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Best Tent Camping: Oregon: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

Best Tent Camping: Oregon: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

by Becky Ohlsen


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The guide to the top 50 tent campsites in Oregon.

The new, full-color edition of Best Tent Camping: Oregon, by Becky Ohlsen, guides campers to the state's quietest and most scenic campsites. It's the perfect resource for those who blanch at the thought of pitching a tent on a concrete slab, trying to sleep through the blare of another camper's boom box, or waking up to find your tent surrounded by RVs.

The book contains detailed campground layout maps; key information such as fees, restrictions, and dates of operation; and candid ratings for beauty, privacy, quiet, security, spaciousness, and cleanliness.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780897326773
Publisher: Menasha Ridge Press
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Series: Best Tent Camping
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 574,660
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Becky Ohlsen is a freelance writer and critic living in Portland, Oregon. She has written Lonely Planet guidebooks about Sweden, Seattle, the Pacific Northwest, the Great Plains, and parts of England and Wales. She also reviews books, film, food, and drink for various local and national publications. A recovering copy editor, she will debate points of grammar with anyone, anytime. Becky is an avid hiker and enthusiastic camper; her favorite trails and campsites are in the Swedish countryside. She has a master’s degree in journalism from NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program. It is said she sincerely believes in trolls.

Read an Excerpt

Cascadia State Park Campground
Most people speed right on past this little cove of peace and tranquility.
Beauty: 4 stars
Privacy: 3 stars
Spaciousness: 3 stars
Quiet: 4 stars
Security: 4 stars
Cleanliness: 5 stars

OPEN: May 1–September 30
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Restrooms, showers
EACH SITE HAS: Picnic table, fire ring
ASSIGNMENT: First come, first served
REGISTRATION: With camp host
AMENITIES: Restrooms, drinking water, showers, firewood
PARKING: At campsites; $7/additional vehicle
FEE: $17
On leash only
QUIET HOURS: 10 p.m.-6 a.m.
FIRES: In fire rings only
ALCOHOL: Permitted
OTHER: RVs and trailers up to 35'; no generators allowed

Driving east on US 20 out of Sweet Home, you first pass Foster Lake, a large and decidedly unscenic reservoir created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Then the road gets a little curvy, the trees get taller and thicker, and you can feel the draw of the high country. You start to speed up, dreaming of what’s to come, and . . . what was that? Some kind of a park or something?

Yes, that sign on the left said Cascadia State Park, and it is one of the little-known gems of the Oregon State Park system. It doesn’t have the magical attractions of Silver Falls (see page 54) or as much dramatic mountain scenery as Tumalo (see page 94), and the location—so near to the I-5 corridor—might not seem inspiring. But drive down the short access road off US 20 and you’ll find yourself in a little cove of peace and tranquility that most people speed right on past.

Cascadia has a manicured feel to it—in a good way, as if somebody designed it to be peaceful and inviting. Turns out, somebody did: The park is a former resort, built to entice visitors to Soda Creek. In the early 20th century, the mineral-filled waters brought enough people here to support a large hotel called the Geisendorfer, which had tennis courts, a garden, and a croquet course. Spend some time in the big mowed meadow by the group camping area, tossing a Frisbee or just soaking up the summer sun, pondering a short saunter down to the river for a swim and some fishing, and you can easily imagine that somebody did a good job putting this place together.

Cascadia spreads out beneath tall firs and hemlocks. In September and October, it’s bathed in fall colors from maples, and in spring and summer it’s awash in wildflowers. Somehow, even when it’s full, the park is nice and quiet. As a camp host once said, “We’re just a quiet little family park.”

Another comment overheard about Cascadia: “There’s nothing there, really, but campsites and forest and some trails and the river.” To which we say, exactly! (For the literalists, there are also showers, ADA-accessible restrooms, firewood for sale, drinking water, and recycling facilities—but no RV dump station!)

The South Santiam River is, in these parts, a little wonder of Cascade scenery. It isn’t awesome by any means, though in late spring there’s often a ton of water in it. By late summer, it’s basically a series of deep clear pools surrounded by cliffs and beautiful rock formations, separated by tiny rapids and waterfalls—perfect, in other words, for swimming or skipping around on the rocks, or even some fishing. You’ll be lucky to catch anything bigger than 6 inches; the real fishing is below Foster Dam, where overlapping runs of Chinook salmon and steelhead bring folks from all over.

On top of the fishing, swimming, and lounging, Cascadia has two hiking trails that start right in the park: the River Trail runs 1 mile along the South Santiam, with several side trails leading down to the river. The Soda Falls Trail is a bit tougher, gaining 500 feet in less than a mile to 150-foot Lower Soda Creek Falls.

But, as with the fishing, the “real” hiking is not really at Cascadia; it’s all over the place, just up US 20. Highlights include two former lookout sites, one atop a huge pillar called Rooster Rock (reached by a steep 2.1-mile trail and some optional rock scrambling) and the other atop Iron Mountain, which you can get to in a steep 1.7 miles or as a 6-mile loop that includes the Cone Peak Trail and a section of the historic Santiam Wagon Road. That last road is of interest in itself; some 20 miles remain of this 19th-century military road, much of which is being developed for multiple users, including “drivers of vintage vehicles and wagons,” according to the Willamette National Forest website.

For information on all of these activities and plenty more, stop by the Sweet Home Ranger District (it’s right on US 20), visit the website at, or call the Sweet Home office at 541-367-5168.

From I-5 take Exit 233 (US 20/Albany/Lebanon). Head east on US 20 E and drive 40.2 miles. Turn left onto Dobbin Creek Road and drive across the small bridge ahead; the park entrance will be on your right.
GPS COORDINATES: N44° 23.839' W122° 28.866'

Table of Contents

Oregon Campground Locator Map
Map Legend
Best Campgrounds

Northern Coast
1 Beverly Beach State Park Campground
2 Cape Lookout State Park Campground
3 Nestucca River Recreation Area Campgrounds
4 Saddle Mountain State Natural Area Campground

Southern Coast
5 Cape Blanco State Park Campground
6 Cape Perpetua Scenic Area Campground
7 Eel Creek Campground
8 Marys Peak Campground

Northern Cascades
9 Badger Lake Campground
10 Beavertail Campground
11 Camp Creek Campground
12 Elk Lake Campground
13 Oxbow Regional Park Campground
14 Silver Falls State Park Campground
15 Summit Lake Campground
16 Whispering Falls Campground

Central Cascades
17 Cascadia State Park Campground
18 East Lake Campground
19 Frissell Crossing Campground
20 Islet Campground
21 Mallard Marsh Campground
22 Paradise Campground
23 Riverside Campground
24 Rujada Campground
25 Scott Lake Campground
26 Three Creek Lake and Driftwood Campgrounds
27 Tumalo State Park Campground
28 Wildcat Campground
29 Yellowbottom Campground

Southern Cascades
30 Crater Lake National Park: Lost Creek Campground
31 Fourmile Lake Campground
32 Head of the River Campground
33 Natural Bridge Campground
34 Sacandaga Campground
35 Secret Campground
36 Susan Creek Campground
37 Thielsen View Campground

Eastern Oregon
38 Anthony Lakes Campground
39 Buckhorn Campground
40 Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge: Hot Springs Campground
41 Hidden Campground
42 Marster Spring Campground
43 Minam State Recreation Area Campground
44 North Fork Malheur Campground
45 Olive Lake Campground
46 Page Springs Campground
47 Strawberry Campground
48 Two Pan Campground
49 Wallowa Lake State Park Campground
50 Williamson Campground

Appendix A: Camping Equipment Checklist
Appendix B: Sources of Information
About the Author

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