My least favorite campgrounds tend to be ones where tents have to be set up on rough rocks due to sprinklers turning on in the middle of the night to water the thick, lush, comfy grass a few feet away. These same campgrounds tend to have very little space in-between the spots, and be near busy roads (see my review of the campground at Silverwood, Idaho, for comparison).
Yes, this is a nice location more-or-less in Sisters, Oregon, which is a nice town. And it is a pretty good price (about $20), especially since it also includes flush toilets and hot showers (paid with quarters).
But if you do choose to stay here, do what another reviewer did below, and come with a nice enclosed Airstream trailer and bring your bikes so you can ride the couple of blocks to downtown Sisters. Otherwise, if you're in a tent, choose any of the other U.S. Forest campgrounds nearby instead.
To be fair, the rest of my family enjoyed this campground much more than I did. But for me, this is not a great spot for tent campers.
About 25 miles south of Bend, Oregon, Paulina and East Lakes are twin calderas located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument area of the Deschutes National Forest that have an amazing amount of fun things to do including camping, fishing, paddle boarding, boating, hiking, biking and hot springs.
We pulled into the Paulina Visitor Center just before 5pm on the Fourth of July to scope out our walk-up camping options (we didn’t make reservations) and the rangers let us know that Paulina Lake Campground still had two or three spots open, or we could keep on heading to Cinder Hill on East Lake, which had several spots. The East Lake campground, they said, was pretty much always full, so no need to stop there to check.
We ended up grabbing a great spot at Paulina Lake Campground even though it was a holiday weekend. Large camp sites, lots of trees, flush toilets, and access to Paulina Lake all made this a great spot for camping.
There’s tons to do in the area. My two favorites were the hot springs near East Lake boat ramp (when facing the water, walk left about 8 minutes along the shore line…pass the first couple spots until you get to a good one around two bends) and the trail up Obsidian Butte. There’s also a lodge nearby with delicious food (homemade rum butter apple cobbler…yum) and the beautiful Paulina Falls day use area. We’ll definitely be heading back to spend more time here, next time maybe with some paddle boards.
The main down side to this site is there doesn’t appear to be specific hours for generators, so they can run loudly whenever.
Parking. You’ll need a day pass ($5) to park at various day use areas at the lakes, but if you have a National Park Pass it will get you in for free. Ask at the Visitor Center and they can give you a holder to hang your pass from your rear view mirror.
Firewood: Unlike many national and state parks, you can harvest camp firewood for free here, which is pretty awesome. Check with the rangers at the visitor center, but the rules are pretty basic (pick up dead wood instead of chopping it down, etc.).
Other Area Campgrounds. If you’re looking for reservations and Paulina Lake is booked up, they hold many of their sites for “walk-ups” only. There’s also several other campgrounds in the area, both private and public, if for some reason Paulina Lake is full.
From West (at the Visitor Center) to East, campgrounds and cabins on the lakes include:
Paulina Lodge (Private I believe. All cabins, some right on the water).
Paulina Lake Campground (this campground review. No beach but does have a boat dock and water access)
Newberry Group Camp Site. Three group sites. $75-$100. Didn’t stay here but looked fun.
Little Crater Campground. Didn’t visit, but listed as one of the“most popular” campgrounds in the entire Deschutes Forest. Books up Thursday for most weekends.
East Lake Campground. Great lake views from most spots and flush toilets.
East Lake RV Park. Newer, clean but somewhat cramped and dusty.
East Lake Resort Cabins. (Homey in a good way).
Cinder Hill Campground, East Lake. Some sites are better than others. Amazing beach.
Product Review: Firebiner by Outdoor Element
On our recent trip to Paulina Lake we got to try out several products by Outdoor Element, including their Firebiner, in exchange for our reviews. The firebiner is a carabiner with a "spark wheel" that can start fires and also includes a bottle opener, screwdriver tip, and a very sharp tiny blade for cutting strings and other lines (like fishing lines):
The whole concept is pretty cool, and we had extra fun with the "EverSpark" technology trying to get the fires started. Nearly every time we turned the wheel it sparked, but we quickly learned the power of having a good "tinder" (a dry bit of material used for starting a fire). When we tried starting fires with items such as dry moss, napkins, or small kindling, the sparks didn't catch. But when we used the tiny "Tinder Quicks" from Outdoor element, we normally could start a fire within 2-3 turns. We even tried other options for tinders…from corn chips to cotton balls covered in Vaseline, and as long as the tinder was good, the sparks caught quickly.
Overall, a fun addition to our camping packs. The carabiner itself is handy for keys and hanging on backpacks and probably the element we'll use most, while the Spark Wheel is a fun, handy back-up when we need to light something on fire.
Camp Creek campground is a pretty sweet little spot not too far out of Mt. Hood/Government Camp. Spots are decent sized, including some doubles (to share with friends), and lots of trees and greenery between spots. The river-side spots are amazing, with several right on the water.
Several nice little hikes around the area, or just wander through the river down by the small bridge. We also saw several people fishing, though no actual fish. Just the right depth to splash around in and cool off. A few deeper holes (four feet?) that may require a life jacket for little ones just to be extra safe.
The only down side is the lack of facilities (ie, only pit toilets and no showers). This is pretty typical for forest campgrounds in the area, though this is also one of the nicer forest campgrounds we've come across. Price around $20-$22, depending on which sites you pick.
Campground Review: Super Cozy Vintage Airstream Near Portland
The first thing that Danielle, the campground host, told us after we'd checked in: "I think you're going to have a super cozy night." And she was right. If there's one word to describe the vintage 1959 airstream, it's cozy. Every little corner, window, and decoration was incredibly beautiful, sweet, and stylish. At check-in, we found a custom piece of artwork that welcomed us, as well as fresh flowers, s'more fixings, oatmeal toppings, board games, and a guidebook with trailer instructions and local attractions. The pillows and linens were beautiful, and the woodwork (including the folding table) was amazing. Here's a video online I found of the airstream that's very similar to how it looks now:
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, we were able to stay at the campground at a great discount to be among the first to try it out and create an honest review, so here's my video of the campground:
Outside there was not only a fire pit and "unlimited" firewood, but also kindling, paper, and a lighter (which I had completely forgotten to bring). There's also a hammock, strings of lights, and a second vintage trailer (called the tater tot) that had just arrived and was being set up for smaller groups. While there's a toilet and sinks in the trailer, there is also another clean, brand new bathroom set up for use only by the campground as well.
Domke Farms is a large family farm equidistant from Boring and Sandy Oregon. Caretakers Danielle and Hy manage a small campground at the farm that stands under an incredible stand of evergreen trees. In addition to the "Cozy Roller" airstream and the smaller vintage teardrop, there are also several tent sites and Danielle and Hy's small home in the same camp circle. Farm dogs wander, and you're near fields of crops and soaring hawks and other birds. This is the second "intentional community" that Danielle and Hy have created (the first is in the mid-west), and you can definitely tell that they've done this before in how thoughtful everything is and in their vision for such a welcoming spot. They also gave us the perfect amount of privacy, with just enough help at check-in and check-out to make our stay pleasant.
The airstream itself was my favorite part of the trip. I absolutely adored all the little details and it is a very happy space.
Good to Know
Other than the fire pit, hammock, and a bit of land, there's not a whole lot to do at the campsite, especially for kids who may be used to playgrounds or junior ranger programs. We ended up heading into Sandy and Boring for parks and biking, of which there are plenty.
As mentioned before, there are several super sweet farm dogs who may wander by, including the hosts' huge great dane/lab mix puppy, who can get pretty excited. This can be good or bad, depending on your comfort level with dogs, but also very flexible since any time the hosts left they made sure "Charlie" was in their home and happy.
All-in-all, we had a lovely time with lovely hosts. I could definitely see this being perfect for a writing or art retreat, or just a relaxing break away from the city.
Product Review of The Grub Stick Intro Kit
Our family won a Grub Stick Intro Kit from the Dyrt and decided to try it out on our recent camping trip to Domke Farms.
One of the best indicators of how we feel about it is that ever since our trial, the Grub Stick has become a standard part of our camping gear. We've even changed the food we bring since cooking over the fire has become so much easier.
Strong handle doesn't feel like it will fall into the fire when extended
Love the bag the kit comes in
Good to Know
S'mores and other items in the square cage get hot, so can be difficult to remove, especially when sticky like chocolate and marshmallows
With only one base, everyone is fighting over who gets to use it, so next time we'd probably get at least two
The base with the forks has been my favorite addition. The forks are especially solid and useful for larger items such as oversized hot dogs and corn, which would fall off or bend our other cookers. I'm less excited about using the cage for things such as s'mores since they're difficult to remove, but definitely up for trying it out with different items such as Portobello mushrooms in the future, which could work better. Overall, we've been very happy with the Kit and plan to get other accessories and try them out. It's been a fun addition to our camping cook-outs.
Very solid, typical Oregon state campground. Has all of the good things that you'd want: clean flush toilets, Junior Ranger programs and activities, decent spots (some better than others), playground, and nice trees and pretty rock walls.
But what sets it apart is it's proximity to Bend, Oregon, as well as the Day Use area across the road with a river and swimming area along with picnic tables.
Very popular in the summer especially; be sure to book early. Between nearby Bend and the other activities on-site and in the area, you could definitely spend several days here and not get bored.
This lovely "RV Resort" feels a bit like Disneyland or an amusement park (in a good way) in that everything is meticulously maintained, beautiful and there's plenty to do. From the put-put golf course near the check-in, to the store and the lovely lake, this is a great place for kids as well as adults.
It's also located near a vast array of wonderful hikes, towns, and things to do in Central Oregon. So not only a fun place to stay, but also a great jumping-off place for other activities.
I have a love/hate relationship with this campground. On the positive side, it's very close to the cute little town of Sisters, Oregon. It's a good size (not too big, not too small). Decent sized sites. Nice trees. And it's a great deal price-wise.
On the other hand, there's pretty much nothing to do at this campground, and it's within Frisbee distance of the major highway that runs through here. So while not right on the highway, it's close enough to hear noise most of the night.
Overall, unless you need a place right next to Sisters or want to use this as a base camp to save money and head elsewhere, you're better off at other spots nearby.
This was a really fun campground. There's a handful of large campsites on a small loop. Each spot has--and I'm not sure why this is--a split rail fence around it. You can still easily get around the fence to walk down to the creek or whatever, but for some reason this was really fun for our boys to have a "self-contained" site. There's a pit toilet at both the campground and the day use area. Half the sites are on a small creek.
The other fun part of this campground is there's a nice sized fish hatchery right at the entrance (short walking distance) that you can go check out the pools of baby fish. Next to the hatchery is a short, guided paved pathway that's right on the river. It has picnic tables and panels telling about the fish and area.
All-in-all, a nice little campground with just enough to do for a night, but probably not much longer unless you use it as a jumping-off point for other activities in the area.
We've been to a lot of similar campgrounds in Oregon that are managed by the National Forest. These are basic, cheap (normally $10-$15), forested campgrounds right off a highway that offer basic amenities such as water and pit toilets. Sometimes you get lucky and there's an amazing view or lake, or sometimes you're unlucky and it's noisy and too close to the highway.
In the case of Riverside Campground not too far outside Sisters, Oregon, you have both: spots on the upper-hill side are often right off the highway, to the extent that one side of your spot is literally a busy road. On the down-hill side, it's the opposite, with lovely green, forested sites right on the river. Both areas have noise during the nights from the road, but the spots closer to the freeway are obviously louder.
All in all, there's other campgrounds in the area I'd head to first (the Marion Forks fish hatchery campground is pretty cool), but if you're going to stay here, choose your site wisely.
This campground was an unexpected surprise not too far out of Salem, Oregon and just over an hour from Portland. Nice camp sites, clean bathrooms with flush toilets and free showers, good prices, well maintained, and most of all--plenty of fun activities to keep the kiddos busy. There's bike and hiking trains, a large playground, basketball area, a lovely river and plenty of areas to explore.
There's spots for Rvs as well as tents. While most spots are nice, with plenty of trees and some distance between sites, some are definitely better than others. There's also group areas for eating and group campsites. My favorite spots are a series of tent-only spots by the river. There's also some with lean-to covers over the picnic tables, which are fun. We'd definitely head back soon.
Campground Review: Beacon Rock State Park
Beacon Rock State Campground is a very nice, small, looped campground located across the freeway and about a mile or two away from the amazing hike up Beacon Rock. There's trees galore and there's also several very nice hikes of various lengths that leave right from the campground. Camp sites vary greatly, and every time I've gone it's first-come, first-served, so it helps to come early to grab a spot, though even in summer we've had luck on an off-night (like Sunday or Wednesday) grabbing a decent site. This most recent trip was early in the season, so even though the weather was lovely, we had practically the entire campground to ourselves.
In addition to the 28-site campground, there's also two day-use areas that you'll pass on the way to the campground which are very nice and include basic kitchen set-ups built back in the 1930s by the CCC, bathrooms, and picnic tables. The first day use area on the right as you enter also has a playground, while the second area on the left has great views of Beacon Rock.
Pros: Great spot for heading out on hikes. Showers and decently clean bathrooms. Trees.
Cons: Definitely some spots better than others.
Overall, a great spot as a base camp for hikes in the area, but not a ton to do at the actual campground.
Campground video: https://thedyrt.com/member/corinna-b/reviews/44685/media/141684
Ranger Review: Wenzel Oversized Quad Chair
Stats: 22x22x36 inches, about 7.5 pounds. Supports up to 350 lbs.
The Wenzel Oversized Quad Chair is a well made, sturdy chair that works equally well for car camping or outdoor events. As a Dyrt Ranger, I was given a gift certificate to Wenzel in order to choose an item to review. We used it two purchase two of these Quad chairs, and they've quickly become the chairs everyone fights to sit in anytime we're at a kids' soccer game or camping. While they'd definitely be too heavy for walk-in campsites or hiking (about 7.5 pounds on a bathroom scale), the built-in strap makes them perfect for carrying a couple blocks. After almost two months of weekly use, the construction is holding up very well, unlike other chairs we've purchased from other companies in the past.
Overall, the Wenzel Oversized Quad Chair is a very solid option at a good price. I've been impressed with how well they've held up so far. These have become a must-have addition to our car camping trips.
If you're coming from the North/East side of Yellowstone, this is a great campground to grab a last-minute spot. As with most of the first-come-first-served campsites, in the busy months you'll have to get here at 7am or so and wait for them to post any available sites at 7:30am. You can check Yellowstone's website to see what time the campground filled up the day before to get a better idea of how early you have to be here.
The campground itself isn't fantastic. It's small (which is a bonus) and mostly filled with tents and smaller trailers, so fairly quiet. Some sites are better than others. But what is great is the location and the price. For $15 you get to be right off the main "loop" of Yellowstone and it's a great staging area for seeing the rest of the park.
I'll be honest. I wasn't expecting much from this RV Park. It's not in the most exciting area of Portland (the closet thing is a Walmart down the road). But it's actually quite lovely. Nice and clean. Plenty of green space, trees. Most spots were pull-though with decently wide streets to drive in. Even though it's just off a semi-major street, it's set back enough and surrounded by trees to be more quiet.
The park is set up in two areas, with the one closer to the entrance a bit higher up than the spots toward the back. Pool, clubhouse, etc. are toward the front. The front office was clean and the manager nice.
While there's definitely some long-term and month-to-month spots, most RVs aren't spilling over with "extras" (extensive decorations/sheds etc.) like some places.
To me, the price is a bit much: $57.67 for full hook-ups, and that's after a AAA discount. Otherwise, a decent place to stay with your RV on the edge of Portland.
Okay okay, I probably shouldn't give this campground a full 5-stars. After all, it's expensive ($90 and up), and the sites are teeny tiny driveways with no room between them at all. But this place is FUN. Every little nook and cranny is well designed. You can walk to a beach. They have movies, a pool and hot tub and cozy little hang out spots. They really made the most of what is essentially a parking lot and I can see why someone would want to stay for a while or return year after year.
Pros: Just about everything said above plus a great lounge area (with PlayStation and shuffleboard), nice staff who will even help you park your RV, and generally a happy vibe all-around.
Cons: In addition to the steep price, the immediate neighborhood is not that great. There's a loud train that goes by (though I could not hear it in the RV) and the spots are the tightest ones of any campground we stayed at on our whole trip. The walk to the beach goes under a freeway and past some not-so-great spots.
I loved this campground! Would go back in a heartbeat. This was the first KOA I've ever stayed in, and I was worried it would be too cheesy/boring (in comparison to the forest/state/national park ones I tend to love), but it was totally fun.
Pros: Lots of clean bathrooms, warm swimming pool, lots to do including a whole forested area with swings, a fort, etc., games, ping pong, decent sized sites. Close to the entrance to Lassen Park.
Cons: Some tent sites were better than others. My favorite tent sites were T6. T7, T8 and especially T13.
I love this little campground. There's ten spots on the right that are all pull-throughs (for tents or small trailers). The sites don't have a ton of privacy, but they have tables and such, enough room (some are much larger than others), and half of them are right overlooking the Lewis River. On the left side there's another eight walk-in campsites, most of which have lots of privacy. The walk-in sites are a very short walk from the parking lot, so unless you need your car or trailer, they're a pretty great way to go.
And finally there's a day-use area just a short walk away with absolutely amazing views of a sweet waterfall.
There's pit toilets, but bring your own water.
I've read horrible reviews about the "camp host" on other sites, but we didn't have any interaction with her, so I can't say anything for sure about it and our time there was lovely.
Tips: Bring exact change in cash. When we were there it was $12 for a campsite.
While yes, this spot is technically open to the public, the Lewis River Campground Community of Christ (unsurprisingly) feels much more like a summer or church camp that the same groups go to over and over again each year. Slightly run down cabins but with some nicer, newer buildings as well. Available to rent for events such as family reunions, I tend to prefer spots you can swing by and grab a spot last-minute among other campers, and this is not that at all.
Just off the road and not far from the Lewis River, if you're looking for more-campground/less summer camp, try any number of other state and forested campgrounds in the area.
Campground Review: 5/5 Stars. Perfect Spot on Cliff Overlooking River.
This was our favorite spot on our recent central-Washington camping trip. We pulled up about 7pm and grabbed a huge spot with a peekaboo view of the river. When we were there, all spots were $30 and included water and electricity. While there's not a ton of coverage between sites (trees, etc.) the sound didn't seem to travel, so the folks happily playing board games and playing Prince didn't keep us up and in fact contributed to the overall happiness of the spots.
Clean bathrooms, soft grass, beautiful views of the river. There's a boat launch and I'm sure this is a very popular spot in the summer. As it was, it was perfect for a Spring get-away.
Tip: Visit the nearby Ginko Petrified Forest state park. Free, nice exhibits, and even some petroglyphs, which my older son especially loved.
Escape Campervan Review: 5/5 Stars. Lots of Fun!
Last summer my family won a vacation rental with Escape Campervans, so we decided to use part of our credit for a three-night trip over Spring Break. We drove up from Portland to Seattle, and while most people head west toward the lush Olympic National Forest, we wanted to try something different, and instead headed east for a loop through central Washington with stops in Snowqualmie Falls (famous for its part in Twin Peaks), Roslyn (home of Northern Exposure) and the oldest saloon in Washington with a 23-foot water spittoon, Ellensburg and the Tomahawk and Rock Ranch, Vantage and the Ginko Petrified Forest, the German-themed town of Leavenworth, and a grand finale in a 90-degree indoor swimming pool in Bothell, Washington. All-in-all, a great trip, and we'd definitely rent from Escape Campervans again. Here's some of what we learned.
Even though I'm used to driving a large-ish SUV, I was still worried that the large campervan would be a steep learning curve. It was actually quite easy right away. I fit in every parking spot on the trip that I tried, backed up easily with the help of the back-up assist (basically a beeping noise if I came too close to anything), and went through drive-throughs and moved in and out of traffic with ease. Having previously driven both a large RV and a car towing a trailer, I definitely prefer the stress-free ease of the van.
We ended up driving 500 miles total in four days, and spent almost exactly $100 on gas. Looking at our receipts, we averaged 14.5 miles per gallon driving mostly through mountains on a combination of highway and small-town roads.
When booking your Escape Campervan, you start with a base daily price that's not much more than an average car rental, but then you can add on all kinds of extras if you want, some of which can add up fast. If you're flying in from another country, this is super-convenient to be able to rent things like bedding and pillows rather than having to bring it. But since we were driving from only a few hours away, I wasn't sure which of the add-ons would be worth it. In the end, I was surprised to see what I used and what I didn't. Part of the Spring Break deal that we booked included the following:
* Camp chairs: Not something we used. We either stayed at campgrounds that already had picnic tables (state parks), or stayed places we didn't really want to hang out (a casino parking lot), so the chairs did not get used.
* Bedding: I LOVED this option. We brought along our own pillows and sleeping bags as well, but this bedding was huge, warm, soft and smelled great. I almost always am sensitive to sheets in hotels and such, and wasn't expecting much, but this was a great add-on that I'd definitely do again.
* Extra Propane: We only ended up cooking once the whole time, so getting a total of two propane tanks was overkill for us.
* 100 miles per day: This was definitely worth pre-paying for the 100/miles per day (we even went over that).
* Heater and electrical: This heater and electrical is a maybe. Yes, you can have the space heater inside your van running at night safely, as long as you have an electrical hookup, and we actually even put it up in the tent for 20 minutes one night to warm it up. But you can also just run the van's heater with the engine running for 10-20 minutes before bed as well, and be just as warm, especially if you get the bedding from them.
* Dishes: More of a personal choice. I think next time I'd just get paper plates and such, rather than wash the dishes, but that's obviously up to each individual.
Pros: My boys had a blast riding around in a van with a couch and table, and the roof-top tent was equally fun. Being self-contained was lovely, as was the surprising ease of driving the van. We were also much warmer and more comfortable than we would have been sleeping in our tent.
Cons: The main difficulty we had was converting the van from daytime to nighttime. We brought way too much stuff, and the grounds where we were camping were often wet or snowy, so it was a bit of a logic puzzle to move everything around, convert the chairs into a bed, add all the bedding, and get even more bedding up into the rooftop tent. We got much faster the more times we did it, but it still took between a 1/2 hour and an hour each night to fully set up. I think this would be much easier in the summer (with less bedding needed), or with the slightly larger van where the bed can stay together while driving (though then you lose the cool table and couch).
Conclusion: All-in-all, definitely a fun addition to our road trip and one we'd do again in a heartbeat.
Dash Point State Park is your average, nice Washington State Park, with trees, grass, pathways etc. When we were there at the end of March, only about half the campground was open, and we were able to get a last-minute spot in the late afternoon on a Thursday. Sites are mid-sized, with some having more privacy than others.
Cons: While several other reviews talk of the cleanliness of the campground, we had the opposite experience, with large and small trash everywhere we walked (including a whole foam mattress thrown away). It was also pretty muddy, as well as loud (from the airplanes passing over head until the middle of the night).
Pros: Across the street, the day use area is amazing, with a lovely beach, picnic tables, hikes, etc. Generally a very nice place to spend the day.
Tips: Unless you're there with another group or family, avoid the spots that look like they're parallel on the map (9 & 10; 15 & 16 etc.) since they're basically one big site split up with two driveways right next to one another.
This KOA has some very strong positives, and almost equally strong negatives.
Positives: Super-friendly manager/owner. We were about 1/2 an hour after closing, and she was still there and helped us get set up. Everything (including bathrooms) was very clean. Nice playgrounds, and we were right on the river, which was nice. Probably a nice spot in the summer (we were there when there was still a little snow on the ground). Oh, and the price was great: about $22 for three of us in a tent (non-electric) spot right on the river.
Negatives: The location, while convenient to the freeway, was super-loud. It's at the confluence of two freeways, and a frisbee throw away from either. Semi-trucks shined lights into our tent all night long, and the noise was pretty bad, even with earphones. The boys slept inside the campervan, and it didn't bother them at all, so probably much better if you're inside an RV. The tent side of everything also was a little sketchy in March (to be understood I suppose…the RV side was packed), with two other folks who seemed to be sleeping in cars or under tarps.