Soon the last of the marigold and crimson leaves will fall from the alder and oak trees and crisp winds and misty clouds move in to occupy the empty spaces between spindly branches. As the season changes, most West Coast residents pack away their camping gear and store it up high to gather dust until Labor Day and warmer weather. That shouldn’t be you.
There are few who know what it’s like to wake up to chilly noses and frost on the tent. Those are the ones who get to enjoy true solitude at some of Oregon’s most beautiful but busiest campgrounds—the places that are buzzing with activity in July and all but desolate under the winter sun.
Oregon State is a study in ecological variety. When some of the state’s most coveted campgrounds are under snow (like those along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway near Bend), the Alvord Desert and the high desert of the Columbia Plateau become havens for wintertime weekend warriors. Winter camping requires burlier gear and better planning, but the reward is well worth the effort. Below is a less-than comprehensive list of the best year-round campgrounds in Oregon. Some of the campgrounds on this list are open so long as road access allows, so be sure to check local weather before you go—just because you can camp all year, does not by any means make it safe 100% of the time. Many of these campgrounds aren’t serviced with the usual amenities during the winter months, so plan to pack your own potable water and a bathroom solution among other necessities that are easily overlooked by seasoned fair-weather campers.