Best Free Camping Near The Columbia River
Whether youre looking for an out-of-the-way, rugged hangout or just a place to put your van for the night, youll be able to find both within a couple of hours of the Columbia River Gorge. Whether youre on the Oregon or Washington side, the scenery will vary between open, rocky expanses and scrubby, tree-covered ridges. However, the farther you are from a town, the better the stars will be.
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Rv Trip To Mt Hood And The Gorge
As an Oregonian, Ive had the privilege of RVing in this state for nearly two decades. I can say with confidence that the Mt. Hood/Columbia Gorge region packs more majesty per square mile than any other. I challenge you to drive on Interstate 84 along the Columbia River and not be awed by Mother Natures work, or to round the bend on the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway for your first glimpse of snowcapped Mt. Hood and not have your heart skip a beat.
The area abounds with campgrounds that have easy access to alpine lakes and waterfall-lined trails. Its the kind of contact with nature that will nourish your soul. Along the way, youll also have plenty of opportunities to feed your body: fresh-picked produce from Hood River Valley, award-winning wines from Columbia Gorge wine country, craft beers from family-owned breweries and local specialties like huckleberry shakes that will prompt you to make a detour.
Need help planning an RV adventure through the Mt. Hood/Columbia River Gorge region? Heres my suggested itinerary for this classic road trip.
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Outdoor Destinations in Oregon: Take some time to explore the attractions in Hood River, including nearby Mount Hood National Forest. When you’re ready to move on, consider a stop in Bend. This city has become incredibly popular with outdoor adventurers due to its beautiful nearby natural areas. The surrounding mountains, volcanic wonders, waterfalls, and lakes are just perfect for hiking, camping, and mountain biking.
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Roots Rise Family Farm
With stunning views of Mt. Adams from the meadow at Roots Rise farm, youll be pitching your tent in a pretty picturesque spot. Thats not the only option, campers also choose the shady oak or pine grove, or if you are tentless, then there is also a fully equipped trailer to stay in.
The location is pretty good too. It is about a 20-minute drive to the Hood River, and just 5 minutes to the Klickitat River, with wineries and natural attractions.
Animal lovers can make friends with the dogs, cats, chickens, and pigs that wander around the farm, so if you find a furry friend joining you in the night, embrace it as part of the experience!
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Day : Biking And Brews
If its wine that you seek, park the RV and join a biking wine tour with MountNBarrel. It includes three tastings, a locally sourced lunch, and use of a seven-gear hybrid cruiser with a basket and small wooden crate for to-go bottles e-bikes also are available. As you bike on the country roads of the Hood River Valley, breathe deeply. The sweet smell of fruit wafts through the air.
Spend the rest of your day in the town of Hood River, known as one of the top windsurfing and kiteboarding spots in the world. Watch the pros and have the kids cool off at Waterfront Park , where they can splash around in a small cove. Dont forget the sunscreen! Youll find ample parking for your RV at the nearby Hood River Event Site. Stay along the waterfront for an early dinner at pFriem Family Brewers. Always busy, pFriem serves Belgium-inspired beers and an excellent menu with a covered outdoor patio that often has long waits, so come early.
From Hood River, its just a 15-minute drive east to Viento State Park. The sites here are spacious with both water and electricity. While this park sits on the Columbia River, its also next to working train tracks, so expect to hear train horns throughout the night.
Best Columbia River Gorge Campground For Rvs
Located in the quiet town of Trout Lake, Washington, Elk Meadows is a fantastic campsite for RVs. Trout Lake is often missed by visitors looking Columbia River Gorge campgrounds, but it has easy access to the amazing natural features on the Washington side of the Columbia River. From Elk Meadows youll have a short drive to natural wonders such as the Cheese Caves, Mount Adams, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and the White Salmon River.
Elk Meadows is close to all the beautiful Washington adventures, like rafting on the White Salmon River!
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Eagle Creek Overlook Group Campground
Sitting on a forest buff over the Columbia River, Eagle Creek Overlook Group Camp has struck gold for scenic locations.
The site can hold up to 90 people, making it the perfect spot for a huge family gathering or a group of friends looking for a base for an adventure. There is also room for 40 or so cars, so you wont have to worry about how everyone will get there.
There are fire rings, picnic tables, shelters, drinking water, and flush toilets, everything youll need for a great stay. Although youll be perched on the buff, the river is still easily reachable as you have a semi-private path down to the water.
The Pacific Crest Trail is also not too far away if you are up for a more lengthy trek! It is also pretty close to the Eagle Creek Recreation Area.
Best Columbia River Gorge Campgrounds
Nestled between Oregon and Washington are some of the best Columbia River Gorge campgrounds for those looking for an adventurous vacation. Within the Gorge are hundreds of activities and hours of fun, from rafting down the White Salmon River, to mountain biking, to windsurfing, the Columbia River Gorge has all the outdoor action, and most activities have beautiful campgrounds close by. Columbia River Gorge campgrounds are a great option for anyone looking to add a little extra adventure to their vacation while saving on the cost of hotels or AirBnBs. These are our picks for the best Columbia River Gorge campgrounds!
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Best Riverside Columbia River Gorge Campground
Tucker Park Campground is located on the outskirts of Hood River, OR, along the banks of the Hood River. Fall asleep to the river sounds as it flows right next to camp. On the border of Hood River and Mount Hood National Forest, its easy to access the town of Hood River for shopping and dining, or to escape into Mount Hood National Forest for a hike. In the spring, you can even raft the Hood River!
The Hood River flows right by Tucker Park. In the spring, you can raft the Hood River!
Best Columbia River Gorge Campground For A Mountain Retreat
Lost Lake Resort is the best Columbia River Gorge campground for stunning views of Mt. Hood. We wont spoil these views with a photo, you have to see for yourself! Located right on an alpine lake, the resort rents out kayaks and canoes try to spot the fish from a glass-bottom boat, or paddle out for uninterrupted mountain views! Take a stroll on the family-friendly hiking trail that wraps around the lake.
Rent a boat and paddle around the bend for stunning views of Mt. Hood! Photo by Bonnie Morland via Flickr
With proximity to all the outdoor activities that this area is known for, Columbia River Gorge campgrounds are a great option for adventurers looking to save money and beat the crowds. These top picks will make it easy to get out and explore!
Author Sharon is a kayak instructor and Reservations Manager at Wet Planet. She is always stoked to share her love of whitewater and to be a part of the incredible team at Wet Planet! Read more by Sharon here.
About the Author
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Closest Columbia River Gorge Campground To Portland
Right off of I-84, this Columbia River Gorge campground is located in the National Scenic Area, Ainsworth State Park has easy access to Portland and is minutes away from the many hiking trails located on Historic Highway 30. The campground is only a short hike away from a stunning overlook of the Columbia River Gorge and the infamous Multnomah Falls.
Ainsworth State Park. Photo by brx0 via Flickr.
Bridge Rv Park And Campground
This is the best RV park in the area for location and amenities. Located on the north side of the Columbia River, across the bridge from Hood River, it is extremely convenient for accessing the town of Hood River and all the nearby sites. It’s right off the highway but heavily wooded and very scenic, with views to the surrounding hills.
They officially accept RVs up to 40 feet but the staff here are flexible and willing to accommodate larger RVs depending on what is available. While it is primarily set up for RVs, there is an open grassy area with picnic tables and space for about tents. The park prides itself on clean modern bathrooms and facilities.
Sites have 30/50 amp service, and Wi-Fi is available throughout the park. If you are running low on propane, the park has a filling station.
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Memaloose State Park Campground
For scenery and views over the river from your campsite, it doesn’t get much better than the campground at Memaloose State Park. This campground is located about 17 miles east of Hood River, in an area where the landscape is more rolling and exposed than the area west of the town, where the walls of the gorge seem to encompass you.
While it overlooks the river, the campground is actually much higher up and set back from the river, with no direct access to the river due to the active railroad line. Willows, cottonwoods, and pines offer a scenic setting but be aware, this can be a very windy location, and sites closest to the ridge overlooking the water are highly exposed.
Sites in Loop A have better views, but the highway noise is bothersome. Sites in Loop B are closer to the river and quieter, but you will hear the trains â no whistles, more of a dull roar.
Memaloose campground offers 44 full-hookup sites with 30 amp service, 65 tent sites, showers, toilets, and an RV dump station. Note that 20 of the tent sites are overflow sites, with no picnic tables or fire pits.
Quiet Grass Trees Private
Escape some of the bigger camps hustle, bustle, and busyness and escape to this quiet little camping spot when Columbia River Gorge is camping. There are six sites available here, but there is plenty of privacy, offering a green oasis very close to town.
This camping spot is a little more urban than others, which is perfect if you are looking for somewhere where you can grab a bite to eat from town. Youre still less than an hour away from some of the main attractions, such as Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Scenic Highway.
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Klickitat Canyon Wine Tent Camping
Wine lover? This is the campsite for you! It is located at the Klickitat Canyon Winery, set high on a hill under the shade of large, leafy oaks. What more could you want?
Picturesque vineyards surround the small working farm, so you will have views no matter how you pitch your tent, and dramatic Mount Hood finishes off the picture. Plus, many of the local wineries welcome visitors for a taste of their creations.
A perfect way to spend the afternoon is cooling off in the Klickitat River, which can be found bubbling away a short distance from the winery.
Making Reservations For Van Camping
Some of the campgrounds listed above include first-come, first-serve sites, so arrive early. Most state and national parks require reservations, which can fill up fast, so book in advancesome even have 48- or 72- hour requirements. Other campgrounds have optional reservations, which means you can usually get a spot if you show up without one.
To confirm your preferred site allows van camping, its always best to contact the site and describe the type of van you are using. If you know before you go, it will ensure a seamless van-camping vacation.
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Viento State Park Campground
Just 10 minutes west of Hood River, Viento State Park offers access to the Columbia River. The rocky shoreline provides an easy entry to the river for windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding, and other water sports. The campground is actually across the highway from the river, but a walking trail runs down to the water making it a convenient base for campers looking to use the river.
Even if you are just looking to explore the waterfalls and sites along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, this is an excellent base, just off Interstate 84. Viento State Park also provide easy access to the Columbia Historical Highway State Trail.
The campground has 56 RV sites and 18 tent sites, almost all of which are well-shaded. The tent area is set back in a forested area with a creek running in behind. The RV sites are closer to the highway.
The main drawback to this campground is the noise associated with its extremely close proximity to the highway and train tracks. The tent area is in a lush forest setting. Facilities include flush toilets.
Lodge In The Heart Of The Columbia River Gorge
This beautiful little cottage has everything you need and more as a base to explore the Columbia River Gorge. The cute space has an open layout with a full kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom and, although snug, can comfortably fit four people.
The views are stunning as you look out over the Columbia River and Washington syncline, and you are just a few miles away from the Hood River as well. Added extras include a grill, a hammock, washing machine and dryer, bike storage, and a lovely porch.
The nearest restaurant is walking distance away if you didnt fancy cooking yourself.
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Best Columbia River Gorge Campground For Hiking
Located five miles outside of Hood River, OR, Viento State Park has easy access to some of the best hikes in the area. Within a five-mile radius there are four waterfalls and three different trail systems, making this the best Columbia River Gorge campground for hiking. These trails are fantastic for day hikes or backpacking. There is electricity, hot showers, and flush toilets accessible at the campground.
Starvation Creek is just a one-mile walk from Viento State Park along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Photo by Rachel Sandwick via Flickr.
Cottage Overlooking Mount Hood
Located in the heart of White Salmon, this cute little one-bedroom cabin has all you need for a comfortable stay. However, the actual selling points are the views out over Mount Hood and the close vicinity to both the town and nature.
Whether you want to stroll into town for a coffee or a shop, head 5 minutes down the road to the Hood River, or sit on your deck and enjoy the panoramic views of the Columbia River, this little cabin has it all.
The cabin has a fully equipped kitchen, spacious bedroom, an extra futon in the living room, a dining room, and an entertainment terrace. It is the ideal base for a couple or a family with kids.
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Bonney Meadow Campgroundmount Hood National Forest
In addition to popular Mount Hood National Forest campgrounds like Trillium Lake and Lost Lake, theres also amazing free Oregon camping in the same area. At Bonney Meadow, six individual campsites and horse corrals cater to self-sufficient hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Sites can accommodate vehicles of maximum 16 feet in length.
This awesome untrafficked campground is perfect for people who really want to get away from people. Its often mostly empty and sits on the edge of a stunning meadow. The Dyrt camper Leaha W.
Ainsworth State Park Campground
For nature lovers, one of the best campgrounds in the Hood River area is in Ainsworth State Park. Surrounded by forest and dominated by large deciduous trees, this campground offers 43 RV sites and six very private, walk-in campsites in the woods. The RV sites are small but some are pull-through. The campground offers full hookups, a dump station, washrooms, but no showers.
Ainsworth State Park is located about 30 miles west of Hood River off Interstate 84, in a prime location along the Historic Columbia River Highway, just 4 miles east of beautiful Multnomah Falls. The only drawback to this location is the noise from passing trains.
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