: Diamond Lake by Dylan VanWeelden

How to Book Your Campsite in Oregon

January 15, 2021

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-lookout cabins, the trick is to be proactive. Recreation facilities during COVID-19 have had limited availability, but the booking windows are increasing again to allow for better preparation for the summer season. Here are a few tips to help you reserve a campsite in time.

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)

Oregon State Parks

Beginning Jan. 14, 2021, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) now accepts new reservations from one day to six months out. Previously in summer 2020, the reservation booking window was reduced as parks slowly reopened after a two-month closure that corresponded with COVID-19 restrictions. To book campsites and yurts through Oregon State Parks, use their online reservation system, which includes advance bookings for tent and RV sites as well as deluxe cabins and yurts. For updated information on reservation regulations, check the state parks’ reservation website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Oregon State Forests

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 and Northrup Creek Horse Camp in the Clatsop State Forest. Fees range from $5 per vehicle at designated campsites to $50 per night for group campsites with six vehicles.

U.S. Forest Service

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.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management allows camping at 109 sites in Oregon. Many BLM campgrounds are on first come, first served basis; however, some campgrounds take reservations through recreation.gov; fee sites vary in price. Dispersed camping, away from developed recreation facilities, is allowed as long as it does not conflict with other authorized uses, wildlife species or natural resources. (Check the website for more tips on dispersed camping.)

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)

Understand Which Recreation Pass You Need

You probably know that you need a recreation pass for your favorite trails, but what about other locations and activities? Many recreation sites have day-use permits, it’s helpful to learn more about recreation passes, which cover larger amounts of time. We’ve got you covered with this cheat sheet: 

The Northwest Forest Pass is an annual pass that allows the user to use recreation areas owned by the U.S. Forest Service — so it works in Oregon and Washington, too. This pass applies to one person at per-person sites and one vehicle at per-vehicle sites, though there are some exceptions on popular sites. 

An Oregon State Parks Permit is an annual pass that is valid for parking at any one of the 25 state parks that charge a parking fee. While it doesn’t apply to campsite fees, it does apply to parking at the day-use areas of the campgrounds.  

Oregon Sno-Park Permits are required if you’re heading out to do some snowshoeing and downhill or cross-country skiing at any one of the state’s designated Sno-Parks between Nov. 1 and April 30.

Waterway Access Permits are required for nonmotorized boats longer than 10 feet in the state’s waterways. This includes kayaks, canoes, rafts, stand-up paddleboards and other inflatables. 

Boater Education Cards are required for anyone operating a motorized boat of any size. Note that obtaining this card requires taking a boater-safety course. 

Annual Angling Licenses are required to fish in any of the state’s rivers, lakes or streams. However, you’ll need an additional tag if you’re looking to do sportfishing, such as salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut. If you’re sportfishing in the Columbia River Basin, that also requires an additional endorsement.  

The America the Beautiful Pass is an annual pass that works at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country. This includes entry fees and day-use fees at national parks, such as Crater Lake National Park, and national wildlife refuges, such as Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Dallas.

Always display your pass on your vehicle’s dashboard or rearview mirror so that it’s visible from outside your vehicle. Also, keep in mind that even the most ardent researchers and planners have become frustrated after reading information on a recreation website only to arrive and find a different set of requirements at the site. Because of this, always bring cash — even if you think you have the right pass.

About The

Emily Gillespie
Emily Gillespie is a travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, CNN Travel and Afar magazine. She’s lived in three of Oregon’s seven regions, currently calling Portland home. She and her husband look for every opportunity to hike to a view, bike through wine country and eat their way through a new city.

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