From accessible kayaking to old-growth forest trails, the range of opportunities has never been greater for campers needing accommodations in Oregon. Thanks to an initiative to update and upgrade Oregon State Park facilities to make parks accessible for people who need assistance and mobility equipment, it’s even easier to make treasured camping memories. In honor of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which takes place each year in March, here are some ways that even more campers can get back to nature and camp in Oregon. Just be sure to book early — summer spots fill up quickly.
Take In a Deep-Blue Crater or Ponderosa Pines
Feel on top of the world from almost 2,000 feet up on the rim of a former mountain. Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon has a wide range of accessibility options, including campsites at Mazama Campground, which can be reserved up to 365 days in advance. The campground is typically only open June through late September. The Godfrey Glenn Trail, a 1-mile, hard-packed dirt loop through old growth, The Lodge and the Visitor Center at Rim Village are all wheelchair accessible. The park provides captioning and audio descriptions at the Visitor Center’s exhibits. Disabled folks can also get a free lifetime Access Pass to the entire national parks system online or at the park itself (bring documentation).
Ponder Oregon’s beauty amongst the ponderosa pines at LaPine State Park in Central Oregon, just a short drive from Bend and Sunriver. All five of the deluxe cabins and one of the rustic cabins are wheelchair accessible (though double-check for access in winter). The park features an accessible boat ramp, so bring your boat or kayaks and some binoculars to spot eagles at this birding hot spot. Note that the 500-year-old “Big Tree” path is steep and not wheelchair accessible. Be aware that it gets cold at night year-round, so bring layers.
Take in a Waterfall or Fish on a Tranquil Lake
Accessibility accommodations sometimes seem synonymous with wheelchair users, but there are many types of needs and abilities. Silver Falls State Park near Salem is a draw for all those who love the sensory experiences of feeling water spray and hearing the rushing falls. Two campsites and four cabins have universal access features, as do the campground restrooms and showers. Wheelchair users can roll along a brick paver path from the parking lot to a viewpoint of the 177-foot-high South Falls. Pro tip: A paved path also leads from there to the top of the falls but is steep in one part that may not be wheelchair accessible. In summer of 2023, there will also be a 0.6-mile, hard-packed gravel trail that leads to a view of the North Falls from the parking area.
Go fishing off the fully accessible dock for bass, crappie, trout and salmon in the stocked lake. William M. Tugman State Park on Eel Lake north of Coos Bay features new beach access and accessible kayaking. Year-round camping is available, with hot showers, 11 yurts and two RV campsites. A 40-minute drive south is Shore Acres State Park, with interpretive signage and view of the Simpson Reef overlook.
Ride the Rails or Glide Where Trains Once Traveled
The Snake River carves deep through Oregon alpine peaks to create spectacular landscapes. At one of the state’s largest U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, Union Creek Campground in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Whitman National Forest is located on the north shore of Phillips Reservoir. The campground features fishing, water sports and birding. Parked spurs are paved and some facilities are accessible, including four campsites with electric hookups. Take a day trip to the historic gold-mining town of Sumpter and take a ride on the historic Sumpter Valley Railroad steam locomotive. One of the rail cars has a wheelchair lift.
Take in the sights on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, an 8-foot paved path that runs 21 miles through Douglas fir stands and wildflower fields. Then bunk up at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, an updated campground with 13 accessible cabins, five accessible campsites and two meeting halls. Double-check the trail map online or at the Welcome Center for elevation and route information.
If You Go:
- The parks recognize that each individual’s needs are unique, so call ahead and talk to helpful staff at any of Oregon’s parks if you have a particular question, concern or need.
- REI’s guide to adaptive camping provides tips for wheelchair-friendly camping gear as well as how to scout out a spot.
- To learn more about accessible camping and hiking, see Oregon Health and Science University’s outdoor equity initiatives.