Editor’s note: Call destinations before you visit to make sure they’re open. Follow all COVID-19 guidelines, get vaccinated before you travel and remember to bring your face covering.
It’s time to pack the cooler, load up the camping gear and hit the road with the kids. Oregon has so many great places for family adventures that it’s sometimes hard to know where to pitch your tent. Get started with these cool trip ideas.
Surrounded by a glacial lake and the peaks of the Wallowa Mountains, Wallowa Lake State Park is the epitome of bliss in Eastern Oregon. Wilderness and water sports lovers can make their basecamp here at any of the 209 sites for tent campers and RVs, plus two yurts (book early) and three group tent areas. It’s open year-round, but summertime is in top demand, so also consider a shoulder-season trip. Hike the spectacular Wallowa Lake Trail, soak up the stunning views from the Wallowa Lake Tramway, and feel like a kid again with go-karts, arcade games and ping pong at Wallowa Lake Karts nearby. An hour north, drive the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and take a wild jet boat or rafting trip they won’t forget through an outfitter such as Hells Canyon Adventures.
Tucked along the Deschutes River, 30 minutes south of Bend, LaPine State Park lets you experience the wilderness without straying far from the city. Oregon’s largest ponderosa pine, Big Red, lives here — at 162 feet tall, 29 feet around and a good 500 or so years old, it’s an impressive spectacle. Five rustic log cabins and five deluxe log cabins (with one of each being pet-friendly) are open year-round, but be sure to book ahead for summertime. RV and tent campers have 129 sites to choose from; amenities include hot showers and restroom facilities and an off-leash area for dogs. Stay on site one day and go a family hike, bike ride or try your hand at fly fishing; the river is a legendary spot for trout. The next day, put on your Indiana Jones hat and set off to explore the geologic and historic wonders of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Fort Rock Basin and Fort Rock Cave (guided tours are temporarily suspended during COVID-19).
Camp 7 miles from the rim of Crater Lake at Mazama Village Campground, open June 11 through Sept. 26, 2021. RVs, and tent campers have access to showers, laundry and ranger-led evening programs in the amphitheater, as well as a metal food locker to keep food away from bears. Make this your year to fully explore Crater Lake National Park with several family-friendly hikes, a swim or a guided trolley tour around the rim (temporarily suspended during COVID-19). Tour Crater Lake Lodge and sign the kids up to be junior rangers. Crater Lake is a natural wonder year-round, but summertime’s clear skies and higher visibility make visiting a blast. Visit midweek and earlier in the day for fewer crowds. Note: There can still be snow on the roads, so check conditions before you go.
Just 25 miles east of Portland in Gresham, Oxbow Regional Park is a water-lover’s dream. Family campers can set up a short walk away from the banks of the Wild and Scenic Sandy River, which becomes a gathering spot for people in tubes, kayaks and other flotation devices in the summertime. The woodsy setting is also a haven for wildlife — deer as well as raccoons, fox, osprey, songbirds and elk make their home here, and salmon return to spawn in the undammed river. Twelve miles of trails are ripe for trekking, and covered picnic shelters make it easy for group dining. Sorry, no dogs are allowed here. Reserve any of the 74 drive-up campsites to secure a spot in the summer.
Just southwest of Corvallis, the south fork of the Alsea River flows through the Alsea Falls Recreation Site, to form the lovely 30-foot Alsea Falls. With just 16 campsites and two-dozen picnic areas, this quiet spot is a great place to escape the crowds and cool off in the river. Mountain bikers will enjoy 6 miles of flowing trail.
Cape Lookout State Park just north of Pacific City is nestled on a sandy spit between Netarts Bay and the ocean. The campground has 170 tent sites, RV spots and several yurts and cabins (some are pet friendly). More than 8 miles of hiking and walking trails wind through the forest around the campground. It’s the perfect basecamp for exploring the Three Capes Scenic Loop: climb the sand dune at Cape Kiwanda (with new fencing to keep visitors safe), visit the lighthouse and bird refuge at Cape Meares, and watch for paragliders from the cliffs above.
Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge
On the shores of the lake for which it is named, Trillium Lake Campground is a favorite family camping spot near Government Camp on Mt. Hood. The pristine waters of the glacier-fed lake are perfect for fishing, swimming, picnicking and paddling. An easy 1.9-mile trail loops through the campground, which has nearly 60 sites. Young adventurers will happily find Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl (reopening June 11, 2021) just down the road.
Closer to Hood River, and also on Mt. Hood, Lost Lake Resort and Campground is great for kayaking, paddle-boarding, canoeing and fishing, and the resort offers gear rental. Overnighters can stay in the lodge, cabins, yurts or camp sites under the snowy gaze of Mt Hood.