Places to camp along the I-5
July 21, 2007 11:09 PM   Subscribe

Know any great, (free) places to camp-out along the I-5 from the Bay Area to Seattle? Also, any recommendations on good spots to stop for swimming ?

So we're doing a maybe three-day roadtrip up there, and any hints or secret spots you've discovered and want to share would be awesome. Generally I like to camp, and not in crowded RV roadside campgrounds but in undeveloped pull-off sites out in the dirtroad national forests - know any within 20 minutes of the I-5 corridor? In Northern Cal & Oregon? Particularly, anything near Ashland? Thanks! Also, any good swimming holes or sublime river spots?
posted by wavejumper to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
All of the state campgrounds on the Oregon Coast are awesome. A ways off the 5 and you might need reservations this time of year but the scenery is fantastic and the campgrounds are very well maintained.
posted by trbrts at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2007

Response by poster: No, we're not going up the coast, thanks. Really looking not for "camping" per se but places to pull over and sleep without being disturbed.
posted by wavejumper at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2007

There is some beautiful camping near Mt. Shasta and all around the Oregon/California border is sublime. I think you will have problems finding free camping that close to I-5. I remember seeing some beautiful areas on Hwy 96 just west of I-f in Northern California. I don't know that part of Oregon as well but Silver Falls State Park (yes, it is a state park and I don't know what the camping is like) is truly awesome. It is east of Salem. At the Washington/Oregon border you could find some great camping in the Columbia River Gorge to the East of Portland (or on the Washington side would be less crowded for that matter). Further north you can take Hwy 12 in Washington east and get to a great recreation corridor. I also agree with trbts that if you can get a reservation for a state park campground on the Oregon coast (yes it will be a drive from I-5) you won't regret it. Oswald West is incredible.
posted by fieldtrip at 11:02 AM on July 22, 2007

Sorry. I should have previewed. Disregard my post. I don't really understand what you are looking for.
posted by fieldtrip at 11:03 AM on July 22, 2007

You can't stop at the rest stops overnight, the state patrol will come by and knock on windows. If you really just want to pull off and sleep, you can look for fire & logging roads (there are a couple printed maps that have them, although they can be hard to get ahold of). As long as you're south of Eugene, you won't have to go very far to find one. Once you're north of the Eugene area, you can duck over to the cascades or the coast range, but that'll be quite a drive either way.

There are plenty of state parks, though, that don't have RVs, or have parts without RVs. I try to avoid anything immediately close to I5 because they're almost always crowded. If you go on a weekday you'd have better luck.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:54 AM on July 22, 2007

Seconding Silver Falls, btw. Its big, and will have a lot of people you'd rather not be with, but IIRC there are some sites tucked back east a bit. And the Falls loop itself is beautiful.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:55 AM on July 22, 2007

As noted above the 5 is largely a corridor of suck when it comes to illegal camping. If it comes to it you can sleep in any Walmart parking lot.
posted by fshgrl at 5:07 PM on July 22, 2007

what about BLM lands along/near I5? i'll be making the trip from LA to Canada in a couple of weeks and i'd like to have a place to sleep off a long day of driving.

what are the camping rules in the BLM? open season?
posted by klanawa at 9:09 PM on July 22, 2007

of course, i could always look it up myself... sheesh.

BLM Oregon FAQ
posted by klanawa at 9:34 PM on July 22, 2007

I could find these places again but don't know how to describe them. They're both off 5 near the CA-OR border.

#1 -- West off the highway, up a winding road. Right after you cross the border, there's a really noticeable decent. Shortly after (or during?) the steep descent, there's an exit where you can wind your way up a hill to the west. I believe there's a Denny's at the exit. There are a bunch of wide view shoulders and I parked on one and camped near the tailgate undisturbed. It's a two-lane road, and nobody seemed to be going up or down the road at night (sometime April-June?). There is actually a lot of BLM land right around the border there. This is definitely before Ashland.

#2 -- Near the Rogue River there are probably pull offs where you wouldn't get bothered. You could try exiting at Gold Hill and head out 234 and see if anywhere it parallels the river there is good....

In much less specific terms, I'd also give it a shot near Lake Shasta (south of the lake, to the west, is one parking lot I've been at where I bet you wouldn't get hassled) and Mount Shasta. Trinity Forest has got to have stuff but I really don't know that area or if the good stuff is way off to the west. There's also a lot of open space just south of the OR border, but I don't know anywhere good (and fshgirl says there's nothing), but it's definitely open. And I don't know the terrain well north of Medford, so that's all I can suggest. Let us know?
posted by salvia at 11:48 PM on July 22, 2007

I've spent multiple nights at the Tree of Heaven campground in northern California, on the Klamath river. It's a few miles west of I-5 on Hwy 96 (where the big rest area is), and I thought it was a good sleeping point when I was driving San Jose - Portland over and over.

From my limited googling, it looks like you can stay at a rest area in California for up to 6 hours at any time of day or night.

I've also stayed on the side of the road on fire roads a few times in Oregon, but many miles from I-5. I'm in a VW camper bus, and with the top not popped up, I've never been disturbed by the cops. The one time I tried it closer to main roads (in southern California) we had the dreaded knocks on the window early in the night.

You can supposedly park overnight & sleep in any Wal-mart parking lot. I haven't tried this one. This page about free camping spots mentions Wal-mart, rest stops, and some other options.

I recommend against the campground adjacent to the Rogue River rest area on I-5 in Oregon; traffic and train noise is awful there.
posted by olecranon at 1:27 PM on July 25, 2007

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