Do you crave the ultimate Oregon camping experience on a budget? We know a few free dispersed camping spots you can use!
With the abundance of public lands, it only makes sense to center your next adventure around taking advantage of these pristine free areas. Let us help you cut costs and participate in safe dispersed camping adventures. Below, we have provided the ten best free dispersed camping spots in Oregon.
The Beautiful Beaver State
Few States in the U.S.A. offer the unforgettable experience campers crave as the iconic Beaver State does.
When you take a sweeping view of all the gorgeous landscapes, amazing scenery, and mild climate Oregon has to offer, it is easy to see any camper will want to visit Oregon at least once in their lifetime.
No location indeed has it all, but Oregon begs to differ. With mountain peaks that reach up to the sky, large valleys, gorgeous desert plateaus, lush evergreen forests, and ethereal lakes, Oregon is truly the land of wonders blessed with superb locations waiting to be explored by adventurous campers.
Oregon is located in the Pacific Northwest region of the Western United States. It is the land of breweries, the home to the deepest lake in the United States, and a pioneer of certain sustainable movements like being the first state to ban non-returnable bottles and cans.
Oregon is famous for its charming, raw, and untouched beauty that leaves its visitors in awe. It is particularly well-known for popular destinations like Crater Lake and Mount Hood, although it offers other gems in several locations.
Essentially, Oregon is a magical place waiting to be explored by willing campers.
Can I Go Dispersed Camping In Oregon?
Dispersed camping is setting up camp outside a developed or designated campground. It is a primitive type of camping that lets campers tap into their survival camping skills while enjoying nature.
One major concern dispersed camping enthusiasts have about Oregon is knowing if dispersed camping is allowed in the state. Thankfully, dispersed camping in Oregon is a welcome and legal activity.
However, there is a catch. Dispersed camping- also known as boondocking- is only allowed and considered legal on public land. Oregon boasts of a vast expanse of publicly owned land that can be used by campers who are looking to explore the area.
Oregon is the tenth largest state by land area, with approximately 61.4 million acres in total. Although it is a large state, the Federal government owns and manages 53.03 percent of the total land. This means out of the 61.4 million acres of land in Oregon, the Federal government owns 32.6 million acres of public land.
Like many other states, boondocking in Oregon is only allowed on public land. More specifically, lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, and other state institutions.
Where Can I Camp For Free?
There are about 11 national forests and 361 state parks in Oregon. This is coupled with the 16 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Together, these areas form available free dispersed camping spots for campers to set up camp.
Finding a spot in the millions of acres available might seem like a challenging feat similar to finding a pin in a haystack, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. However, finding a dispersed camping spot in Oregon is easy and only requires a little bit of research.
Although a large percentage of the state is considered public land, you cannot just pick a spot in Oregon and set up camp. Researching the area ahead of your camping trip will help you familiarize yourself with the terrains and the regulations of the areas you wish to explore.
Proper research will ensure you know what areas are considered public lands and what areas to steer clear from. This will keep you out of trouble and ensure you only stick to the safe sides that the government approves for public use.
Many public lands allow campers to use the areas year-round without a permit or permission. However, if you are unsure if the area you wish to set up camp in requires prior permission, you can contact the local field office that manages the area.
Before you pack up your camping gear to explore the dispersed camping spots in Oregon, it is essential to know that many of these spots are protected by regulations to maintain the areas.
Because the dispersed camping spots in Oregon are not developed and are mostly untouched, these rules are put in place to protect the integrity of the areas and ensure the safety of the campers who use them.
So, what are these rules?
- Honor the Leave No Trace principles.
- It is illegal to camp along a state highway road. If you get the urge to pull off the side of the road and set up camp for the night, do not. You will not only get in trouble but also compromise your safety and your companions.
- Don't camp closer than 200 feet to any water source.
- If you choose to go dispersed camping, you can only camp in areas that allow dispersed camping. Don't camp close to developed or designated campsites.
- Many free dispersed campsites in Oregon are primitive and lack primary facilities like water, electrical, and bathroom hookups. If you choose to use these dispersed camping spots, remember to pack essential gear that you can substitute for these facilities.
- Campers cannot spend more than 14 days consecutively on a dispersed camping spot. After you spend 14 days in an area, you are required to move to another camping spot that is at least 25 miles away from the previous spot.
Ten Best Free Dispersed Camping Spots In Oregon
Mapping down areas with dispersed camping spots for your subsequent trip requires effort and an updated map of the areas you will be traveling in. It also requires proper research of the unmaintained roads to ensure they are pliable with your 4x4 off-road vehicle or RV.
Many of the dispersed camping spots you will find in Oregon are not only functional but are also breathtakingly beautiful with amazing views. From forests to plains and remote beaches, almost every spot in Oregon has a camping spot you can boondock in.
To ease your trouble with finding a suitable free dispersed camping spot for your next trip, we have provided ten amazing dispersed camping spots in Oregon.
1. Summit Rock (Forest Road 960)
Located near Crater Lake National Park, Summit Rock is undoubtedly one of our favorite dispersed camping spots in Oregon. It is a beautiful, almost surreal area that promises an amazing view if you can reach the top of Summit rock.
The road leading to the Summit Rock dispersed camping area is considerably steep but easy to navigate as long as your vehicle has enough clearance. It is easily accessible with straightforward directions from any GPS.
You don't have to worry about losing cell phone coverage as the area provides a decent signal for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. However, it will be a plus if you use the offline printable National Geographic maps.
Although Summit Rock is a great spot for tent and RV campers, RV users will have to stick the camping spots at the lower parts of the rock while smaller vehicles can continue up the part.
Summit Rock is considerably peaceful, but it can get especially busy in peak camping season. Regardless, you will enjoy the privacy of the area. As for amenities, Summit Rock offers no toilets or bathroom hook-ups. You will have to be self-sufficient and come up with substitute solutions.
2. Elk River Road
Also known as Stony Beach, Elk River Road is a great place for tent and RV campers. It requires no reservations, so if you plan to get a spot there, you will need to get there early enough to claim a spot before another lucky camper does.
Elk River Road is a large stony beach you can easily get to from the main road. The road leading to the camping area is quite steep and rocky, so if your vehicle has low clearance, you might want to sit this option out.
There are numerous legal roadside camping spots you can pull your vehicle to, especially if you own an RV or trailer and find it difficult to continue the journey to other camping spots.
There isn't much in the area for amenities. However, if you are lucky, you will find a few spots with a firepit. Other than that, you will have to handle your bathroom and garbage needs.
There are several swimming holes, and the area promises a lot of activity if you wish to explore. Although Elk River Road gets busy during the day, it still offers a lot of privacy.
3. Cole Mountain Ridge
Cole Mountain Ridge is a convenient and easily accessible dispersed camping spot in Tillamook State Forest. It is located east of Highway 53 and is the perfect option for campers who find themselves visiting the State Forest. Some roads leading into this camping area can be tricky to navigate with low-clearance vehicles.
However, there are easier roads for other vehicles. Cole Mountain Ridge is often busy in the Spring, but you can still get secluded areas to set up camp. There are no water hookups for your bathroom or toilet essentials, but if it is any consolation, you are close to Cannon Beach and will enjoy decent cell coverage.
4. Brooks Meadow Road
Brooks Meadow sounds exactly like its name portrays. It is a small yet beautiful meadow surrounded by lush trees and located on the northern side of Lookout Mountain.
If you find yourself exploring the eastern side of Mount Hood, Brooks Meadow is a great place to set up camp for the night and even up to 14 days. It is easy to locate and even easier to access through paved and mildly unpaved roads. Although trees surround the area, it is very safe, private, and comfortable.
5. Wildhorse Dispersed Camping
Wildhorse Dispersed Camping area is located in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. It is quite secluded and offers privacy with a scenic view of mountaintops in the distance.
Unlike many other dispersed campsites, the Wildhorse Dispersed Camping area offers amenities for campers (OHV/ATV not allowed) who use the grounds. There are three campsites, each with a picnic table and fire pit, and a shared pit toilet. Unfortunately, there is no trash service, so you will have to pick up after yourself.
On the upside, you are only 30 miles away from Gold Beach and can enjoy exploring the area while you stay on the site. Wildhorse Dispersed Camping area allows a maximum stay of 14 days, pet owners inclusive.
As long as you abide by the camp rules, like observing quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m and not lighting fireworks on the site, you will enjoy staying in the Wildhorse Dispersed Camping area.
6. Elko Dispersed Camping
Elko is another primitive yet scenic dispersed camping spot in Oregon. It is controlled by the USDA Forest Service and is located near Hunter Creek, west of Gold Beach.
Elko Dispersed Camping area is quiet, peaceful, and secluded. It features large dirt areas for tent and RV campers to set up camp.There are no water hookups or disposal services in this dispersed camping area, so you must make do with your camping gear.
7. Priest Hole Recreation Site
Priest Hole Recreation site is managed by the BLM and located 12 miles from Mitchell. Although we love many things about this dispersed camping spot, our favorite part about the area is that it is located on the John Day River.
Priest Hole Recreation Site is easily accessible from Prineville and Hwy 26. The road is mildly challenging to navigate, but it gets even more difficult in the winter.
The Priest Hole Recreation Site is open all year but remember to pack according to season. Although there aren't many amenities other than a handful of rock fire rings and a vault toilet in this camping spot, the scenic view makes up for what you might be missing.
There isn't enough shade in the area so remember to pack awnings. Heads up: you will need to bring your own firewood with you!
8. Slocum Creek Campground
Slocum Creek Campground looks like something straight out of a Western movie. It is breathtaking, with a jaw-dropping view of majestic rocky formations and grass-covered valleys.
Slocum Creek Campground lays snug in the Leslie Gulch. It offers a picturesque view of the area and an easy entrance to the Owyhee River. Although it is quite remote, Slocum Creek Campground is a popular choice for campers. It features 13 sites, each having a first pit and picnic tables. However, there is no potable water or garbage disposal service, so you better come prepared.
Ensure your vehicle has high clearance before you endeavor to visit the area. All in all, Slocum Creek Campground is undoubtedly a terrific place to enjoy the boondocking experience.
9. Mineral Camp Campground
Mineral Camp Campground is a small, dispersed camping spot in the Umpqua National Forest. As its name suggests, Mineral Camp Campground was once a stopover for miners making their way to the Bohemia Mining District.
Mineral Camp Campground operates on a first come, first served basis, which is such a shame because there are only three campsites here. If you get lucky enough to get a spot here, you will enjoy a serene campground with picnic tables, fire pits, and a vault toilet.
10. Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground
At first glance, the Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground might look plain and uninteresting, but we guarantee you are in for a good time. This campground offers astounding views of mountainous peaks and grasslands with easy access to refreshing hot springs where you can enjoy a calming soak-off in warm water.
The drive to the Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground is easy, and the area is easy to navigate. You can use the camping spot year-round but be careful as the roads become difficult to pass due to heavy snowfall. If you don't like the idea of a busy campground, you should steer off of this area in the Summer as it witnesses a lot of traffic.
Dispersed Camping In Oregon
There they are, our top ten favorite free dispersed camping spots in Oregon. Although we recommend you visit a spot from our list when next you find yourself camping in Oregon, we also advise that you do not limit yourself to our list.
There are so many scenic dispersed camping spots that it will be a shame to miss out on the experience they have to offer. If you are feeling extra adventurous, check out our list of the 20 best free dispersed camping spots in Washington.