Tell me where to camp outside of pdx.
July 7, 2009 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Where should I camp this weekend in Oregon?

I've got a three day weekend coming up (friday-sunday), and I HAVE GOT TO GET OUT OF PORTLAND! I'm relatively new to the area, and have not explored too much outside of the city. Where are some great tent camping spots? I'll be traveling with my girlfriend. We are both young and love a good strenuous hike. Things I'm looking for (not an exclusive list, just some thoughts):

-Not too far of a drive (maybe ~2 hrs?)
-Near to the cost
-Maybe some hot springs?
-Relatively secluded and not too "touristy"

I'd also love any info on what I need to know about camping in Oregon. Stay on state park land? Or venture in BLM land? Can I have a fire? Do I need to make a reservation?

Thanks hive mind.
posted by Lutoslawski to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You might need a reservation. My favorite camping site on the coast is Cape Lookout State Park; my favorite one at St. Helens is Iron Creek. I love Oregon and Washington state park.

Fire depends on fire conditions in specific areas. Camping on BLM land depends on who's administering it; it's generally discouraged with large fines and you don't know who you're going to run into out there.
posted by SpecialK at 10:01 AM on July 7, 2009

Most places at the coast will be busy and not very secluded. If you don't mind camping off trail, many of the Wilderness Areas would qualify. Also, you'll probably also need a wilderness permit to camp in these areas. One of the problems with the coast range is most of it is privately owned and actively logged, so good, secluded spots are hard to find.

Any place with good hot springs is probably day use only and will be busy. I've never heard of any hot springs near the coast, mainly because all the volcanic activity is east of the valley. Bull of the Woods Wilderness area has the Bagby Hot Springs.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:22 AM on July 7, 2009

You could always use my dad's favored method and get forest service maps in order to get REALLY secluded (we are from Oregon). He used to torture my mother by always insisting on obscure, increasingly long routes. When you have more time, might I suggest:

-anywhere around Bend
-the Wallowa Mountains (not the lake, because it's SUPER touristy)
-Olallie Lake

A lot of people that I know from the Portland area camp in Detroit Lake but it always seems kind of packed. You also might check out a map (to see where National Parks and such are) outside of Eugene. There's some beautiful scenery around there if you know where to look. Other places close to PDX: Champoeg Park, Silver Falls, and Devil's Lake.

Other badass sites:

Smith Rock
Three Sisters
in or around Willamette National Forest
around the Deschutes River (like Elk Lake, a favored childhood camping area)
Steens Mountain
posted by nonmerci at 10:28 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, as far as specific req's, I'd rely on the State Park website for all of the relevant info, as it is going to vary from location to location.
posted by nonmerci at 10:47 AM on July 7, 2009

A lot of the state camp sites have non-reservable spots; first come, first served. My favorite on the Oregon Coast is Beverly Beach.
posted by codswallop at 11:14 AM on July 7, 2009

Wait, are you backpacking or car camping? If car camping just go here and find a spot. Also, William Sullivan is the go-to guy for good hikes. I can't think of any hotsprings near the coast necessarily. For strenuous hiking, head to the Gorge! Lots of good hiking and great views of the Gorge to be had. I can't off-the-top-of-my-head think of great camping in there, though I have done backpacking and car camping in Zigzag and also about 4 miles in from Eagle Creek traihead (very crowded for hiking but there was no one camping when I went it -- however, I think that was October).
posted by amanda at 11:32 AM on July 7, 2009

Seconding Cape Lookout. You will definitely need a reservation.
I've always liked Oswald West State Park, but a quick googling suggests the campground is closed. Might be worth a call; it's a nice, secluded beach (though becoming something of a local surfing destination).

Breitenbush is not super close to Portland or the coast, but nice hot springs. Ditto Belknap, though both of those might be a smidge less full-on camping than you had in mind (depending on your camping standards).
posted by willpie at 12:11 PM on July 7, 2009

Here is a pdf of options around the John Day River, down in the central part of the state. The advantage being that you may very well FIND a place to camp without a reservation.

Also, the John Day River and Fossilbead area have an arid beauty that is all it's own.

Anywhere in the Cascades, at this time of year, will be very buggy.

You are not that far from Willapa Bay, either.
posted by Danf at 12:15 PM on July 7, 2009

I'd second Oswald West, if it's open and Cape Lookout if it's not. If you're not wedded to coast and hot springs, you could also consider Ranier, which is about 100 miles from Portland and just beautiful all the way around. For future reference, put Crater Lake on your list if you haven't been.
posted by janet lynn at 1:00 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

It might be a bit more of a drive than you're looking for, but I just got back from a week at Paradise Campground and I think it was the best campground I've ever visited. The sites are unbelievably private for car camping, a lot of them are right on the banks of the McKenzie River, and the entire campground was just incredibly quiet - even on the 4th of July. It felt like camping on the Forest Moon of Endor. Plus it's right next to the McKenzie Rec Trail (spectacular hiking/mountain biking), Cougar and Bigelow hot springs, Tokatee public golf course, Clear Lake, Sahalie & Koosah Falls, great fishing... seriously, good times.
posted by pikachulolita at 1:15 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Paradise is really nice but back in the day people used to go out Thurs/early Friday and "reserve" a spot for themselves. I suggest getting to any place on the McKenzie early to guarantee a spot.
posted by fiercekitten at 1:44 PM on July 7, 2009

Oh, do NOT camp anywhere near sand dunes. Forgot to mention that. It's ATV hell.
posted by SpecialK at 7:22 PM on July 7, 2009

Austin Hot Springs
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:56 PM on July 8, 2009

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