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Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.
Elle Ossello | 04.22.2021

This article has been updated. It was originally published in July 2016.

Search beneath the shadows of Mount Hood, throughout the lava fields of the Central Oregon Cascades, within the colorful, arid desolation of the Alvord Desert, and along the glacial basins tucked into the Wallowas, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an ugly lake in Oregon.

There's hardly anything more sublime than pitching a tent next to a placid lake and sliding your canoe in at dusk—but that's not a secret. Oregon is known for its incredible lakeside camping, so challenge yourself to find a slice of solitude. Think paddle-in sites like those tucked away along the shoreline of Sparks Lake or as a reward at the end of a hike like those at Indigo Lake.

As per usual, it's imperative to practice the principles of Leave No Trace, and always check restrictions and closures before you go. 

Willamette Valley

  • Lost Lake Campground – Not to be confused with the Lost Lake tucked underneath Mount Hood, this one features a handful of basic campsites in an excellent location near the top of Santiam Pass.
  • Detroit Lake State Park Campground – Jam-packed with amenities, this area is sure to host something for everyone. Epic views of Mount Jefferson provide a backdrop for excellent swimming, basketball, and sand volleyball, while boaters enjoy carving around the large reservoir.
  • Detroit Lake, Cove Creek Campground – Less hectic than it’s counterpart, Cove Creek Campground still enjoys plenty of amenities. Stretch your legs and take on nearby 3,058-foot Stahlman Point in a long afternoon.
  • Detroit Lake, Hoover Campground – If you like to fish, this is the spot for you. Beautiful fishing piers punctuate this site, and the day use dock is ideal for anglers looking to drop a line a bit deeper.
  • Fall Creek Reservior, Cascara Campground – With immediate access to Fall Creek Reservoir, Cascara Campground is great for tent campers that don’t mind shopping around for a site with a bit of privacy and some shade. Though campers and RVs are welcome, there are no hookups.
  • Dorena Reservoir, Baker Bay Campground – Here, 15 of the nearly 50 campsites are directly on the waterfront—posing a good argument for you to reserve and arrive early so that you can take full advantage of all that Baker Bay has to offer. Enjoy swimming, boating, and beach volleyball just to name a few activities.

Willamette Foothills

  • Fish Lake Campsites – This is a great spot to camp if you’re in the area looking to paddle the McKenzie River or to take advantage of the excellent mountain biking trails nearby. This is an unmarked, unnamed turnout with spots offering few to no amenities.
  • Cedar Lake, Cold Water Cove Campground – This is a must for anyone interested in the Mackenzie River Trail and Sahalie and Koosah Falls. Because of its proximity to adventuring, it’s typically fairly busy.
  • Blue River Reservoir, Mona Campground – Much more private that its neighbor, Lookout Campground, this space offers much more privacy with a comfortable number of amenities. This is the largest campground on Blue River Reservoir, and thus, it’s typically crowded.

Mt. Hood + Clickitat River Area

  • Kinnikinnick Campground – Laurance Lake is nestled into the north side of Mount Hood’s sprawling hills. Though there’s no direct mountain view from any of the 20 campsites, proximity to Hood River ups its popularity.
  • Trillium Lake Campground – Campsites are fairly difficult to reserve, and once you arrive you’ll understand why. With excellent mountain views and amenities for families, Trillium Lake asserts itself as one of the best campgrounds in the area.
  • Frog Lake Campground – Though campsites offer immediate access to the lake, none are situated to have a view of Mount Hood. A clearing and epic views are a short walk away, though, and paddling is second-to-none at this high altitude lake.
  • Lost Lake Campground – This large, spacious area is one of the oldest privately run campgrounds in Oregon. Cabins are available for rent if lakeside tenting isn’t up your alley.

The Wallowas

Wallowa Lake State Park Campground – This is an excellent base camp for exploring the lovely and undertrodden Wallowa Mountain Range. The campground offers upwards of 120 campsites and access to hundreds of miles of hiking trails. It also offers great access to backcountry skiing in the wintertime.

Central Oregon/Ochoco Mountains

  • Walton Lake Campground – Make reservations early, as this family destination is certainly one of most popular camping spots in the Ochoco Mountains. For the most space and invariably the best experience, book a site on the reservoir’s northern shore.

Bend/Metolius River Area

  • Sparks Lake Shoreline Campsites – These sites are primarily accessed by boat and offer the privacy and remote-feeling of backcountry campsites. Most are subjected to excellent views of South Sister or Broken Top.
  • Devils Lake Campground – For what it lacks in amenities, this site makes up for in amazing views, excellent (and relatively warm) swimming holes in turquoise water, and proximity to a wide range of recreation.
  • Elk Lake Resort Campground – This epicenter of this campground is an old lodge and marina, and the festivities, take place at its eastern-facing beaches and small concert venue.
  • Elk Lake, Point Campground – Unlike the sites at Elk Lake Resort, each site at Point Campground enjoy sweeping views of South Sister, Broken Top, and Mount Bachelor across the lake.
  • Elk Lake, Little Fawn Campground – The quietest of the three, Little Fawn Campground is often overlooked by those headed for the resort or Point Campground. Though the views aren’t as good as those at Point Campground, but the solitude is often worth it for tired travelers.
  • Lower Lake Campground – This small campground provides direct access to the numerous mountain lakes of the Olallie Scenic Area. Though the nearest site is still a half-mile walk to Lower Lake, what you sacrifice in waterfront views, you gain in privacy and serenity of this lovely spot.
  • Olallie Lake, Paul Dennis Campground – These grounds are managed by Olallie Lake resort and are sprinkled along the lake’s northern shore. Feel like an upgrade? Stay in the large, two-bedroom yurts and wake up to a spectacular view of Mount Jefferson.
  • Olallie Lake, Camp Ten Campground – Though swimming is not permitted in Olallie Lake, as it is a source of drinking water, this site comprised of ten small campgrounds offers lovely views of Olallie Butte and enjoys serenity and privacy.
  • Olallie Lake, Peninsula Campground – If you’re venturing to the lake with an eye on paddlesports, this is the best place to stay. It’s operated on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive as early as possible. 
  • Horseshoe Lake Campground – With easy access to Monon Lake, Olallie Lake, and, obviously, Horseshoe Lake, this small campground is both easily accessible and a bit out of the way, making it an ideal weekend mission. Don’t forget your canoe or kayak!
  • Breitenbush Lake Campground – Tucked into a remote corner of the lands managed by The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, this may well be one of the most underutilized campgrounds in Oregon. It provides excellent access to Jefferson Park.
  • Little Lava Lake Campground – This gem is surprisingly undertrodden and thus a bit protected by Bend locals. Its modest 15 sites offer excellent access to the lake and surrounding recreation.
  • Lava Lake Campground – Acting essentially as overflow for Little Lava Lake Campground, this 44-site, full-hookup campground offers plenty of space and good privacy.
  • East Lake Campground – If you’re dreaming of Mexican beaches, take a sojourn on the white sand beach of this turquoise subalpine lake. Beware, due to the volcanic nature of the rock that comprises the sand, high levels of mercury have been detected in the area.

Alvord Desert 

  • Fish Lake Recreation Site Campground – Fill up your water jugs and brace yourself for empty landscapes and sweeping sunsets. Twenty-three campsites offer access to the lake, fishing, and amazing views of Steens Mountain.
  • Mann Lake Recreation Site – Just north of the Alvord Desert—which was once a lake itself—Mann Lake holds water year round and is home to a host of quaint campsites that all offer immediate access to the lake and great fishing.

Interested in exploring around Oregon's lakes? Easily find trails, discover adventures, download offline maps, and navigate Oregon's diverse public lands using the onX Backcountry GPS Trail app.



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