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Open Year-round
No
Reservations possible?
No
RV Hookups
No
Potable water
No
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.

For better or for worse, this 12-site campground on the bank of the Little North Fork of the Santiam River is the only official campground in the entire Opal Creek Wilderness. All 12 of the sites are well-maintained and rather spacious. Campsites come with picnic tables and a fire pit, and all are first-come, first-served. This area is very heavily used in the summer season, so it is best to arrive early and mid-week for a spot. There is no potable water here, but the river access is easy from all sites.

Note: Significant crowding, vandalism, and disruptive behavior have resulted in several new regulations. The implementation of these regulations follows an extensive public comment period. Effective May 26, 2017:

  • Cars will be turned away once the 90-space parking lot for Three Pools is full, and parking will no longer be allowed outside of the parking lot.
  • Significantly, alcohol is now prohibited at the Three Pools Recreation Site.
  • Campfires are now prohibited along the route from the Opal Creek Gate Trailhead to Jawbone Flats. Parking will only be allowed within a quarter mile of the trailhead.
  • Camping is prohibited for 5 miles up Road 46 along the Breitenbush River 500 feet from the roadway.
  • Camping is prohibited at Elk Lake outside of the official Elk Lake Campground.
  • Dispersed camping is prohibited for the first 2 miles up French Creek Road and 8 miles on Blowout Creek Road.
  • If you are looking for other overnight options in the Opal Creek recreation area, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center rents well-maintained and cozy cabins at Jawbone Flats.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Access to nearby swimming holes and cliff jumping. Only campground in Opal Creek Wilderness.

Cons

Heavily shaded sites. No reservations.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Managed by

Willamette National Forest

Features

Vault toilet

Recommended Campsites Without Photos

10, 11

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

08/28/2017
We have been camping at Shady Cove campground for years. It is lovely but it can also be crowded and dirty. Partiers come here and litter their crap everywhere, so be a good steward and pick up what you see. There is a large dumpster that fills up quickly, so I would advise to pack out what you pack in.
This past visit, we drove up to the Ancient Forest Center and hiked down to an amazing swimming hole that was the site of an abandoned gold mine. There are two shafts, one you can clearly see and the other on the opposite side of the river. There is a broken rail road track that I assume led to the other side of the river and an abandoned cart in the pool. This pool is absolutely breath taking, see attached pics. From trail head, you cross the bridge and then stay right when you have the option to either go up the hill toward the hike-in cabins, or right, down to the river. It's an approximate 1.25 mile hike, super easy. -Bring a lunch and hang all day!
The other hike we like to do is back at Shady Cove campground. Just to the right of the bridge, on the opposite side of the river is the trail head. This one you can hike for miles, but we do about a 1-1/2 mile hike down to 3 pools. You have to get off the trail and go down to the water to hop along rocks, but it is totally worth the adventure once you descend upon completely empty, crystal clear swimming pools all to yourself.
This campground can be prone to loud drinking parties and there is no potable water but it is lush, green and beautiful.
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