Head west for Oregon’s beautiful seaside, mountains, and desert
If you’re an RVer, you owe it to yourself to plan an extended RV trip to Oregon. The destination is well worth the long drive west. There is much to see from the beautiful coastline to the mountains, forest, and high desert east of the Cascades.
There is abundant wildlife, sporting and outdoor activities, plenty of state, federal, forest service, and private campgrounds, and ample boondocking opportunities.
All You Need to Know About Camping in Oregon
Oregon offers plenty of activities to enjoy year-round. The best time to visit is during the spring and summer, when the weather is warmer and all of the seasonal parks and campgrounds are open. However, there is a variety of winter activities to experience as well including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in the mountains.
It is often raining on the Oregon Coast, especially during the winter months. But if you plan your trip right, you may even be able to spot gray whales off the coast during their annual migration.
RV Driving in Oregon
There are several major highways that extend across the state of Oregon. Highway 101 runs along the entire length of the Oregon Coast and can accommodate larger RVs, though it can become narrow in some areas.
Interstate 5 connects all of the major cities in Western Oregon including Portland, Salem, and Eugene (and continues north towards Seattle). A few highways including I-84 and U.S. 20 run east-west across the state over mountain passes. RVers looking for current road conditions can find up-to-date information on TripCheck.com and get RV-safe directions with the RV LIFE App.
Camping on the Oregon Coast
Oregon has a spectacular Pacific coastline that forms the western border of the state. It was declared a national treasure in the 1960s and preserved for all US citizens and visitors to enjoy. The beaches cannot be privatized, and all beaches are open to everyone.
Your dogs are welcome on Oregon beaches, and I have been on dozens and dozens of them with miles of unobstructed open sand with few or no other people within sight. Please be aware that the ocean along the Oregon Coast is great for surfing but can be unpredictable with sneaker waves and rolling logs, so remember what my father taught us as children: never turn your back on the ocean.
Keep a close eye on the waves, your kids, and your dogs, while you enjoy the spectacle of the pounding surf. If you’re patient, you may also see the spouting of a whale as they migrate between Baja, Mexico and the Bering Sea. There are several state parks along the coast with RV-friendly campgrounds as well as small towns with RV parks, resorts, and other coastal accommodations.
While you’re on the coast, don’t miss the opportunity to taste some of the fresh seafood straight from the sea. The state offers abundant seafood choices from fresh Dungeness Crab to oysters, tuna, salmon, halibut, shrimp, and scallops.
RV camping in the Cascade Mountains
The backbone of the state is a mountain range that runs from the Columbia River on the northern side of the state all the way down into California. Mt. Hood is the highest peak in the state and is only about an hour’s drive outside of Portland.
The US Ski team is able to practice skiing all summer on the Palmer Snowfield located on the southern flank of Mt. Hood at an elevation of over 9300 ft. Recreational skiing often begins on Mt. Hood around Thanksgiving and continues until Easter or beyond.
Mount Mazama and Crater Lake National Park
Further south in the Cascade Range is the sunken peak of Mt. Mazama in Crater Lake National Park. The sunken peak forms the deepest freshwater lake in the US with a depth of 1,943 ft. (592 meters). The lake can be viewed from Rim Drive, which often is still covered in several feet of snow late into June, and with a difficult decent on foot you can hike to the lake shore. (If you are not in shape, I advise against this hike.)
Crater Lake is famous for both its depth, but also its color, which is one of the deepest blue bodies of water anywhere in the US. It’s stunning to see from the rim and even up close the color does not change.
Although there is frequently deep snow still covering Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park late into June, you can still enjoy any one of several rustic campgrounds near this National Park all through the summer. Keep your eyes on the treetops when driving to and from Crater Lake and you may discover natural stands of Sugar Pine trees with their foot-long cones.
Also, be advised if you’re driving a big rig, don’t take it on Rim Drive. The drive is very curvy and narrow with no shoulders, and few pull-outs. If you’re heading to the Crater Lake Campground and approaching the park from the north, do not enter the park in the North Entrance.
Take your big rig around to the Southern entrance to reach the campground. I did the Rim Drive in a 33-foot motorhome many years ago before we had safe RV GPS and I didn’t know better. I would never do that drive again in a big RV or a large fifth wheel.
The Blue Mountains and the Steens
The mountains in Oregon are one of the most breathtaking sights in Oregon but they are not all found in the Cascade Range. There are two other significant mountains in Oregon: the Blue Mountains in the northeastern corner of the state and Steens Mountain in the southeastern corner.
The Blues is where one of the last tests of fortitude, courage, and endurance for the weary travelers on the Oregon Trail. The history of the trail is preserved in the Oregon Trail Museum in Baker City, Oregon and the original ruts of the trail can still be seen in many places across the prairie land.
You can also see antelope, elk, coyotes, cougars, bears, deer, rattlesnakes, and numerous species of fowl in the high desert and prairies of Oregon.
Camping near Portland
The major urban areas, Portland, Eugene, and Salem, offer a wide array of entertainment and activities such as zoos, museums, performing arts, live music festivals, parades, rodeos, and more. The state is famous for its craft brew and wine industry and members of Harvest Hosts will find welcoming accommodations in Oregon. There are over 100 RV parks in the Portland area, and plenty of state parks within a day’s drive.
Camping near Bend
Bend, Oregon is located in the high desert in the central part of the state. There are several RV parks in the area as well as opportunities for boondocking in the Deschutes National Forest. Bend is well known for their craft breweries, outdoor activities including hiking and mountain biking, and food scene with many local restaurants to choose from.
Plan your Oregon camping trip
You are welcome in Oregon! Bring your rig, bring your kids, bring your pets, plan to stay and get a real feel for this amazing state and all it has to offer. If you want to spend time on the coast, in the forest, in the mountains, or dive into some urban adventures, you can find it all in Oregon.
There are seemingly endless activities: go whale watching, take a hot air balloon ride, go white water rafting, explore underground caves, discover ancient petroglyphs, ride a horse on the beach, take a quad out over the sand dunes, or go deep sea fishing for a halibut. You can find all of that and much more while camping in Oregon. Plan your trip with the RV LIFE Pro tools to get RV-safe GPS directions and to find more campgrounds and points of interest along your route.
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com
Hi Peggy, great article. One typo in the caption – it should be spelled Heppner.
We Think we live in the most beautiful area of Oregon. We get to live in one of the most beautiful spots in Oregon. We live in Brookings Oregon. Just a few miles north of the California border, by the ocean. They are 10 state parks within a 10 mile radius of this little coastal town including a state park right in the city limits. A few minutes away you can be in the mountains alongside three beautiful rivers. We also have a very active fishing port where you can charter a fishing trip in the summer months. It’s one of the best kept secrets on the Oregon coast. I hope you get to experience The mild temperature so we have both winter and summer.
Armand Vaquer says
Good article. One should mention that U.S. 20 and U.S. 97 south of Bend have no and spotty, at best, cell service. At least that was my experience during a trip there three years ago. Otherwise, very scenic routes. Hopefully, that has improved since then.
kathryn burt says
It is Steens Mountain, not mountains. A most unusual geological wonder–well worth a trip! Blue Mountains offer skiing, hunting, backpacking, fishing in an unhurried wonderland.
Canide Wiser says
While Mt. Hood is the most beautiful mountain, it not an active Volcano. It is a dormant volcano.
The fact that the Oregon coast is open to the public has nothing to do with the federal government. It was proposed by the governor at the time Tom McCall. And set up by the State legislature. Tom McCall was probably the best governor this state has seen. He also was credited with saying “ Enjoy your visit, but please don’t stay.”
Oregon parks have a surcharge for out of state visitors, including private parks
Just south of Crater Lake is a town called Klamath Falls, which is an outdoor enthusiast heaven. We have hiking trails right in the center of downtown to the Pacific Crest Trail on Mt. Mcloughlin. There is also The Crater Lake Zipline (which is less than 30 miles from Klamath Falls) and is an experience not to be overlooked. We are also the nearest town to the only entrance (North Entrance) to Crater Lake that remains open year round. Please don’t forget the eastern side of the state which is just as beautiful, exciting, and fun to explore.