Boondocking in Oregon

Updated on March 3, 2019
mindyjgirl profile image

Mindy Bench is an independent travel agent in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Come and Visit Oregon!

Daffodils in the spring
Daffodils in the spring

Oregon Seasons and Best Times to Visit

If you like to boondock (dry camp) in your RV, Oregon has so many awesome places to go!

Oregon has several different climate zones, so when you visit, bring layers and jackets for rain and wind. In eastern Oregon you generally have a dry and cold climate; in the summer it's hot, but cools off at night. Winters are snowy, with lots of skiing at Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor, and Willamette Pass.

In the summer, the Oregon coast can be downright cold and windy. If it's going to be 90° in Eugene, many go an hour's drive west to the coast, to Florence, to cool off.

I think one of the best times to visit Oregon is in the spring when all the wild rhododendrons are blooming. During March through June we have some of the best weather. On the west side of the mountains we get a lot of rain, but with the rain come the beautiful flowers and green fields.

A lot of lumber mill workers and hippies live in Oregon, it is a very diverse culture!

Boondocking Through Southern Oregon

We are going to start at the bottom of the state and work our way up.

  • The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, on the border between California and Oregon, is operated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Theodore Roosevelt established this refuge in 1908. This refuge has lots of birds, including pelicans and bald eagles; it is an amazing place! Check it out and then head for Keno, Oregon; you can camp for free on BLM land on Topsy Grade Road.
  • Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world and a must-see if you are visiting to Oregon. Because of all the snow it gets, you can only visit Crater Lake from June-August. It is a popular place and it can get packed, so plan to go early in the morning. You can boondock at the Kla-Yo-Ma Casino off highway 97 and park your trailer or RV there for free, but there is no tent camping here.

Crater Lake, wonder of the world
Crater Lake, wonder of the world | Source
  • Highway 58 is very beautiful. Take this highway in May or later (summer is best) because of the dicey mountain conditions. Enjoy a free twelve-hour stay at Oakridge Green Waters Rest Area, and you can stay here overnight too, it's right on the Willamette River! There are plenty of lakes and tent camping all along this highway as well.
  • Head south on I-5 to Cottage Grove, Oregon. This cozy little town has been awarded the All American City award many times, and can keep you for a couple of weeks or more. They have concerts in the park every Wednesday night in the summer, and they have the Row River Trail, a fantastic 14-mile paved bike and walking path that takes you around Dorena Lake! There is a rich history of gold mines, some great wineries, theater, and art walks. If you go to the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum in town, pay the miners $30.00 for an annual camping pass. Then you can camp out and gold pan for the whole summer on their claims!!! I know this one is not free, but it's cheap and fun!

Currin Bridge, a covered pedestrian bridge over the Row River near Cottage Grove.
Currin Bridge, a covered pedestrian bridge over the Row River near Cottage Grove.
  • We are going to now head for the Oregon Coast! Go south on I-5 from Cottage Grove, take the Drain exit, and then take highway 38 to Reedsport. This is a beautiful drive. You can then drive up the coast on highway 101 to Florence, Oregon, where they have the Rhododendron festival. You can park your RV for free at the Three Rivers Casino.

A Boondocking Tour of Oregon

A
Highway 161 Oregon Wildlife Refuge Road:
CA-161, Oregon, USA

get directions

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge; drive slow for the birds!

B
Keno Oregon Topsy Grade Road:
Topsy Grade Rd, Keno, OR 97627, USA

get directions

42.1314675853027,-122.032241358864

C
Crater Lake:
Crater Lake, Oregon 97604, USA

get directions

D
Oakridge, Oregon:
Oakridge, OR, USA

get directions

E
Cottage Grove, Oregon:
Cottage Grove, OR 97424, USA

get directions

F
Drain, Oregon:
Drain, OR, USA

get directions

G
Highway 36, Oregon:
OR-36, Oregon, USA

get directions

H
Florence, Oregon:
Florence, OR 97439, USA

get directions

I
Eugene, Oregon:
Eugene, OR, USA

get directions

J
Belknap Hot Springs:
Belknap Springs, OR 97413, USA

get directions

Did you know that if you belong to the Elks Club you can boondock for free at any Club site?

Boondocking Adventures Further North in Oregon

  • Heading back to Eugene, Oregon on Highway 126, you have to see the rhododendron gardens in the spring. In the summer the Owen Rose Gardens are a must.
  • Next take highway 126 up the McKenzie River to Belknap Hot Springs, a nice resort. You can sit in the hot springs and relax, and the springs are beneficial for all kinds of ailments. Parking there costs $30.00 a night with water and electricity.

Belknap Hot Springs
Belknap Hot Springs | Source
  • There is free camping at Round Lake near Sisters, Oregon, in the Deschutes National Forest: you can camp there for 14 days and check out the other lakes and high desert area. Just type "Round Lake" into Google Maps. Sisters, Oregon, is a real Wild West looking little town, a great place to stop and shop too.

Northern Oregon

  • Northern Oregon is where you have the BIG Cities, but also some great places and things to see. In the spring a must-see is the Woodburn Oregon Tulip Festival.
  • Visit the Shriner's Iris Gardens in late May.
  • At White River West Snow Park near Mt. Hood, you can park for free.
  • Near Tillamook is the Blue Heron French Cheese Company where you can boondock for free in the grass.
  • There is a substantial fee to visit Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, but it has RV parking and it is free to park.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon's tallest waterfall, in the Columbia Gorge near the state's northern border.
Multnomah Falls, Oregon's tallest waterfall, in the Columbia Gorge near the state's northern border. | Source

Lastly

There is so much to do and see in Oregon, I live here and I still love to explore! I am thinking about writing a rock hounding adventure list too, as well as an article on cold beer and broasted chicken in Oregon. There are many more fun things I want to share about Oregon, I will have to keep writing!

Quiz: How Well Do You Know Oregon?

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Comments

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  • mindyjgirl profile imageAUTHOR

    Mindy Bench 

    5 months ago from Oregon

    Thank you Liz! There are always new adventures waiting

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    6 months ago from UK

    Beautiful photos really add depth to this article. This looks like a lovely area to visit.

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