There was a beautiful weekend on the horizon, and we decided that we should go camping in Oregon.
However, with all sites within driving distance already booked, we ended up staying home. 😫
Instead, we headed out on a beautiful day hike near Portland.
It was great, but not what we wanted that particular weekend. 😐
Camping in Oregon is one of our favorite ways to experience the beautiful scenery that our state has to offer. But, it can also be a huge challenge to find the perfect spot.
Or, at least it seems that way.
If only we had known then what we know now, we would have been able to find a great option even though it looked like there was nothing available at first glance.
Whether you live in Oregon or are planning a trip, we’ve pulled together everything you need to know in this guide to camping in Oregon.
You know – so you don’t have to spend the best weekends of the year staying home because you don’t know where to look. 😉
Types of Camping in Oregon
Look. I love being in nature.
But, sometimes I also love some of those “creature comforts.”
You know…like a comfortable bed. Or heat when it’s freezing outside. 🤷♀️
Sure, I’ll get out there and go tent camping too. But, if I can be comfortable AND enjoy the outdoors – even better!
If you’re like me at all, that’s where glamping comes in.
If you’ve never heard of glamping, it’s short for glamorous camping and is precisely what you might imagine when you hear those words. Think camping with a little bit of luxury thrown in.
The level of luxury can vary widely, from a yurt with a raised mattress to a tiny house stocked with everything you would need in the middle of the forest.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a camper, you may find that glamping is the perfect balance of nature and comfort.
RV Camping is camping that takes place in a recreational vehicle of some kind. It could be a campervan, a motorhome, or many other variations.
RV camping can be another great option when you want a few more comforts, but still want to enjoy the great outdoors. One of the huge perks to camping with an RV is that you get to set it up exactly how you will be most comfortable and take it wherever you go.
Tent camping is another excellent option in Oregon. There are plenty of campsites to choose from across the state, so you’re sure to find something that suits your mood.
One of our favorite things about tent camping is how inexpensive it can be. Once you have your gear, a night at a campground is very reasonable!
Yes, there’s even free camping in Oregon where you don’t need to pay for your site. There are a lot of options for this one, which can include boondocking, dispersed camping, and more.
One of the huge perks to dispersed camping is that it is free. However, that comes with the loss of some amenities. When you choose to camp at a dispersed location, you will need to plan for bathroom and water needs, trash removal, and be sure to follow guidelines for where you may set up camp.
Dispersed camping is camping outside designated campgrounds, in places such as the National Forest. Because there is such a large portion of National Forest land across the state, the possibilities for dispersed camping in Oregon are huge.
When it comes to boondocking, there can be a lot of different interpretations, but most of the time, it refers to “dry” camping in an RV. This essentially means that you must be fully self-contained, pack everything out, and house your own water and waste the entire time you are there.
There are a ton of great backpacking locations in Oregon. We know because we have about a bajillion of them on our list now that the boys are older.
Check out the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for some great ideas of where to start.
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Things to Know Before You Go
During the low-risk months, campfires are generally allowed with certain restrictions. Be sure to check the most recent campfire restrictions before you head out, as things can change rapidly throughout the summer months.
For current fire restrictions, check the appropriate source before you go:
Reservations are the bane of my existence when it comes to camping.
I love knowing that we have a site.
Especially when we’re sneaking out after work on a Friday.
BUT, getting those reservations can be a little challenging, to say the least.
In the Pacific Northwest, campsites that allow reservations typically book up for the summer during the winter.
Yup. You read that right.
And, while I’m a pretty good planner, that’s pretty far in advance – even for me.
Sometimes we will get lucky and find a site after the early part of the year, but we have to be very flexible.
Our advice? If you have a particular site or campground you just HAVE to visit, book it as soon as possible.
Thankfully, even if you can’t get a reservation, there are a lot of first come, first served sites as well. These can be a great option, especially if you can scoot out early Friday morning to grab one for the weekend.
When we are looking for camping reservations, here are some of our favorite booking sites to check.
- Reserve America
- HipCamp ← That link gives you $10 off your first booking. 😊
- Harvest Hosts – A membership that gives you access to all the host locations for a reasonable fee. Click here for 15% off.
- The Dyrt
You can find out more about those sites and how we use them to find unique, sometimes free, campsites in this post.
Last fall, while camping, we were walking on the lake bed of Detroit Lake – the level of the reservoir is usually dropped in the fall – and we kept finding trash.
Our then 7-year-old took it upon himself to start collecting the trash and put it in the proper place. 🙌
We make it a point to emphasize the importance of leaving places better than you found them to our kids. Or, at a minimum, to leave no evidence that we were there.
It’s incredibly disappointing when you head out to a quiet spot in nature, expecting to find a pristine escape, only to find mounds of trash. 😠
We can do better!
We encourage you to check out Leave No Trace and do your part to keep our natural resources beautiful for future generations.
Where to Camp in Oregon
Oregon State Park Camping
With over 50 campgrounds throughout Oregon, Oregon State Parks are excellent choices for camping. You’ll often find tent camping, RV camping, and some even have yurts or cabins you can rent.
For camping reservations at Oregon State Parks, you can reserve anywhere from nine months to one day ahead. However, during popular times (like summer), they do fill up quickly.
Thankfully, they also have over 20 campgrounds that operate first-come, first-served. So, if you can’t make a reservation at the beginning of the year, you can still find a great option.
USDA Forest Service Camping in Oregon
The USDA Forest Service also operates locations that provide camping opportunities across the state. You can find RV and tent campgrounds, cabin rentals, as well as many options for dispersed camping.
11 National Forest areas in Oregon allow for camping. You can find camping closer to the coast in Siuslaw National Forest, head into the woods in Willamette or Mt. Hood National Forest, or explore the dryer side of the state in Umatilla National Forest.
Campgrounds within the National Forest are primarily reservation-based, but some sites may have first-come, first-served options. You can reserve these campgrounds up to six months before your arrival, and most allow booking up to 48 hours in advance.
However, as with State Park Camping, these sites can fill up quickly, so if you’re looking for a particular location or have dates that are set in stone, you’ll want to make your reservations early.
National Park Camping in Oregon
While Crater Lake is technically the only National Park within Oregon, we also have National Monuments, Historical Sites, Trails, and Preserves.
For camping in Crater Lake, you can book sites at the Mazama Campground. There are other sites available nearby in National Forests and privately owned campgrounds as well, so if Mazama Campground is fully booked, expand your search a bit and see what you can find.
Pending weather and opening dates, Crater Lake typically opens in June. However, during this month, sites are first-come, first-served only.
Reservations are accepted in July, August, and September for Mazama Campground and make up the majority of sites. They do have some sites available for first-come, first-served, however, so if you arrive early without a reservation, you may have luck!
Camping on Bureau of Land Management Properties in Oregon
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is another great option when you’re looking for places to go camping in Oregon. BLM public lands have options for camping in Oregon that vary from established campgrounds to backcountry camping.
Most of the campgrounds on BLM land are first-come, first served. However, a few sites take reservations. Established campgrounds typically require a fee that assists with maintaining the campground. This interactive map is a great way to see the options available.
Dispersed camping is generally allowed on the majority of BLM land. You’ll just need to pay attention to any notifications that the area is closed or restricted. Sometimes this happens to protect wildlife – for instance, during nesting season in certain areas.
There are regulations on how long you can stay in a particular time period and how far away you must move before setting up camp again, but in general, they are very generous. Find out more here.
Privately Owned Campgrounds and Land in Oregon
When it comes to finding campsites, aside from the government-run options, there are many more choices for your adventure. While we love a standard campground, sometimes it’s nice to have something more unique.
Over the years, some of our favorite finds were a private campground with animals for the kids to “meet” and a train we could ride around the property and a rest stop (free) where we woke up to incredible views.
For all the details of how we find unique and free campsite options, check out this post.
Campsites by Region
While there are hundreds of locations to choose for camping in Oregon, we have pulled together some suggestions for you in different regions to get you started on your hunt for the perfect campsite.
Oregon Beach Camping
- Cape Lookout State Park
- Fort Stevens State Park
- Wrights for Camping – Cannon Beach
- Oceanside RV Park
- Tiny Tranquility – Tiny Homes and Vintage Trailers
Camping Near Portland
- These 5 Campgrounds are perfect for fall camping, but would also be great anytime.
- Cape Lookout State Park
- Champoeg State Park
- L.L. Stub Stewart State Park
- Beacon Rock
Eastern Oregon Camping
- Priest Hole Recreation Site – Primitive Camping near John Day and Painted Hills
- Two Pan Campground – Near Eagle Cap Wilderness
- Lick Creek Campground – Along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
- Minam State Recreation Area
- Wallowa Lake State Park
Camping Near Crater Lake
- Mazama Village
- Lost Creek
- Huckleberry Mountain
- Natural Bridge Campground
- Diamond Lake Campground
- Broken Arrow Campground
- Union Creek Campground
Camping Near Bend
- The Camp – Boutique Camping and RV Park
- Cove Palisades State Park
- Pine Mountain Buffalo Ranch – Use this link for $10 off.
- High Desert Oasis – Use this link for $10 off.
- Driftwood Campground
Current Status Links
Due to the current recommendations from national, state, and local authorities, some locations may be restricted or limited. To find the most up to date information, we suggest checking the following links before heading out on your camping trip.
- Current Oregon State Park status
- Current Oregon Department of Forestry status
- Current Forest Service status
- Current National Park status
- Current Bureau of Land Management status
We’ve done our best to pull together the most current links for information. However, the situation is changing rapidly, so if you happen to find a link that is not current or working, we’d love to know about it in the comments or via email.
Ultimately, there are literally hundreds of locations to go camping in Oregon, whether you prefer a full-service campground or the solitude of the backcountry.
Do you have a favorite hidden gem?