We slept in a big metal shipping container, and we were not on a freighter or train. Tolt MacDonald Park in Carnation has converted a used shipping container into a fairly comfortable glamping cabin right by the Snoqualmie River. Shipping containers have taken on an architectural life of their own over the past decade, with people around the world experimenting and reusing their materials for extremely sturdy structures (including even small apartment buildings and a retail mall). The combination of concept plus location was intriguing, so we visited for a weekend.

Tolt MacDonald Park is a multi-use park in the small town of Carnation, located a half hour’s drive east of Seattle. Community sports fields and a drive-up campground greet visitors first, but then one notices the 500 foot pedestrian suspension bridge over the wide Snoqualmie River. On the other side are 6 yurts, 1 shipping container cabin, tent camp sites, and miles of forested hiking and mountain biking trails.

Rolling carts are available to borrow by the bridge. You can fill the carts at the car to then roll your stuff over the long bridge and up to your accommodations. Entry to the shipping container cabin (and yurts) is via passcode-access boxes.

The nicely finished cabin interior has electricity, recessed lights, and a wall-mounted radiant space heater to take off any chill. The long metal box is bright inside, with a large sliding glass door plus side and end windows. It was enjoyable sitting inside with natural light flowing in from both sides, instead of the more usual home arrangement where light comes mostly from one side. Sleeping arrangements included an upper bunk single bed, lower bunk double/futon, and a reclining chair with ottoman that can fold out for another single bed. A table with benches provided hangout and eating space, and at the other end of the shipping container was a good sized counter with storage drawers and cabinets below. Bring a blanket or inflatable camping mat to put on the concrete benches at the inside table; the benches were otherwise both hard and cold on the butt. The shared restroom was a pit toilet in the campground, and there was one water spigot outside (no sink or hot water). Cooking is not permitted inside the cabin. A picnic table and fire pit is available near the cabin’s deck, providing a tree-filtered view of the river.

The cabin’s creation was guided by somewhat sustainable and reusable material practices. The shipping container, wood panels, windows, cabinets, and other parts are reused construction materials. LED lights, low VOC finishes, and other touches round it out.

From the shipping container cabin, day exploration options include fishing at the river, hiking and biking a maze of trails, and general relaxing. Short jaunts into Carnation for supplies or dining is an easy option too, making for an all around unique but easily accessible and relaxing camping excursion.

Tolt MacDonald Park suspension bridge walking over Snoqualmie River in Carnation

Tolt MacDonald Park suspension bridge over Snoqualmie River (cabin is behind trees to the right of bridge)

Tolt MacDonald Park shipping container camping cabin by Snoqualmie River exterior deck

Tolt MacDonald Park shipping container camping cabin

Tolt MacDonald Park shipping container camping cabin by Snoqualmie River interior sleeping area bunk beds

Inside shipping container: bunk bed, reclining chair, and table

Tolt MacDonald Park shipping container camping cabin by Snoqualmie River interior dining area counter

Inside shipping container: table, counter, and storage

Tolt MacDonald Park pedestrian suspension bridge over Snoqualmie River in Carnation

Pedestrian suspension bridge over Snoqualmie River in Carnation

Shipping container reservations

Shipping Container Steel Buildings
Container Architecture
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