When the weather is dry, you can camp on the Alvord Desert. There are no facilities - no water, no trash, no toilets, no shade, no cell-service - so plan accordingly and plan well. Even a slight rain can make the playa muddy and create a flash-flood, so watch the weather carefully. Pack everything out, including planning on bringing a portable toilet.
This flat, stretching desert far from any city (or even town) provides unparalleled star-gazing. Other than cars racing across the desert, it is eerily quiet. There are some bugs.
The sun sets behind the Steens, and sunrises across the playa are beautiful. This remote adventure is worth a trip; it's a camping experience unlike any other. It gets hot during the day, so bring a shelter and plan some time to get off the desert for a break from the sun.
The Slocum Creek campground is near the Owyhee Reservoir at the end of Leslie Gulch. It is a free campsite, fire rings with shelters (!) and tables. There are two drop toilets but no water or trash service. Closest gas is in Jordan Valley. The boat ramp to the reservoir is a half mile down the hill. The reservoir is very still and great for SUP and kayaking as well. The area is accessed by a good dirt road, but since it is in a gulch, a small amount of water could make this area tricky to drive to/from, so be sure to watch the weather. There are other camping spots in the Owyhee, but this is the most accessible with the best maintained road. Fires were allowed in late June, but I suspect there is a fire ban throughout July/August/September.
First come first served. Websites mentioned that it almost never fills up except maybe during fishing season, but we arrived on a Friday in June and the campground did run out of spots by early evening. There are dispersed spots nearby, but then you would need to plan to bring a portable toilet and your own shelter. The sun was sweltering, even in June.
There is great hiking (requires some scrambling) in the smaller gulches off Leslie Gulch with incredible views of the rock formations. Juniper Gulch is a moderate, somewhat shaded, and stunningly beautiful hike nearby.
Rattlesnakes, ticks, and scorpions live in this area.
There is one larger group site, but it gets the last of the evening sun and the first of the morning sun.
These lands are fragile, so please take care of them: pack out your garbage, stay on trails, only ride dirt bikes and four wheelers on the roads.
This has been a historic place to stop on the way through the Blue Mountains since the Oregon Trail. It has a fair amount of freeway noise these days, though. Reasonably private sites with good shade. I would recommend it as a traveler's stop, but probably not as a multi-day vacation destination.
Farewell bend is on the Snake River and has plenty Oregon Trail history to boot. It has shade trees, which is special for the area. Not much privacy. It has good bathrooms, water access, and nice views of the surrounding hills. It has a huge day-use area with lots of picnic tables near the water.
This campground is on the east side of the Steens Mountain at a small lake. The view of the mountains is incredible and it is peacefully silent with no highway or airplane noise. The view of the stars is unmatched since there is so little light pollution. It wouldn't be my first choice in the area, but may be easier to reach than the spots in the Steens, more affordable than the neighboring Alvord Hot Springs campground and safer on wet days than attempting to sleep in the Alvord itself, so it depends on a number of factors whether you want to stay here. There were a lot of bugs when we went. More than comparable sites in the area. No shade until the sun starts to go down behind the mountains.
We were looking for a last-minute spot and Humbug still had sites! We got a great private shady site on a forested loop. I think this is a great alternative to Detroit Lake as it's just a few miles away but much more private and quiet if you don't want to hear the motor boats all evening. There was a stream, but we could hear it rather than see it. i don't think any sites have spectacular views, but it was a nice forest-escape nonetheless, with lots of vegetation between us and the neighbors.
Silver Falls has a little bit of something for everyone. Waterfall views, beginner hikes, longer hikes, an interpretive center, a cafe, easy drives to wine country or a campy theme park. It stays nice and temperate here when the rest of the state heats up and is just a great destination. Since it's so close to home, we typically don't stay overnight, but if you're coming from further away, I would definitely recommend it. The park buildings are beautiful and you can tell that a lot of care goes into everything here.
Trillium Lake is easier and faster to get to than many of the other Mt. Hood Lakes, and with one of the best views of the mountain. It's a smaller area, and the day use area get pretty busy, so it's nice to have a campsite to get away from what can be pretty large crowds. Good lake for beginner kayakers as it is small, still, and doesn't allow motor traffic. There is also snow-shoeing here in the winter, but don't underestimate the sloped road you have to get down (and back-up) to get to the lake in the first place!
We stopped here on a road trip along Interstate 5. The location was conveniently close to the freeway, but still felt like a real campsite instead of traveler's stop. We couldn't hear the freeway and it had nice amenities like flush toilets. Our site was also pretty shady, which was nice in summer. It was pretty scenic; we were located just by a walking path and with a view of the river, however, the camp host did not enforce quiet hours. The large group next to us was extremely drunk and noisy and nobody ever stopped by. They took off the next morning (loudly exclaiming that they needed to pack up to avoid paying), so there was likely never an interaction with the host. We arrived late and couldn't leave to alert the host as it didn't feel safe to do so. I'm not sure where the host is situated in relation to where we were, but I suspect you could hear the party throughout the camp, throughout the night, so we were surprised that no action was taken. It didn't feel safe.
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with this site. We wanted to be a little further from Portland in the Columbia River Gorge. We knew that you can't get away from train sounds at any of those sites. We packed our car-camping setup (an old, tall Coleman tent) and set out. We reserved the site closest to the river (also closest to the train). Our tent was too tall for our site, which had no wind protection. At times, the tent was flat. We had to ask our neighbors uphill if we could move up between their trees to sleep.
So if you camp in the back of your car or have a low tent (or catch a less windy day), maybe this site can be nice. The colors were beautiful, the sightseeing we did nearby was fun. The view from the picnic table was great. The bathrooms were well equipped. But are tent was flat…
Lost Lake Resort & Campground is somewhere we go at least once each summer. It has that nostalgic summer-camp vibe. A little more spendy than your typical Oregon campsite, but serene and private. The sites are large and more private than most I have encountered. Lush forest and tall trees are everywhere. At a high elevation, it stays cold through early summer, but that can be a good thing later in summer.
The store has coffee, wood, anything you forgot, sweets, and a rental shop. There is a covered porch at the shop in case it rains. The rental shop has boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats. It's a bit of work to get far enough out on the lake to be rewarded with a Mt. Hood view, but so worth it once you get there. Frigid cold clear water stocked with trout.
It has pit toilets that sometimes give off a scent if your spot is just a bit to close.
F-loop is particularly private, with some drive-up and some walk-in sites. These are the spots closest to the lake but furthest from the store.
Plan ahead: You will need to reserve your river permits well in advance, have a bit of rafting/kayaking experience, know your portable toilet/trash/water plans, and plan for picking up your vehicle, etc. so this is a review for those that know they want to raft the John Day and are looking for camping spots along the way. These sites are accessible by water only.
We camped at the bluffs at 130R (on the right side just before the bend) and at “Last Chance” at 119.3L (on the left side that juts out in the bend just before Cathedral Rock).
The bluffs were amazingly beautiful. There was an easy and obvious spot to pull off the river on the right. Up the hill just slightly was a flat area where I assume smaller groups often camp. We were one larger group and made a lower area into a kitchen/dining are (there is a tree for shade which was very welcomed) and there were many smaller areas for tents above that. You get a stunning view as the sun sets beyond the river. We faced out tent towards the open field and slept without the rain cover to take it all in. I can't recommend camping at 130R enough. The river was a bit too fast and low to swim here. It was a bit tricky to find a private spot for the travelling loo.
The next night, we camped at 119.3L. There were also sites on the opposite bank. This was a broad flat area with a slow pool to swim in. Cathedral Wall was visible from our spot, which was an added bonus. Trees for shade and for loo privacy were appreciated.
This campground is sprawling with lots of amenities. It's not my favorite lake (I prefer quiet lakes to motor-boat lakes), but it's closer to the I5 Corridor and Portland than many other lake-campgrounds and at a lower elevation when the mountain lakes are still too chilly. There's a town nearby and options to rent boats, so this can be a fun destination for boating fans.
Some of the sites are quite large with a great view of the lake.
In the summer, the water gets low in the reservoir, so it often has a long, muddy, stumpy bank which isn't quit as appealing as other lakes.
This side of the lake is beautiful, and some of these spots are right on the water, although I am never fast enough to reserve one of the waterfront spots (and I have attempted to make reservations here the day they become available, so I just don't know the trick).
We have stayed at both ends of this campground - one with a water view, and one at the little inlet. The lake is beautiful, with a view of Mt. Hood and great evening light. Can be a little chilly as it's up at 3,227 ft, so bear that in mind when planning June or September outings. There is an easy-to-moderate 11 mile loop around the lake with pretty flat elevation for an all-day activity. Clear Lake is also a short drive away and stunningly clear!
There are no motor boats, just canoes and kayaks when we were there, so it's very relaxing.
The campsites are a little closer to the road than I'd prefer, but the access to the river is great and floating is fun at this whole stretch of the river.
I wanted to add videos of the river sites to my other review for this site, but the website wouldn't let me - anyway, the hike has 3 river sites about 1 mile in from the trailhead and they are beautiful and right at the bend of the river. After there, there's not much camping unless you were to go down the PCT further than we had wanted to (we just wanted to go to the viewpoint, about 10 miles further). But for camping, stop after the first mile (or you may end up camping in the trail..).
This is one of the better campgrounds along the Clackamas River in the Mt Hood Forest (and there are lots of campgrounds on this stretch of the river). All the campgrounds are pretty close to the road, but this one is near the end of the section of campgrounds, so it has fewer cars passing by. It is down a little from the road, too, which helps. The sites are pretty private but vary widely site to site. Unfortunately, the Oregon Parks site doesn't show pictures, so we picked a site blindly and it ended up being tiny (although we had 3 tents and 6 people). We made it work, but it wasn't ideal. The access to the river, and the fast current and little rapids do make it ideal, though. You can do the bit of river just by the site (which ends in a swimming hole near the camp host's site), or continue on down some small rapids and walk a trail back about a mile to the camp. It's the ideal campground for summer floating!
Who doesn't love a beautiful swimming hole? This campground is near the Dougan Creek swimming holes/water falls and is a great place to cool off in summer. It is a little downstream from the most popular swimming area and had semi-private campgrounds and creek access. Close to Portland, it's a nice summer escape. Crowds do gather on the weekends, and there used to be more secluded creek spots that are now off-limits, but as far as swimming holes go, this campground is still close to one of the top.
There are several pretty large, primitive, river-side group sites throughout the woods in the Yacolt Burn Forest near the Pacific Crest Trail there. We drove through on a Saturday and found multiple open. It looks like all you need is your Washington Discover Pass and to be the first to claim it. Just past Stevenson, this area is pretty undiscovered considering how close it is to Portland.
We wanted a beginner backpacking trip (10 to 12 miles round trip) close to town - this one is a pretty hike with views at the end (theoretically, we saw fog). We passed up the best camping spots because they were too early in the trail (at the creek) and ended up setting up camp in wider part of the trail (about 3 miles in, after night had fallen). The other hikers were friendly, though, and didn't seem to mind us making camp pretty much anywhere. In our situation the camping was definitely not the main event! We came for the hike and slept along the way. The camp spots at the creek would have been quite nice for camping itself though.