Everyone’s idea of what makes the best campground is different. Is it tent or RV? Lots of amenities or the bare necessities for roughing it? Near lakes and rivers or tucked deep into the forest or even high atop a mountain? Whatever your preferences, you’ll find a favorite among these picks for Oregon’s top ten campgrounds.
Cape Blanco State Park
Cape Blanco State Park (39745 U.S. 101 S., 541/332-6774 information, 800/452-5687 cabin reservations, $22 tent or RV, $17 horse camp, $5 hiker/biker, $40 rustic cabin ) is a beautiful and often blustery campground at the state’s westernmost point, just north of Port Orford and Humbug Mountain. Picnic tables, water, and showers are available. For horseback riders, there’s a seven-mile trail and a huge open riding area; horses are also allowed on the beach. Only cabins can be reserved; regular sites are first-come, first-served. Campground trails lead down to the beach and to the nearby lighthouse.
Reach it by driving four miles north of Port Orford on U.S. 101, then heading northwest on the park road that continues five miles beyond to the campground.
Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park
Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park (93111 U.S. 101 N., 541/547-3416 information, 800/452-5687 yurt reservations, year-round, $21 tents, $28-31 RVs, $44 yurts, $5 hiker-biker) lies on the central coast between Florence and Yachats. This is a popular spot because of its proximity to beaches, tidepools, Sea Lion Caves, and hiking trails.
Pile your gear into a wheelbarrow (provided) and trundle it to one of the great walk-in campsites. These sites are secluded, and the remaining 57 have electricity and water (some also have sewer hookups); like almost all state park campgrounds, there are showers. Reservations are not accepted for regular sites, but the park’s two yurts can be reserved. After settling in, take a hike along the Hobbit Trail.
About 50 miles east of Eugene on the McKenzie River along Route 126, Paradise Campground has access to the 26.5-mile McKenzie River National Recreation Trail and the nearby Belknap Lodge and Hot Springs. There are 64 tent/RV (up to 40 feet) campsites, with half of the sites in premium riverside locations. The summer trout fishing here can be very good.
Cleator Bend Campground
Cleator Bend Campground (10 miles northeast of Detroit, 503/854-3366, May-Sept., $16) is less than two miles from Breitenbush Resort and is a good spot for campers who want to visit the hot springs without staying at the resort itself. Nearby, the Breitenbush River has good fishing.
Any of the very pleasant Forest Service campgrounds strung along the river both upstream and downstream from the hub of Camp Sherman at Metolius River ($12-18, drinking water available at all but Candle Creek), especially those downstream from Camp Sherman, offer a chance to linger by central Oregon’s most magical river. The only Metolius campground with reservations available is called Camp Sherman (877/444-6777). Take a short walk to the headwaters of the Metolius or a longer hike along the river.
Devils Lake sits 29 miles from Bend along the Cascade Lakes Highway. The prime lakeside campsites are set away from the parking area, so you’ll have to schlep your gear. The day-use area has a boat ramp, and there’s a moorage dock across the lake adjacent to the campground. Across the highway is the climber’s trail for South Sister.
To reach the camping area of Devils Lake State Recreation Area, take NE 6th Drive east from U.S. 101, about 0.25 mile north of the D River.
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge sits northeast of Lakeview in southeastern Oregon. The Hot Springs Campground (free, no water), four miles south of the refuge headquarters features a hot spring surrounded by a cinder-block privacy wall; a dunk in the spring is highly recommended to loosen the stiffness from bouncing down the dirt roads to get here. The long drive to this remote spot is worth it! Soak the drive away in the hot springs, and explore the area on foot or by mountain bike. Fill your water containers at the refuge headquarters.
Page Springs Campground
Four miles from Frenchglen up the Steens Mountain Loop Road is Page Springs Campground (year-round). Close to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the campground is a good headquarters for bird-watching, fishing, hiking, and sightseeing. Get up early to check out the birds on a hike along the Donner und Blitzen River.
You’ll find Strawberry Campground (541/820-3800, June-mid-Oct., $8, no reservations) 11 miles south of Prairie City in northeastern Oregon. This one is a great bet for tent campers, but the final stretch of road to this sweet spot, at 5,700 feet in elevation, is too steep for trailers and RVs. It’s a pleasant 1.25-mile hike from the campground to the lake.
Grande Ronde Lake Campground
Grande Ronde Lake Campground ($5, water, no reservations) is a pretty spot about a mile past Anthony Lakes Ski Area outside of Baker City. Small Grande Ronde Lake lies in a meadow of tiny streams that is the headwaters of the Grande Ronde River. Hiking trails into the Elkhorn Mountains start nearby.