The Best RV Camping in Oregon

May 7, 2019 |

The Best RV Camping in Oregon

By Nathan Paul Swartz

From misty lush Sitka spruce forests hanging over the edge of the state’s coastal cliffs to the naked and painted mountains of the western high desert, Oregon is home to an amalgamation of elevations, diversity, and scenery. Whether you want to camp in the shade of some of the world’s largest trees while a babbling brook all but drowns out the mimicking sounds of Stellars jays or taste every last donut-dunked cup of artisan coffee to be found in the plethora of quaint and eclectic towns across the region, Oregon has something for you.

Not just something for you, but a whole lot of everything for anyone who’s interested in traversing this wonderland smack dab in the middle of the fabled Pacific Northwest.

Oregon Coast Camping

…that rustic camping experience while still enjoying modern amenities.

Every inch of the 360-some miles of coastline where Oregon meets the Pacific Ocean is public land. While tiny beach cottages and multi-million dollar mansions alike may find their way close to the ocean, the sand that exists between their property and the water is fair game to beach-goers of all ilks, and a Neverland of a beach it is. Towering cliffs jut skyward, and massive waves crash into them full stop as the continent and the ocean forever argue over elbow room. The ocean is sure to win, as it always has. Grassland dunes hide elk and mule deer even as families toss frisbees and surfers don wetsuits in an attempt to take advantage of such a glorious natural resource, protected by the state for all of humanity to enjoy.

While true beachfront camping is at times difficult to find, there are plenty of spots within a short walk of the Oregon Coast that boasts epic camping.

State Park Camping Along the Oregon Coast

Oregon’s state park system is one of the nation’s best, and those campgrounds on the coast rarely disappoint. Explore a shipwreck in the morning and the burgeoning scene of hipster Astoria, Oregon that same afternoon from the home base of Fort Stevens State Park at the northern end of the state, or watch elk disappear in and out of the coastal forest at Nehalem Bay. Further south, Cape Lookout State Park not only offers serene forest camping near a pristine stretch of beach but also easy access to the adorable seaside village of Pacific City and all the cheese-factory tours a turophile can stomach.

Further south, Bullards Beach State Park boasts stacks—rock formations formed when ancient lava-filled holes in the ground, hardened, and then remained even as the ocean washed the softer surrounding sediment away—where the tide rises and falls to provide access to hiking and exploring the tide pools revealed as the ocean retreats. Explore Newport’s antique fishing district from South Beach State Park, or get away from it all—without leaving civilization too far behind—at Cape Blanco State Park near Port Orford.

For an average cost of around $30 per night, which often includes full-hookups, you can have that rustic camping experience while still enjoying those modern amenities your RV allows you to bring along with you.

Full-Hookup RV Camping on the Oregon Coast

While full-hookup camping is available in Oregon’s state parks, and often in a more serene setting than any private park on the coast can provide, they’re not the only place to plug in a sewer pipe and watch the seagulls float by. If you’re looking for something a little less woodsy, maybe with a television hookup or a pool, finding a private RV park on the coast might be for you.

The RV Resort at Cannon Beach puts you within walking distance of what is easily one of America’s most charming seaside towns, where old-timey candy shops and bars named for pirates live amongst art galleries and clothing stores galore. Free parking lot camping and a chance at winning big at the slots can be found at the Three Rivers Casino Hotel, or find yourself within walking distance of the gorgeous stacks and sandboarding available at Pacific City Thousand Trails.

More Camping on the Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast is one of those peculiar places where you can find ample camping that feels secluded and traditional, but that never quite leaves you far from cute small towns to explore or decent-sized cities with grocery and big box stores to stock up. The communities tend to be smaller than average, and—outside of weekends or particularly busy summer months—you won’t feel socked in by the crowds and can still manage to get a signal on your phone. While state and private parks hold the lion’s share of options, there are hundreds of places to camp along the coast, all ready for your adventurous spirit to explore.

Mount Hood’s Best RV Camping

A towering volcano above Oregon, visible from Portland (even as far away as Bend!) and snow-capped much of the year, Mount Hood is the highest peak in a state riddled with jagged mountains, many of which have a great deal of prominence—that is, seemingly rising solo out of the earth without a mountain range around them.

The warmer months bring wildflower-painted meadows, occasionally breaking up the moss-covered trees and massive ferns that form the Mount Hood National Forest, as the volcano reflects in alpine lakes, birds of all sizes compete with the sky for most vivid color and the Columbia River rushes its endless journey to the Pacific Ocean. While it is hardly the only forested mountain you can explore, this combination of river, height and sheer vastness makes it one of the most popular. Playing home in the cool town of Hood River doesn’t hurt either.

State Park Camping near Mount Hood

Oregon’s best state parks near Mount Hood live on the Columbia River. Ainsworth State Park is nestled between Mount Hood and Portland, significantly closer to everything the city has to offer but not quite as in the thick of Hood itself as Viento State Park. Both parks are more or less immediately on the highway and suffer from an abundance of train noise. Viento can be thought of as the best little natural place to explore the area, though don’t expect seclusion—the camping area of this state park is in the forest, but the trees don’t block the views of your neighbors.

While it’s technically in Washington, and therefore on the other side of the Columbia River, Beacon Rock actually offers the best views of all three parks, thanks to being set back from the mountain itself, and the large rock for which it gets its name.

The Best Private RV Parks near Mount Hood

While the state parks mentioned above have water, electric and a dump station, if you’re looking for full-hookups, laundry, even a swimming pool or hot tub, there are several popular private RV parks around Mount Hood.

Mount Hood National Forest Camping

If your idea of camping means sharing your site with more ravens than other RVs, there’s no better place to find solace and seclusion than in Mount Hood National Forest. Expect towering Douglas-fir trees to cast shade and hide you away in the forest. Think trickling creeks and mushrooms springing up from every crevice, squirrels dancing acrobatic as eagles perch majestically in their eternal pursuit of representing liberty and justice for all.

That said, note that you’re required to own and display a Northwest Forest Pass when visiting many national forest recreation areas. Specifically, they’re required when you park in various day-use areas (camping in an organized national forest campground has its own fee which covers parking in those sites specifically). However, if you like to tent camp or want to occasionally make use of trailhead parking that allows overnight parking and camping, this pass will need to be displayed as well.

This excludes “sno-parks,” named so due to an apparent lack of the letter “w” in Oregon’s signage facilities, but nonetheless referring to snow-related activities. Apart from Mount Hood, which can often be skied into August, the sno-parks are essentially parking lots you can use to access everything from snowshoeing to snowmobiling, should you be visiting in the winter season. Sno-parks have their own fee and, unlike the Northwest Forest Pass, can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle. Most sno-parks don’t require the pass outside of the winter months.

You can grab a Forest Pass at a multitude of locations, from gas stations to the internet, and they cover both Oregon and Washington national forests. Sno-parks can also be purchased online, at a DMV office, and in similar locations like gas stations that also tend to issue fishing licenses, for example. The sno-parks pass covers California and Idaho as well, and if you already have a similar pass from those states, it’s good in Oregon, too.

Otherwise, when camping in Mount Hood National Forest, expect typically small but secluded sites, where you’ll regularly have your site back up to a river, be close to the paved campground road itself, and well-shaded. Exceptions occur, of course, such as at the White River West Sno-Park, more of a parking area than a campground, where ample sun—should the weather play along—can fuel your solar needs.

Cell service is also surprisingly common at some of the best locations in the national forest. Trillium Lake Airstrip and Still Creek Campground, both on US Route 26, being prime examples.

Bend, Oregon’s Best RV Camping

Sunny Bend, Oregon, is no longer one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. In the past decade, millions of people have flocked here to relocate to a life of breweries and skateparks, outdoor recreation and upscale shopping. In the winter, travelers arrive for everything Mount Bachelor Ski Resort and the surrounding wilderness have to offer, including relatively balmy, and typically sunny, conditions at the lower elevations (though don’t expect to work on your tan). Come the warmer months, private RV parks dust off their swimming pools, the national forests fill with van-dwellers and mountain biking thrill-seekers alike, climbers ascend Smith Rock and paddleboarders ply the Deschutes River.

Newberry Volcanic National Monument is one of the best examples of the Martian lava flows that streak through the region, while state parks and river access, in general, celebrate the best way to beat the sun in town, playing in the naturally “bending” river that flows through the town.

Camping in State Parks near Bend, Oregon

Two of Oregon’s best state parks are within an easy drive of Bend, and each offers something a little different.

LaPine State Park, roughly half an hour from Bend and Newberry Volcanic National Monument, is a forest of ponderosa pine trees, including the “Big Tree,” the largest ponderosa pine in existence, measuring nearly 30′ in circumference.

Tumalo State Park is the closest to Bend proper, a few minutes drive to downtown and the maze of roundabouts that has become a running joke amongst residents and lost travelers caught in an endless loop wondering whether or not they should be using their turn signals more often. Fishermen and golfers tend to frequent the park, along with families looking for state park conveniences like flushing toilets and solar-powered, hot showers that the ample national forest camping around Bend won’t provide.

Like LaPine, Sisters Creekside Campground is about thirty miles from Bend, though in the opposite direction, and provides river access in a forested setting. Though it’s a city park, the feeling is similar to many of the state parks in Oregon, with close together but somewhat separated sites and full-hookups available. It also puts you in the pole position for exploring the charming little town of Sisters, Oregon.

Free Camping in the Deschutes National Forest

While the Deschutes National Forest comprises nearly 2 million acres across four counties in Oregon, much of the best camping can be found west of the Sisters-Bend-LaPine corridor. Camping in the Deschutes ranges from official campgrounds with basic amenities like vault toilets, picnic tables and water spigots—such as Cold Springs Campground near Sisters and Lava Lake Campground west of Bend—to pure boondocking at dispersed sites such as that found along Forest Road 260.

For those with larger RVs who are still looking for that in-the-woods feeling, the popular Harrington Loop Road south of Sisters doesn’t disappoint. While a plethora of camping is available in the Deschutes, certain places tend to fill up more quickly than others, and camping south of town, such as that found along Forest Road 9710, is often a better bet than trying to get something more mountainous.

Newberry Volcanic National Monument

An active stratovolcano, meaning it’s comprised of mounds upon mounds of lava and ash, this national monument is an otherworldly landscape that, despite not having erupted in thousands of years, still betrays the obtuse beauty the destruction such an event can create. Lakes surround a forested mountain, the ice cream long ago licked from its volcanic cone, with Oregon’s larger volcanos in the Cascade Range visible from many of its various peaks. Campgrounds within the monument itself—specifically Little Crater and Cinder Hill, both of which fall into the most sarcastic uses of “not too shabby”—offer primitive camping with vault toilets, water, and serene national park style camping. A variety of national forest and private RV parks can be found outside of Newberry Volcanic, as well, and given the naturally volcanic nature of this part of the country, the experiences with hiking through lava flows and along winding rivers tend to be similar, if not quite as spectacular as the national monument itself.

Private RV Camping near Bend, Oregon

While primitive camping wins the popular vote, as far as the sheer number of campsites, there is no shortage of private RV parks for those seeking a more civilized approach to RVing. Bend-Sisters Garden RV Resort is one of the most popular—and most affordable—RV parks in the area, featuring a large pond, hot tub, mini-golf, outdoor swimming pool, laundry, and the always epic views of the beautiful Cascades in which Sisters resides.

In Bend itself, Crown Villa RV Resort is creme de la creme, with pavers-level spots circling a small chipping green, a gym, hot tub, laundry and clubhouse, among other features, and is only a few minutes’ drive from much of the shopping, breweries and other city offers, while still being slightly outside of the full-on hustle that bustling Bend also provides.

If being within the city’s public transportation, bike lanes, and walkability is your primary concern, Scandinavia RV Park is likely your best bet.

The Steen Mountains’ Best RV Camping

While scientific studies show that 107% of all “outdoorsy” types move to Oregon every day, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still find some serene camping opportunities far from the fleeting footsteps of long-distance thru-hikers, clapping paddles of the state’s many river riders, and skid marks left behind by an ever-present stampede of mountain bikers losing elevation.

Enter the Steens, a landscape as far removed from both the craggy, cliff-strewn moisture of the Oregon Coast and forested, volcanic peaks of the Cascades alike. Flaking deserts, all but having completely forgotten the concept of winter’s precipitation, crackle like old parchment at the feet of mountains cloaked in what growth they can muster.

Still, finding an oasis in this otherwise harsh environment isn’t impossible. Page Springs Campground and Willow Creek Hot Springs afford just such accommodations on BLM land. If you’re after full-hookups and all of the amenities a private RV park provides, Steens Mountain Wilderness Resort is happy to supply.

The Wallowas

Beyond the high deserts of Eastern Oregon, the smaller Blue Mountains rival the grandeur of the Cascades, nestled into the northeastern corner of the state and laced with wildlife, wildflowers and wild adventure unlimited.

A gondola can be taken from Wallowa Lake, 3700′ into the air to the peak of Mount Howard, a lump of an earthen mound surrounded by farmland and forests while topped with a restaurant and views that stretch for states. Ghost towns and mountain goats haunt these hills when adventure seekers and RVers aren’t causing mini-booms in the small villas that reside in the Wallowas’ shadow.

Wallowa Lake State Park, easily one of the most popular—and favorite—campgrounds, is full-hookup camping near the lake and gondola (also referred to as the tram), where s’mores and hot dogs are as common as a hot shower and spin cycle for those clothes that were well used on the trail. Grande Hot Springs RV Resort steps up the amenities, with a hot springs-fed tub (and warm option), recycling, and larger campsites.

Escape modern frivolities while breaking out you’re roughin’ it stick as you head into the Wallowa National Forest, beating the heat with the elevation and draping shade from the forest at campgrounds like Turkey Flat Forest Camp and Williamson Forest Camp. Or just get wild and find the perfect slice of dispersed camping, free of charge, at Indian Valley Overlook.

Crater Lake National Park Camping

A mirror of a body of water, stuck into the earth to reflect the heavens eternal above, Crater Lake is the mountain, forest, and lake camping we all grew up imagining we’d one day disappear into, and Oregon’s lone, true national park.

After a long day exploring the surrounding national forestland, dense and ongoing for hours in every direction, or looping the scenic route that surrounds the toppled volcano that now forms the park’s namesake, Mazama Campground provides first-come, first-served camping immediately in the national park itself. Named for the now destroyed volcano that once towered above Crater Lake, it boasts ranger programs, well-separated sites and easy access to the park’s amenities.

Outside of Crater Lake—and all requiring a bit of a drive to fully reach the lake itself—ample, free camping exists in national forest campgrounds like Scott Creek and dispersed camping along Forest Road 960. Full-hookups can also be had, north of Crater Lake, at Diamond Lake RV Park.

The diversity of natural locales, the fervor of a state seemingly molded around camping and exploration, and the mild weather prevalent most of the year make Oregon one of the most enjoyable places in these United States to spend your weekend—or entire summer—camping.