Table of Contents Show
- When Is the Best Time of Year for Camping in Oregon?
- 10 Best Free Camping Spots in Oregon
- 1. Harrington Loop Road, Sisters
- 2. Badlands Rock Dispersed, Bend
- 3. Cook Creek Campsites, Nehalem
- 4. Painted Hills Dispersed, Kimberly
- 5. Alder Springs Campground, Bend
- 6. Three Forks Recreation Site, Jordan Valley
- 7. Tillamook Forest Dispersed on Nehalem River
- 8. Mount Ashland, Ashland
- 9. Mineral Camp Campground, Umpqua National Forest
- 10. Hot Springs Campground at Hart Antelope Refuge
- How to Find More Free Camping in Oregon
You may think that a Pacific Northwest state like Oregon is only dreary and wet, but you’d be wrong. You’ll find those weather conditions at times in Oregon, but the state also offers desert-like conditions and so much more. Experiencing the various landscapes doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. Today, we’ll look at free camping in Oregon. Let’s get started!
When Is the Best Time of Year for Camping in Oregon?
If you’re planning a trip to Oregon, you’ll want to plan for late summer or early fall. The camping season in Oregon can be rather hit or miss as it typically has a longer spring that’s exceptionally wet for a large portion of the state along the coast.
However, you can venture toward the southeast portion of the state and experience a desert-like environment. Summer in these areas can be hot, so you’ll want to get the most of your experience; fall is your best bet for this region.
10 Best Free Camping Spots in Oregon
Oregon isn’t just home to some incredible landscapes but also great camping. We love saving money by finding budget-friendly camping locations. So here are 10 of the best free camping spots in Oregon. Let’s take a look!
1. Harrington Loop Road, Sisters
Harrington Loop Road sits at 3,200 feet. This dispersed camping site is open seasonally and has a stay limit of 14 days. If you’ve ever wanted to camp in Deschutes National Forest, this is your chance.
Guests say Verizon and AT&T have terrific service here, but T-Mobile still has an average signal. So if you’re looking to stay connected while camping, this could be a spot to consider. Not only can you stay connected, but you’re also not far from the city of Bend.
This is a popular camping location with room for even the largest of rigs. You should expect crowds if you come on a weekend during peak season. Plan accordingly and try to arrive mid-week to snag a spot.
2. Badlands Rock Dispersed, Bend
This secluded spot near Bend is easy to navigate, even for larger rigs, and can provide tons of privacy. You’re far enough from the highways that you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of nature. With decent cell phone coverage from all major cell phone providers, you can stay as connected as you like while still enjoying the beauty of the Oregon landscape.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-navigate area, there’s a gravel lot. What you gain in convenience, you’ll lose in privacy. However, if you’re looking for a quiet place to camp for a few nights, this could be a great pick.
Keep in Mind: You can increase a weak cell signal with these cell phone booster options.
3. Cook Creek Campsites, Nehalem
Cook Creek Campsites are in a state forest that sits in the town of Nehalem. The road is narrow and a little bumpy but navigable if you take your time. This is a hidden Oregon gem that offers several designated free camping sites off the road.
It’s important to note that as of August 2021, Cook Creek Road closed at the four-mile mark. So if you’re planning to stay here, you’ll want to make sure you choose a site before reaching this point.
The reviews for this site are slim, but only because it hasn’t hit the radar for many boondockers. Once other boondockers discover the waterfalls, caves, and many areas to explore while camping here, it’s sure to gain popularity.
4. Painted Hills Dispersed, Kimberly
Painted Hills is another dispersed camping area managed by the Bureau of Land Management. If you’re looking for the best place to discover the Painted Hills, steep river canyons, and abundant wildlife, this is the place to stay. This is a relatively hidden camping location, as it appears many of the individuals using the land are there for hiking or just passing through. You could have this incredible spot all to yourself at night.
If you enjoy exploring at your own pace and tons of privacy, this is a campsite you have to check out. You can camp right on the river and enjoy the miles upon miles of trails. Larger rigs will want to scout out the road in advance and find a spot, but this is an excellent location.
5. Alder Springs Campground, Bend
Alder Springs Campground is a first-come, first-served campground that sits in Willamette National Forest. It’s just off the historic McKenzie Pass Highway. The massive Douglas fir trees help provide privacy for campers.
If you enjoy hiking, the Linton Lake Trailhead is just across the highway from the campground and gives you access to the 1.9-mile Linton Lake Trail. However, there are plenty of user-made trails that aren’t maintained once you reach the end of the official trail. This is an excellent place to check out when it’s hot outside. Cooling off at the waterfalls is a great way to end a hike.
6. Three Forks Recreation Site, Jordan Valley
Three Forks is a remote free camping location in Oregon lies west of Jordan Valley and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Getting to this campground can be a challenge, as it requires driving down a 36-mile dirt road, but it’s worth it. If you’re coming in a large RV, you’ll probably want to consider another spot. This site requires a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle.
If you can get to this location, you’ll enjoy camping, fishing, swimming, and boating activities in the Fork Owyhee, Middle Fork Owyhee, and Owyhee Rivers. There’s a good chance you’ll see wildlife or even the occasional free-range cow. So be on the lookout and make sure you bring your camera to capture plenty of pictures.
If the road conditions allow you to travel to the base of the canyon, you’ll find five campsites, a boat launch, parking, and vault restrooms. You can spend your time enjoying the water, hiking old military and wagon roads, or trying to spot California Bighorn sheep, elk, or pronghorn antelope. If you’re looking for a free camping adventure, it’s hard to beat the Three Forks Recreation Site.
7. Tillamook Forest Dispersed on Nehalem River
This first-come, first-served dispersed camping location sits on the Nehalem River. This is a popular camping location, so make sure you plan accordingly and come with a backup plan just in case. These lands are right up against some private property, so make sure you keep an eye on your map to ensure you’re not crossing out of the forest service land.
The road may seem narrow at first, but it opens up to provide plenty of room for multiple RVs. There are miles of old logging roads, so you’re bound to find a spot that meets your needs. Whether you’re looking for a spot next to the water or tucked away in some trees, this Tillamook Forest dispersed camping area has plenty to offer.
8. Mount Ashland, Ashland
Mount Ashland sits in Klamath National Forest and is a first-come, first-served camping location with a 14-day stay limit. There’s a large parking area at the start of the road, but if you can travel farther down the road leading to the campground, you’ll find a handful more sites that provide more privacy. The road leading back to the more private campsites is subject to seasonal closures, so keep an eye on the weather, especially later in the season.
This site has poor cell phone reception. If you’re in a larger RV, you probably want to stick to the larger parking lot and avoid trying to maneuver farther back into the woods. There are lots of sharp turns and tight areas to contend with for this free Oregon camping.
9. Mineral Camp Campground, Umpqua National Forest
If you’re looking to camp at 6,500 feet, Mineral Camp Campground in Umpqua National Forest is for you. This campground sits near the Siskiyou Crest, which is near the ski area in Mt. Ashland. Due to the elevation, you should attempt this park in the summer or early fall to avoid seasonal closures.
This campground is a dry-camping style of camping, where there’s no potable water or garbage service provided. There are vault toilets available if you don’t come in a self-contained RV. The campsites each have picnic tables, grills, and a fire ring. Make sure you have plenty of water on hand to put out your fire when you’re finished and watch for any signs indicating a burn ban.
If you enjoy hiking, there’s plenty of options in the area. The Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) runs very close to this campground. PCT hikers frequent the campground to get some rest before heading back onto the trail.
10. Hot Springs Campground at Hart Antelope Refuge
If you’re looking for a mixture of wildlife and incredible landscapes, Hot Springs Campground is it. You’ll find a small creek nearby that’s perfect for fishing and provides an opportunity to see deer and coyotes. You can also spot some petroglyphs by taking a short hike to the nearby lake.
One of the advantages of choosing this location for camping is the natural hot springs. These free hot springs are the perfect way to relax at the end of a day of adventuring. Driving in the area provides tremendous views down into the valley below. Whether you’re RVing or tent camping, this is a fantastic free camping spot in Oregon.
Pro Tip: Now that you know some great places to stay, learn how to avoid these 10 mistakes while camping in Oregon.
How to Find More Free Camping in Oregon
If you’re planning to spend some time in Oregon, use resources like Campendium and iOverlander to scope out the best free sites. If you’re not near any of the sites we’ve recommended, you’ll find other options via these resources. You may even hit the jackpot and find a site that we’ve not discovered yet. If so, let us know so we can spread the word! Do you have a favorite free camping spot in Oregon?