You’d be hard-pressed to find a state with more diverse terrain than Oregon. In the east, the land is a high-elevation plateau, populated with parched grasslands. Further west is the Cascade Mountains, with towering spires like Mount Hood dominating the skyline. As the Cascades slope towards the Pacific, the terrain morphs into lush forests before a rocky coastline meets the ocean.
Fortunately for campers like yourself, Oregon is also loaded with great campsites, and many of them won’t cost you a penny. Dry camping and boondocking on the Oregon coast are incredibly popular activities, especially in the Cascades and surrounding regions.
Some Facts About Boondocking
If you want to get off the tourist trail, boondocking in Oregon is the way to go. Boondocking
is all about experiencing nature in its purest form, without all the electronics, creature comforts, and crowds common at developed campgrounds. Boondocking is an adventure, though, and one that you’ll need some preparation for. These are some of the most important things to know before you start boondocking in Oregon.
It’s Usually Free.
Boondocking is a great way to save money on your RV trip
, as it eliminates one of your biggest expenses—accommodations.
Sites are usually quite primitive, with just a picnic table, fire ring, and a vault toilet for amenities. You won’t find any hookups at these campgrounds. Fill up your tanks and map out the nearest dump station.
No Reservations Needed.
Most boondocking sites are first-come
, first-served. That is both a blessing and a curse. You’ll need to show up early, but you don’t have to make plans months in advance.
The Roads Can Be Challenging.
Many of the best boondocking areas are deep in the mountains, with the only access being very narrow winding roads. If these remote sites are in your plans, make sure you choose an RV size that you’re comfortable driving
on such taxing roads.
Regulations Can Vary.
While most boondocking sites are free, that doesn’t mean they don’t come with a few rules and regulations. Oregon’s boondocking laws change depending on who manages the campsite: the state government, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, or the Army Corps of Engineers. Some areas let you stay for a few days while others permit a couple of weeks.
Best Boondocking and Free Campsites on the Oregon Coast
The Beaver State has plenty of great campsites, but there’s nothing like boondocking on the Oregon coast. Numerous campgrounds surround the Cascades, with free camping being the norm on Forest Service and BLM land in the area. Below are some of the best places for boondocking in Oregon.
Mount Ashland Campground
Just below the ski hill of the same name and half an hour from the California border, Mount Ashland is one of the better spots for camping in the southern Cascades. It’s also not far from the Pacific Crest Trail, which makes this great for boondockers wanting to do some section hiking or be a trail angel.
Campsites are scattered in a large clearing near the Pacific Crest Trail. Each has picnic tables, fire rings, and two shared vault toilets. No drinking water is available at the campsite. No trash cans are provided, so this is a pack-in, pack-out campsite.
9 sites, 28’ length restriction.
More information: Mount Ashland Campground
One of the most rustic boondocking sites along the Columbia River, Rufus Landing, was built from gravel collected while building the nearby John Day Dam. The campsite isn’t much—just a large gravel pad populated with RVs and a few toilets. This section of the Columbia River Gorge is also incredibly windy, which makes it popular among windsurfers and kiteboarders.
Since there are no designated campsites, amenities are sparse. However, it does have a couple of vault toilets and a dump station.
More information: Rufus Landing
Pine Mountain Campground
This minimalist campground lies near Pine Mountain’s 6,500-foot summit, providing spectacular views of the wildflower-carpeted slopes below. Both its location near the popular town of Bend and the observatory at Pine Mountain’s summit make this a favorite campground among Oregon boondockers.
Each of the six campsites has a picnic table, fire ring, and BBQ grill. There’s also one vault toilet in the campground. There’s no water, and any services are a considerable distance, so come prepared. During the summer months, the Pine Mountain Observatory and its 15-foot and 24-foot wide telescopes are open to the public. A nominal donation is requested for the telescope’s upkeep.
6 sites, 30’ length restriction.
More information: Pine Mountain Campground
Hot Springs Historical Campground
Inside the Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in the central part of the state, Hot Springs Historical Campground is one of the best places to kick back and relax on your boondocking adventure. Its main features are two small hot springs that seemingly erupt from the grassy plateau, providing a spa experience in the wild.
Although the camping area is quite popular, its only amenities are a few vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings. The main attraction is the Hot Springs; one is developed with benches and a ladder for entering and exiting the bubbly pool. The other is primitive, with no amenities and grasslands surrounding the water.
More information: Hot Springs Historical Campground
This beautiful campground sits on the shore of Klamath Lake, about forty-five minutes south of Crater Lake National Park. It’s popular with birders, boaters, anglers, and anyone looking for peace and quiet in southwestern Oregon.
All sites have picnic tables, fire rings, and access to a single vault toilet. The campground also has a boat ramp on Klamath Lake, though there are no docking facilities, so you’ll need to wade out to your boat. There’s no drinking water, though, so you’ll want to arrive with a full tank.
6 sites, 25’ length restriction.
More information: Odessa Campground
Boondocking in Oregon in a Cruise America RV Rental
Oregon is a big state and one that’s definitely worth a week or even a month-long road trip. A Cruise America RV rental is perfect for boondocking on the Oregon coast
with an incredible selection of vehicles, each with $0 deductible insurance. Don’t forget to check Oregon’s boondocking laws in your preferred area so you can properly plan your trip.
If you find yourself loving boondocking in Oregon, Cruise America also has several RVs for sale, giving you even more freedom to hit the road whenever the mood strikes. Whether you choose to rent or own one, Cruise America has all of your RV needs covered. Visit them
today to start your next adventure!