: Diamond Lake by Dylan VanWeelden

How to Book Your Campsite in Oregon

Now is the time to plan ahead for summer outdoor fun.
January 15, 2021 (Updated December 20, 2023)

When it comes to getting a campsite in the state’s most popular parks or booking a weekend getaway to one of the state’s coveted fire lookouts, the trick is to be proactive. Winter is the time to start thinking about summer, which means planning ahead and being realistic about where and when you can go, as well as how long you’ll stay. With demand as high as ever, the last thing you want to do is book a site and then not show up, or reserve a spot for two weeks when you’ll be there for one. 

It’s no secret that Oregon’s public lands are feeling the stress of increased use as people discover the joys of spending time outside in a meaningful, affordable way. So ensure you’re visiting responsibly. Mind fire restrictions (never toss your garbage into fire pits) and observe rules about pets. Keep noise levels down and leave sites better than you found them — that way we’ll all have great places to return to time and time again.

Here are a few tips to help you reserve a campsite in time.

A small green yurt with a small wooden gazebo as it's front entrance and porch on a sunny day.
A cozy yurt at Tumalo State Park. (Courtesy of Oregon State Parks)

Find a Site on State Land 

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department takes new reservations from one day to six months out. To book campsites and yurts through Oregon State Parks, use the online reservation system, which includes advance bookings for tent and RV sites as well as deluxe cabins and yurts. 

Fortunately, some changes have made it easier to pick up last-minute cancellations Oregon’s most popular places to pitch a tent or park an RV. You can now make same-day reservations online. Remember, cell service can be spotty in places, so do plan ahead.

There are three types of camping offered by the Oregon Department of Forestry at 28 areas: developed campgrounds, designated campsites outside of campgrounds and dispersed camping. Campgrounds are first come, first served, except group campsites in the Tillamook State Forest, Northrup Creek Horse Camp in the Clatsop State Forest and Santiam Horse Camp in the Santiam State Forest. Fees range from $5 per vehicle at designated campsites to $50 per night for group campsites with six vehicles.

A girl smiles from her pitched tent.
Typically dispersed camping is allowed outside the vicinity of developed recreation areas — but check the website of the land management agency to be sure. (Photo by Aly Nicklas)

Camping on Federal Land 

Campsites, cabins and fire lookouts on U.S. Forest Service lands can be booked through Recreation.gov six months in advance. That means if you’re looking for a Sept. 2 reservation, you’ll want to book it when it becomes available on March 2. You can use that same online system to reserve sites at National Forest campgrounds, but be sure to check when they open — some get buried by snow in winter, while others remain closed due to wildfire damage. 

The Bureau of Land Management allows camping at numerous sites in Oregon. Many campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis; however, some campgrounds take reservations through Recreation.gov. Fees vary. Dispersed camping — meaning away from developed recreation facilities — is allowed “as long as it does not conflict with other authorized uses, wildlife species or natural resources,” the BLM says. You’ll have to bring or treat your own water and manage waste properly. Check the website for more tips on dispersed camping and limitations on how long you can stay.

A family sits around a fire at a campsite.
The U.S. Forest Service managed national forests in Oregon, including campsites. (Mt. Hood National Forest by hood-gorge.com)

Park Passes for Day Use

Though you won’t need a park pass for camping, if you’re planning to visit nearby forests or parks during your trip, you may need to purchase one of these day-use passes.

About The

Tim Neville
Tim Neville is a writer based in Bend where he writes about the outdoors, travel and the business of both. His work has been included in Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and Best Food Writing, and earned various awards from the Society of American Travel Writers and the Society of Professional Journalists. Tim has reported from all seven continents and spends his free time skiing, running and spending time with his family.

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