Summer Lake Hot Springs
Location: Off Oregon Highway-31
Hot Springs Fee: $10 day use fee
Escape the classic Pacific Northwest forests to soak in the Oregon hot springs of the arid high desert. Located on a 145-acre Healing Resort, Summer Lake Hot Springs is arguably one of the most secluded spots to visit in the state.
The mineral water ranges in temperature from 108-118 degrees and features two outdoor soaking options, as well as one indoor pool. The indoor pool is a popular spot for photos as it is housed inside a rustic, metal-clad barn from the 1920s.
The Summer Lake Hot Springs resort offers accommodation options, or you can camp at . With ten rustic, spacious sites available for $6 a night on a first come, first serve basis, Marster is an ideal spot for outdoor seclusion. The campground has two vaulted toilets and a hand pump for potable water, but there is no trash service. So remember: Pack it in, pack it out!
Paulina Lake Hot Springs
Location: Along the shore of Paulina Lake off of FS-21
Hot Springs Fee: Free
Similar to Crater Lake, Paulina Lake neighbors the 5-mile Newberry Volcanos caldera. It is believed that when the original volcanos core collapsed, it filled a singular body of water. After subsequent eruptions, relatively recent lava has filled the caldera and separated the body of water into two lakes, Paulina and East Lake.
The hot springs at Paulina Lake are located along the shoreline about a 1.2 mile hike in. Visitors may likely describe the water as warm as opposed to hot since the pools stay around 95-degrees in temperature. Yet the benefit is, unlike the neighboring East Lake pools, Paulina Lakes hot springs are virtually free of the smell of sulfur.
Little Crater Campground is the popular camping site with easy access to Paulina Lake hot springs. There are 50 sites available which are spacious and can accommodate RVs and cost $18 per night. Additionally, the campground has vaulted toilets and drinking water available. Situated along the shoreline, Little Crater is a gorgeous spot to watch the sunset after a nice hot springs soak.
South Lake Dispersed Areasiuslaw National Forest
Image from The Dyrt camper Chris H.
This free campground in Oregon offers dispersed sites near South Lake, a small lake in the Siuslaw National Forest. Its a lightly used campground, which allows access to trout fishing and non-motorized boating on South Lake, and hunting and hiking on the Pioneer-Indian Trail.
This free campground is just far enough out from the coast and the city that youll likely be alone, even on a Saturday night. Most folks coming to this area of the forest camp in the more popular Hebo Lake campground. If you dont need amenities and are just looking for a beautiful place to camp, South Lake is a better option. The Dyrt camper Chris H.
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Sand Island Marine Parknear Portland Or
This is an excellent Oregon free camping spot on kayaking trips. Sand Island is a man-made island in the Columbia River just northwest of Portland that offers primitive free camping, as well as short nature trails and grassy areas for picnics. If youre on a multi-day kayaking excursion, you can resupply in St. Helens, a short stroll from the camping area.
Accessible by boat or kayak. Sites are primitive, no tables. This is on the Columbia River water kayak trail. The Dyrt camper Daniel L.
Rufus Landing Recreation Areacolumbia River Gorge
When youre touring alongside the Columbia River and want a spot to cease east of The Dalles, the Rufus Touchdown Recreation Space is a handy boondocking and dispersed tenting website.
Managed by the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers, it has no designated websites however is slightly an enormous gravel parking space, which means tent campers might need to plan to snag spots earlier than RVers do.
Simply because its a simple tenting website doesnt imply it doesnt provide facilities, although. There are restrooms accessible only a quick stroll away, and theres a mountain climbing entry right down to the Columbia River.
This campground is an easy gravel lot for drop-in tenting. No hearth pits or reserved spots.
When youre going to a present at Maryhill or simply want a spot to crash alongside the freeway this can be a great place. Has restrooms and river entry.
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Sand Island Marine Parkclose To Portland Or
This is a wonderful Oregon free tenting spot on kayaking journeys.
Sand Island is a man-made island within the Columbia River simply northwest of Portland that gives primitive free tenting, in addition to quick nature trails and grassy areas for picnics.
When youre on a multi-day kayaking tour, you may resupply in St. Helens, a brief stroll from the tenting space.
Accessible by boat or kayak. Sites are primitive, with notables. That is on the Columbia River water kayak path.
Final Pacific Northwest Camping Tips
Before heading out on your PNW van camping adventure, there are a few essential things you should know about camping in Oregon and Washington. Each state has its own regulations for national parks and forests and state parks, so its essential to check the rules of your specific location before heading off. Check Recreation.gov or each states website to find current conditions or learn of regulation changes.
Below are a few other things to keep in mind before your trip:
You may need a permit or pass
If you plan to use state recreation lands in Washington, you will need a Discover Pass for their state recreation areas. This pass has an annual fee of $35 and allows you to enjoy millions of acres of state lands such as state parks, natural areas, and wildlife areas throughout Washington.
Purchasing a pass will help keep these beautiful areas maintained and open to the public for many years to come. Pick up one here.
Help to prevent forest fires
Smokey Bear shouldnt be the only one looking out for these destructive natural eventsyou should too. If you are camping during high-fire risk season, make sure to check local conditions.
Some campsites may be closed due to active or past fires, and open fires may not be allowed during the arid times. Planning ahead will help you avoid time-consuming reroutes and general disappointment.
Dont move wood
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Free Or Reduced Camping Fees In Washington State Parks:
Washington State Parks offers several discounts for reduced or waived camping fees for several groups of people::
- Limited income senior citizens
- Foster Parents
- People with Disabilities
The passes they offer are either to reduce or waive camping, moorage, watercraft launch fees, or day-use fees. Make sure to head to the Washington State Park website to find out all the details. This does not cover yurts, cabins & other fees.
Painted Hills Dispersednear John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Image from The Dyrt camper Eva W.
While camping within John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, including the Painted Hills Unit, is not allowed, there are plenty of dispersed camping opportunities in surrounding BLM and Forest Service lands, some of which are along the John Day River. You wont have any trouble finding a wonderful spot near these remarkably colorful hills, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.
This was by far my favorite place we stayed on our entire 4000+ mile road trip. and it was free! We stayed at Priest Hole, which is a few miles past the Painted Hills visitor center on dirt roads. We camped right on the banks of the John Day River and it was amazingly beautiful. The water was the perfect temperature for swimming and crystal clear. The Dyrt camper Corinna B.
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Deschutes River State Park
Thirty miles east of The Dalles, this park is located where the Deschutes River and the Columbia River converge. The Deschutes River State Park offers 34 electric sites in addition to 25 primitive sites. Since there is a quarter-mile drop along the last 100 miles of the river, folks here can enjoy a major adrenaline rush from white-water rafting, kayaking or even tubing the river. There’s also a boat launch and a 17-mile mountain bike trail.
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Free Camping On The Columbia River Oregon
Probably the best place for boondocking along the Columbia River Gorge is at Rufus Landing Recreation Area, in the tiny town of Rufus, Oregon. Run by the Army Corps of Engineers, this outcropping of gravel was created by the ACOE when it built the John Day Dam about a mile to the east. Today, its a popular free camping for many RVers who wish to stay the full two weeks, or just a sleep-over during their travels.
Free Camping In Oregon In Public Lands
The Bureau of Land Management manages over 16 million acres of public land throughout Oregon and Washington. While some of these areas offer paid developed camping, dispersed camping on public lands is also an option.
Campers may not stay for longer than 14 days within a consecutive 28 day period. After the 14 days are exceeded, campers must move a minimum of 25 miles away to locate a new campsite.
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How Long Are You Allowed To Camp In State Areas
Legally in Bureau of Land Management Areas you can camp for two weeks at a time within a 30 mile radius during a 28-day period. What that means, is that you may camp within a 30 mile radius for two weeks, either all in one block, or spread out across a 28-day period. This is perfect for hikers who will move camp a few miles at a time.
The regulations are slightly different in Oregons state forests. You may camp at one site for a maximum of 14 days, before moving to a new site. While regulations vary, your new campsites should be several miles away from your previous one.
Camping Near The Dalles Or Find A Free Campsite
Whether you just need to know where to camp nearby or you want to plan a free camping road trip, we’ve got you covered. You can simply use your smart phone’s GPS to find camping near you or even use our trip planner to plan your route from coast to coast.
Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.
This is a platform for sharing campgrounds and camp sites you have discovered. We are community driven, and while we will be adding many free camping spots, we hope that you will add some of your favorite camping places as well. By sharing camping information freely, we can all spend less time researching campgrounds, spend less money, and more time camping. If everyone contributes a few campsites, we’ll all have more places to go camping.
Please come back and let us know what you find!
We are not actively seeking Wal-Marts, truckstops or other parking lots and will not be adding very many of these. There are enough Wal-Mart and truck stop directories out there already. However, if a member of the community finds one of these locations to be useful for overnight RV parking and creates an entry, we may approve the listing.
Please come back and let us know what you find!
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Mt Hood National Forest
Campers in the Dalles area also have access to the Mt. Hood National Forest, which covers more than a million acres. Its namesake rises over 11,000 feet above sea level. Brave hikers who wish to summit Mt. Hood must first get a free wilderness permit. Other activities here include boating, hunting and even skiing in the winter. There are four districts that cover the forest, and both fee and nonfee primitive camping is permitted at varying elevations in varying regions.
Additional Tips For Finding Free Oregon Camping
Image from The Dyrt camper Katy T.
- Visit the Oregon-Washington page on the U.S. Forest Service website. Check out individual national forests and other federally protected areas in Oregon by either clicking on them on the map or on the links below it.
- Go to the Bureau of Land Management website and sort by location and activity . Browse through the results to find your perfect free camping in Oregon destination.
- If you already know your destination, its a good idea to stop by a visitor center or ranger station and talk to a ranger. Theyre the best source of information about great free, dispersed camping in the area.
- Service roads are usually lined with free campsites. On maps, U.S. Forest Service roads are indicated as NF-##, while roads running through BLM lands often also have several free camping options alongside them.
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Nehalem River Dispersedtillamook State Forest
A gray and orange tent, a pile of firewood, and coolers in a clearing beneath pine timber in the course of the forest.On the way in which from Portland to the Three Capes space or the Nehalem state parks on the Oregon Coast, youll move via the Tillamook State Forest.
Riddled with campgrounds, its a beautiful place to take a break from driving. So, arrange camp on the free Cook dinner Creek Campground, simply off the Nehalem River and offering seventeen campsites, and luxuriate in some typical Oregon forest surroundings.
Free Or Reduced Rates For Campground Hosts:
If you have more flexibility in your schedule if you are retired, homeschool, etc being a campground host might be an option for you. Typically you can get free rates to camp in exchange for being available to help & answer questions for the campers. The minimum stay is typically one month, though, but this might be a fun option for the summertime if you plan ahead.
You can find available campgrounds that need hosts by searching this website for National Parks & Forests all around the country. I found a number of locations in Washington and Oregon, so definitely check that site out to see if theres an option that will work for you. I would think youd need to schedule this out far in advance though.
Let us know if you have other ideas of ways to get discounts or free passes for camping!
*Disclaimer We have not checked out these sites personally but have found these sites thru a combination of the resources mentioned above. However, we do recommend you always do your own research to make sure these will work for your family & your needs.
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Memaloose State Park Campground
Between the cities of Hood River and The Dalles in the eastern part of the gorge, youll find Memaloose State Park. This is a large state park campground with 66 tent sites and 43 full-hookup sites that come surrounded by greenspaces and open meadows, making it a great spot for activities and family trips.
Located just a stones throw away from the Columbia River, this campground has water views galore. Other amenities include flushing toilets, solar-heated showers, RV dump station, a day use area, and even a playground. The park also has easy access to the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail. The trail has more than 12 miles of hiking and biking trails, which gives sightseers some excellent views of the gorge.
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