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When it comes to camping you simply can’t beat FREE!!! But often times it is hard to find a good campsite which is close to some of the larger National Parks that is not overrun with people.
When I visited the Crater Lake area, I was well aware that finding last minute accommodations was difficult to impossible. Hotels in the area charge high premiums and depending on when you visit the campground is typically booked well in advance or even closed due to weather. It just so happened that I arrived late in the season, campground was already closed and I was wondering just what else would be out there for me as a tent/car camper.
I found a small forest road, FR960 and took my chances driving down a few hundred yards before realizing that there were a few established campaigns for dispersed camping. My signal with AT&T was sparse so finding this site was strictly by chance(the Dyrt hadn’t yet released their offline PRO Version just yet).
Driving down the road it was gravel and had a few small ruts here and there but nothing so serious I couldn’t make it down the path taking it at a slower pace. I discovered a small pull out right at the beginning of the roadway which looked to be about the size of a small RV, very level and established with a fire ring. As I continued onward a small campground road spurred off to the right with what looked to be several sites alongside it as well. I opted to keep going as there were already a couple people there and the beauty of forest camping is that you don’t have to be right on top of your neighbors unless you want to.
Further down the road pull offs to both the right and left with spaces perfect for large rigs and smaller ones as well. The one on the left seemed to be calling my name as I noticed it was almost a cove of trees which would serve as a great protectant and blockade to the crisp night winds which I knew were coming this time of year. I settled in and explored the remainder of the camp on foot including a small climb which went to a few spaces with amazing views of the peaks above but looked pretty exposed due to new growth trees and low laying shrubs being the only vegetation. Sure this looked beautiful but I knew it would be cold!!
After settling in for the night in my site I was able to cook dinner on my camp stove and cozy down. Due to the winds getting a bit high I was a little hesitant to use the established fire ring because this area in particular is very prone to forest fires, something which can be seen quickly driving through camp with residual charring and many new growth trees in place of old forest.
By dawn, ice lined my windows of my car and snow capped the distant peak, the one which I would have been camping by had I have stayed up at the higher elevation campsite. But there was a sense of quiet which is unmatched by the commercial campgrounds in the area where you will find slamming doors and the sound of people moving around to get their day started. Though many were nestled into the campsites in various cubbies and enjoying their time at the forest camp, the feeling of solitude was still abundant.
There were no frills with this campground other than the location itself. No restrooms, no running water, nothing!! You as a camper have to plan if you are visiting this location and be able to be off grid safely and responsibly. If you are choosing to stay here remember the Leave No Trace principles and make sure you fully extinguish your fires.
The campground itself is only a few miles away from the northern most entry of Crater Lake. No reservations are accepted and no supplies are available without driving in to the neighboring communities of Crescent or Chemult.
We have gone here twice and each time have done different activities. The last time we brought kayaks and paddled down the curvy stream to the main lake, which was very shallow! The evening air is crisp even in the summer which I enjoy after a long hot day hiking on the many trails in the area. There are a few sites here that I prefer which are the closest to the end of the campground next to the creek. We have not had any fellow campers while we were there but we go in the middle of the week due to the high traffic on the weekends. It is a little bit more open so if you want privacy bring some tapestries. I wouldn't bring a rv or anything, maybe a camper on a pick up truck.
We went Scott Lake in early October 2019 and had the chance to receive the first snowfall of the season. There are a few spots right along the lake that are pull in for vehicles (a few that you have to hike to the lake but not that far). Farther down the road are hike in spots that we will be going to with family next year. It was peaceful and quiet and we never heard a peep from any of the other campers. The camp sites were super clean and very well laid out. The lake was low so I had to dock my kayak where the channel was between the two main parts of the lake was and explored the rest on foot. My three dogs loved it there and loved swimming in the lake. It was an overall great experience and we will definitely be back again next summer!
La Pine State Park is a beauty in the desert! Combine the heat and lack of rain of the eastern desert with sme lush scenic views along the Deschutes River. It is not our first choice style of camping, we like more remote isolated stuff, but every now and then we need a reservation site and this one fit the bill for a couple nights while on a longer road trip. And it is open year round! We made a late reservation and got site 136 when someone made a cancellation. This site backs up to the main road and sits right at the park entrance but it was surprisingly private for the less than ideal location. We especially loved being able to ride our bikes on trails right from camp!
Tumalo State Park is one of my favorite state parks in one of my favorite areas of the state. The camp hugs the Tumalo River (though no campsites are along the river). There’s an awesome but well-loved day use area with swimming and barbecues. You can tube along the basalt rock wall and there's a grassy area for picnics.
The campsites include tent and electric RV sites nestled up against basalt rock hills. Sparsely forested, so plenty of sun, but some sites also have shade. Flush toilets, showers, and very cool yurts that are popular.
Minutes from downtown Bend if you want to get fancy, but also located next to all the outdoor hiking, biking, fishing, and rafting activities in the area. Gets very crowded due to it’s proximity to Bend, especially the day use area.
This is a great campground if you're looking for something right off the road. We were able to snag a reservation here for labor day this summer, and it was a perfect place for us. The site we stayed at was just up the hill from the water, there were few other campers around us, and the site was well maintained. The only downside, and probably the reason we were able to grab a spot so close to labor day weekend, is that this site is almost directly next to the highway. The traffic noise wasn't horrible, but it definitely detracted from the outdoorsy experience. I'd still recommend this site because of how beautiful the water is, and if you walk just like 5-10 minutes towards the water you'll forget the road is even there!