There’s nothing wrong with touring central Oregon the relaxed, lazy way, making your trip a truly restful vacation. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing your vacation the educational way, hitting every museum and historical landmark that you possibly can – or the party way, hitting all the local festivals and concerts. But some people crave adventure – and if that’s you, then this is the RV trip for you.

  • Especially if you are flying into the area, you may prefer to start in Portland. Get your feet wet by sampling local Portland parks (such as the truly tiny Mill Ends, a pothole-sized park planted by journalist Dick Fagan to fill an empty light pole hole), or head straight east to start a much more athletic adventure.
  • Just how adventurous are you feeling? If you are ready for a real adventure, and you don’t mind getting wet, head to the Columbia Gorge to go kayaking, white water rafting, or even windsurfing or kite sailing. If you have never tried these sports before, don’t worry – you can take lessons while you are here. Try the Columbia Gorge Kayak School, or Gorge Paddling for kayaking instruction, Wet Planet Whitewater or Blue Sky Rafting for whitewater rafting, or Hood River Water Play or Brian’s Windsurfing for windsurfing and kitesailing. If you are a beginner, plan to stay for at least a few days so you can really progress. If you are a pro, you might want to get river rescue training while you are here. To reach the Columbia Gorge from Portland, head east on I-84 to Hood River. But don’t get confused – you can still kayak or raft on the Columbia River, even though you are headed to the city of Hood River.
  • Take care of your body: consider staying long enough, as well, to take in a local yoga class or two after a day of water sports, to stretch and ease any muscle aches you might be experiencing after your adventure. Try Flow Yoga, or get in touch with Anahata Yoga for an outdoor yoga experience in Waterfront Park. Or for a different kind of relaxation, take a day to tour the local wineries – Wines Northwest has a list of locations, along with a driving map.
  • Mt. Hood National Forest is a wonderful place to camp, and it sports numerous RV campsites (). Bring your backpacks – you’ve just entered hiking and backpacking heaven. There are 1000 miles of hiking trails here. You can also bike the trails, or go horseback riding. Or come in the winter and go skiing or snowshoeing (but if you do, make sure that you keep up with the local weather forecast and road conditions, and bring along winter survival gear and enough supplies to keep you going if you are stranded for a few days).
  • Are your muscles aching yet? If so, you may want to stop by Bagby Hot Springs for a soak in a cedar hot tub. To get here, take Forest Road 70, and plan on paying a day-use fee. Don’t worry, these hot springs are worth it! You can’t camp at Bagby, but you are welcome to bring along a picnic meal, as long as you pack any refuse out again with you.
  • From Mt. Hood National Forest, plan to take US-26 E to Smith Rock State Park – about a two hour drive. If you’d like a short destination to break up the drive, try The Museum at Warm Springs, in Warm Springs, on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation – about halfway to Smith Rock.
  • Smith Rock  is one of the country’s most gorgeous places to practice rock climbing or learn to climb if you are a beginner. If you’d like instruction, try Smith Rock Climbing Guides or Smith Rock Climbing School. Be aware that at Smith Rock, you will need a day use permit, which you can buy from a vending machine at the park entrance. RV camping is illegal in Smith Rock State Park, but you may park in the bivouac parking area and then hike 200 yards to a tent camp site. To protect the park from forest fires, open fires are illegal in Smith Rock State Park – the park has an area where you can cook with propane and white gas stoves, but anywhere else, you will need to pack in ready-to-eat food.
  • After Smith Rock, if you’ve really caught the rafting and climbing bug and if you have time, you may want to head further south into Bend, where you could do another whitewater raft trip or tone things down a little with some standup paddle boarding or river tubing. Try Sun Country Tours if you have never experienced standup paddle boarding. If you like beer, you can relax at the end of your trip by walking or biking (you can also take a shuttle or pedicab) the Bend Ale Trail, Bend’s tour of its seven local breweries.

At the end of your trip, you can retrace your steps, or loop back to Portland (about a three hour drive) by way of Salem, taking US-20W, OR-22 W/N, and I-405N. Looping back through Salem will take you on another beautiful drive through central Oregon — you can hurry back or take your time, poke around, and find one more Oregon adventure after another.

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals. Be sure to check out their new Professional Football (NFL) Tailgating and RV Tailgating to College Football Games pages in preparation for the upcoming seasons.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Diane Berry says…

    Echo has the Fort Henrietta RV Park, a small camp located along the Umatilla River in the America in Bloom Winning town of 700. While in Echo you can visit several sites where Oregon Trail ruts remain, museums, an Oregon Trail wagon display, Vintage Fire Equipment & Farm Equipment displays, China House museum & follow a heritage trail through town where you can see 10 National Historic Places buildings and other historic sites. There is a wonderful, challenging 9 hole golf course, Echo Hills, that offers spectacular views of the Umatilla River. You can also sample the award winning wines at the Sno Road winery on Main Street.

    Written on October 25th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  2. Summer Camp says…

    It’s great to have a list of all the activities in this camp ground. I always opt to choose a camp with lots of activities even if I am not sure my family would be able to participate in each of them. I like trying out new things and I like to have that option when my family is out.

    Written on January 19th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
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