Camping in the Oregon is all about clear waters, mountains, and hiking. You couldn’t have designed more picturesque landscapes if you had gathered all of the greatest minds in the world. The chaos of the tectonic plates bashing into each other for millions of years, and the abundant volcanic activity has coalesced into what we have before us today.
If you’re in the Portland area, whether it’s because you live here or you’re passing through, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you skip out on some of the best camping in the United States. All of these camping areas are close to downtown Portland, so you don’t even have to stray far from your favorite coffee shop.
Beacon Rock State Park is all about height.
You can hike up to higher and higher vantage points, or try your hand at rock climbing. You can even make your way to the top of Beacon Rock.
Getting to the top of Beacon Rock takes guts. You’ll be taking a pretty short walk, but the switchback trail leading to Beacon Rock is at a dizzying height, but once you’re there, it’s worth it.
The view from the top of Beacon Rock looks over the massive Columbia River Gorge. Trying to imagine the Ice Age floods that shoveled out the gorge is mind-bending.
If you’d like to stay a little lower to the ground, there are biking and horseback trails all over the state park for you.
- A mile of ADA compliant trails
- 13 miles of bike and horseback trails
- 8.2 miles of hiking
- If you’re not the type of hiker that enjoys heights, you’ll be missing out on the best part of the park
If you live in Portland, you should take pride in living so close to one of the most beautiful campgrounds in the State. The Trillium Lake Campground is just 40 miles southeast of Portland, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think you’d driven straight into heaven.
Boating, fishing, and swimming are all welcome and encouraged on Trillium Lake. If you’ve got a boat you’re bringing with you, there are two boat ramps on the lake. One here in the campground and another in the day-use area.
There are 52 single tent sites, and 52 extremely accessible RV sites to choose from, so there’s ample room for any kind of camper. Staying here puts you close to Timberline Lodge.
Timberline Lodge was built and furnished by local artisans during the Great Depression, and now it remains as a historic landmark (and the establishing shot of the lodge in The Shining).
- Close to Government Camp, and all of its winter activities
- Popularity of the campground could lead to some crowded days
The Eagle Creek Campground has the honor of being the first campground developed by the Forest Service.
This campground is located in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge giving it access to essentially everything in the national scenic area. Easily, the most popular option out of all of them is hiking the Eagle Creek trail.
The Eagle Creek Trail was started in 1916, and to this day still remains one of the most popular scenic hikes in the entire gorge.
If hiking isn’t your thing you could make your way to the river to catch some salmon spawning or pick up a license and get some finishing done.
- Close to several family-friendly recreational activities
- Sites fill up quickly, so you have to make reservations a little far out
The furtive Wyth Campground tends to fly under folks’ radars.
This quiet spot is tucked into a phalanx of massive maple trees with beautiful leaves. The miles of trails nearby can be biked to some nearby food, or if you’ve got the gumption, you could push it all the way to water access in Viento State Park or Blackberry Beach.
If you’re not looking to take a dip, you don’t have to bike miles down the trail for drinking water, there’s plenty of that on-site, so don’t worry about packing your own.
- Potable water on-site
- A great basecamp
- Only trailers and RVs less than 30 feet can fit in the campsite
- No RV hookups available
- Close to plenty of entertainment, but none on the site itself
If you like the sand, but you’re more of a freshwater camper, Oxbow has the best of both worlds with ample sandy beach river space.
Come hike, fish, and boat on the river at Oxbow regional park. After a day away from your campsite, getting your hands dirty, you’ll be relieved to find that there are free hot-water showers offered on-site.
- Free hot water showers
- Four ADA accessible campsites
- Minors must be accompanied
- No alcohol allowed
- RV sites have no hookups
The tiny Piety Island makes for an excellent getaway. A short stretch of water separates you from the mainland, making it easy to literally leave your troubles behind. All of the campsites give you an excellent view of Detroit Lake, and if you want an even higher vantage point, you can hike up to the top of Piety Knob.
Not much happens on this little island, but on the fourth of July, you have the opportunity to catch fireworks in an incredibly unique setting.
- Uncut firewood is available on-site
- No drinking water available on-site
- The campsite is open during the winter, but water levels may shut it down
The Champoeg State Heritage Area, unsurprisingly, is a history preserve as much as it’s a nature preserve. The visitor center enshrines the stories of the people that lived in Oregon before us. They teach visitors about the Kalapura natives, fur trappers that made their livings in the past, and eventually the settlers that built the town around Champoeg.
Aside from the history lessons inside of the visitor center, you can check out Robert Newell’s restored log cabin inside of the Newell Pioneer Village, a museum that contains not just that cabin, but a mid-19th century school and a jail.
- Dogs are allowed in the park, and there’s an off-leash park inside of the facility
- Great for campers interested in looking at America’s past
- No drones or metal detectors allow in the park
Tillamook was once home to frontier families and bustling with stagecoaches. Today you can stroll through nature and catch salmon spawning right in front of you. The state forest has a forest fire watch post open to the public, great for first-time visitors looking to grasp the scale of the Forest.
The forest center offers a wide range of educational programming. It’s great for an unforgettable field trip.
- Great for kids and adventurous types.
- A wide range of educational resources
- Closed during the winter
Promontory Park calls itself the perfect family getaway, and it’s easy to see why.
This is a great place to get out on the water with the family. Alcohol has been banned in the park, so there’s no risk of running into any rowdy drinks. The marina gives you access to the North Fork Reservoir and Clackamas River.
There’s also Small Fry Lake, the stocked pond that’s for kids only. Children up to the age of 17 are welcome to fish in Small Fry Lake and catch up to two trout each day to hone their young angler skills.
- Great for families
- Kids have access to their own fishing pond
- If you like to bring a cold one or two with you to go camping, this spot isn’t for you
Rooster Rock State Park is a beachside park full of fun and rare experiences.
If you’re looking to try some new sports, there’s a 9-hole disc golf course on-site and thrill-seekers can take up the high-adrenaline windsurfing on the whitecaps, catching a ride on the powerful east winds that bully their way down the Columbia Gorge.
If you’re looking to really get in touch with nature, there’s a clothing-optional beach in the campground as well.
If you’re not looking to dip your toes into anything new, there’s also just some good, solid camping here, and the incredibly imposing basalt obelisk that the park is named after can provide enough awe to last a lifetime on its own.
- Windsurfing destination
- A separate clothing-optional beach
- On-foot access to the clothing-optional beach may be limited by fluctuating river levels
Tilly Jane Campground is an excellent base of operations if you’re looking for some backpacking in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Maybe you’re getting a feel for the area before deciding to make your way up the mountain later, or maybe you’re just looking for some simple camping spots in the woods with access to ample hiking. The trails here in the Tilly Jane Campground lead into the wilderness, so folks looking to get up close and personal with nature will find this campground right up their alley.
- Access to hiking and backpacking trails
- Wheelchair accessible campgrounds
- One of the roads leading up into this camp may require high clearance or 4WD vehicles.
The Lost Lake Resort and Campground is an excellent place to find a unique unobstructed view of Mt. Hood.
By trekking to the top of Lost Lake Butte you can treat yourself to a beautiful view of Mt. Hood, its majestic glaciers, and the titular Lost Lake. If heights aren’t your thing, you can also take a walk through the interpretive trail through the old-growth boardwalk, and gain a deeper appreciation for how unique the old-growth forests in this area are.
Visitors can also come by with their horses and ride on the ample trails without worrying about where they’ll settle down with their four-legged companions. There are horse stalls and hitching posts in this campsite, to ease your mind.
- Yurts, cabins, and lodge rooms are available as well as traditional camping
- Accommodations for horses
- Fruit stands sprinkled throughout the Hood River Valley
- A minimum three-night stay on weekends and holidays
Ainsworth State Park marks the eastern end of the “Waterfall Corridor.” Any waterfall chasers can easily begin their gradual tour of the plentiful Oregon waterfalls here in this very park.
The campground is great for a comfortable start to the Ainsworth hiking experience. The hiking trails here will start you by the Multnomah Falls, and as you continue the Latourell, Bridal Veil, Wahkeena, and Horsetail Falls will greet you over the course of your jaunt.
- An ADA accessible campsite with full hookups
- Flush toilets
- No showers
14. Cape Lookout
Cape Lookout, with its yurt and deluxe cabin rental, sharing the same space as the tent camping sites is an interesting combination of camping and glamping married together in one campground.
Anybody looking for an indoor getaway by the beach will find themselves just as comfortable as the campers and their quest for nature.
- Easily accessible water
- Full hookups available on some campsites
- Some of the yurts and one of the cabins have ramps, but the ramps are not ADA compliant
- Only some of the deluxe cabins are not pet friendly
- RV dump station is closed during the winter
Nottingham Campground is easily accessible for everyone. It’s a simple first-come, first-serve campground, located on the East Fork Hood River. There’s simple access to hiking, camping, and fishing, making for a simple, no-fuss weekend in the Mount Hood National Forest.
- Wheelchair accessible
- Toilets on site
- Small, and light on amenities
16. Waldo Lake Area
Waldo Lake Area is a robust camping site in the Willamette National Forest. The forests are thick, the hiking is plentiful, and the lake is one of the purest in the world.
Waldo Lake’s clarity comes from lacking a permanent inlet. This sequestering of Waldo Lake from outside water sources has kept plant life from thriving within it, and that lack of plant life makes the lake unbelievably clear. On a still day, you can see up to 120 feet.
- Unique clarity in one of the purest lakes in the world
- Great for bikers and hiking,
- Heavy mosquito population in the summer
Bring yourself to the point in which the North Santiam River and the Detroit Lake embrace one another.
The Santiam Flats Campground is right on the shore of beautiful rushing waters. Bring a boat and take the same trip the Santiam river does on its way to the Detroit Lake and enjoy some tranquil freshwater fishing.
- Excellent shoreside camping
- Every site has one or two picnic tables
- If you’re not interested in boating or fishing, you’re going to find this campground a little dull
The Silver Falls State Park’s biggest attraction is the ability to walk behind the South Falls.
If you’re up for a hike, the Silver Falls State Park is home to a moderate-difficulty 7.2-mile loop through the park. It takes you through the forest, alongside a canyon, and down to a winding creek on the forest floor. This beautiful scenic hike, also known as the Trail of Ten Falls, takes you behind the famous South Falls at a certain point.
It’s a must-see for any hiking enthusiasts or waterfall fans.
- The Trail of Ten Falls is a beautiful hike to make
- Over 35 miles of backcountry trails, perfect for backpacking and mountain biking
- No pets allowed on the Canyon Trail.
This is an excellent beach camping site. There are hot showers on site to warm your body after pulling yourself out of either the ocean or the Nehalem Bay. If you’re a long horseback ride on the beach type, you can bring your equestrian pal along for a nice weekend full of sandy rides, and you can spend the weekends together on primitive campsites like they did in the olden days making their way down the Oregon Trail.
- Access to rustic yurts
- Primitive horse camp
- Strong winds may uproot your tent if you don’t secure them properly
The Forlorn Lakes Campground is anything but. The lakes are beautiful and this is one of the most popular campgrounds on this end of the forest.
If you want to up your fishing hipster cred, the lakes in this campground are seldom touched. The lakes are a little shallow, but if you’ve got a pretty small boat like a kayak or something similar, then you’re all set.
Camping here is simple but serviceable. You have your choice of first-come, first-serve tent or RV camping.
- A small campground you won’t have to share with too many other guests
- Beautiful shallow lakes excellent for a relaxing time on the water
- No hookups
- Maximum RV length is relatively short
- The campground may fill up early in the week
If you’ve never been to Silver Lake Falls, how could you possibly resist? The unique hike around (and inside!) all of the different waterfalls dotting the Pacific Northwestern landscape is something you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the country. Just be sure to bring a long a light packable rain jacket to protect yourself from the water!
Bonus tip: Turn off the lights and throw this 4k footage of the Silver Lake Falls on the big screen!