, let alone four times. I get that she was excited but it’s one of my things. I have many things. We found her, after a slight freak out. I knew she was around and not in trouble… but I’m not a fan of not knowing where my kids are at all times.

Brian on top of Steamboat Rock.

Brian was back and it was marshmallow roasting time. Even Saige. Maive was getting fidgety on the futon so I stayed with her until she settled back down. Saige and Baby called it a night on their own, around 8pm. They were exhausted. With the three girls passed out, the big kids, Brian, and I spent time around the fire. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if we had stopped after having two… Blaise and Laine are at such great ages that life would be so freaking easy. Especially camping. But then I stop myself because I wouldn’t trade having all five for anything. It’s work and exhausting at times—and I may lose it occasionally—but it’s all totally worth it.

The fire before it died down. And Blaise in the dark, with a small flicker of fire on a stick.

The stars were out bright and the fire was calming down. We called it a night around 9pm. And we were all asleep by 10pm. I slept hard Saturday night. We turned the heater off before we went to sleep.


Sunday was calm. There was no wind and it was a beautiful, sunny blue sky day. We planned to hike Northrup Canyon before pulling out. That didn’t happen. Instead we had a leisurely morning. Brian made breakfast for each kid as they rolled out of bed. Baby was first, waking Saige and Maive. That griddle worked out so well. Eggs were on the menu. Blaise and Laine slept in a bit, making an appearance after the younger three had already eaten breakfast.

Lazy Sunday morning. Later, cabin!

After everyone ate, we packed up the car and hit the road. This time we went the faster route, taking the 90 home. We made a pit stop in Ellensburg for a Burger King lunch. Another Impossible burger for me. I wish McDonald’s would get on the veggie burger trend. Not that I’m a huge fast food person but options would be nice.


It was just after 1pm when we made it home. I love getting back earlier… it gives us time to unload and unpack, and still feel like we have a day before the weekend is over. After unloading and unpacking, and getting laundry going, I started looking for more state parks with cabins. I’m itching to book more trips after I get Laine’s fall meet schedule next week. Steamboat Rock was perfect. And while I like to think we’ll go back—and we may—I feel like we checked it off the list and I want to explore other state parks.

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