5 places to camp within an hour of Portland




It all started with a five-acre grassy patch. The 1922 land donation by Oregon Trail traveler Sarah Helmick, then 99, and her son would become Oregon’s first state park (now part of the much larger Sarah Helmick State Recreation Site). Fast forward 100 years and the Oregon’s state park system now includes 254 properties – state parks, as well as recreation, heritage and natural areas – which together exceed 100,000 acres, including Tryon Creek State Natural Area in Portland’s backyard.

As summer approaches, here are five camping options at Oregon state parks within an hour’s drive of downtown. Camping reservations can be booked by visiting stateparks.oregon.gov.

Pier
Just 45 minutes from Portland, Milo McIver State Park is right next to the Clackamas River. The park is named after Milo K. McIver (nope, not the guy from the 80s TV show MacGyverlisten), a state parks supporter who served as a member of the Oregon Highway Commission from 1950 to 1962. It was also where hippies gathered in 1970 for the drug-infused rock festival, Vortex I : A Biodegradable Festival of Life.

A favorite spot for rafting, kayaking, canoeing and fishing, the park also has 22 km of hiking trails (some of which are also equestrian) and a 27-hole disc golf course, and is home to the Clackamas Hatchery, where you can take a self-guided tour and learn all about chinook salmon and rainbow trout.

To make it a weekend getaway, the park offers seasonal tent and RV campsites with shaded, tree-covered sites offering plenty of surrounding greenery for privacy. There are also three hiker/cyclist sites with a solar charging station and fire pit. If you’re hoping to camp closer to the water, sites 48-53 are your best bet. The park is open year-round for day use, with camping from mid-March to the end of October, so you can do spooky camping around Halloween.




Buxton
Once the site of a tree farm, LL “Stub” Stewart State Park is now a playground for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, with nearly 30 miles of trails, disc golf courses, and campsite all year round. Located in Oregon’s Coast Range on a wooded hill, it’s just 34 miles west of Portland.

The park is named after Loren LaSells “Stub” Stewart, a logger who served on the state’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee as well as the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission. Nicknamed Stub by his friends for being the shortest person in his class, the name stuck for the rest of his life.

Here you have the choice of tent camping, some hike-only sites for a more primitive experience, cabin camping, or RV sites. Our recommendation? Book a cabin at Mountain Dale Cabin Village, where 15 rustic (but heated! and five pet-friendly) cabins nestled in a woodland setting offer stunning views of the Coast Range. the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, where walkers and cyclists can take snapshots of the scenic Buxton Trestle Bridge, crossing the park. You’ll also find shorter forest trails, like the loop to Boomscooter Pond, accessible from the cabin village or from the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

Cascading locks
You can’t get closer to all those stellar waterfall hikes than Ainsworth State Park in the Columbia River Gorge. The seasonal campground, open mid-March through October, offers lush green campsites for tents and RVs, and is steps from the Gorge 400 Trail, where you can connect to other trails such as Angel’s Rest. The park is named after John C. Ainsworth, a businessman and banker who donated 40 acres of land in 1933. Additional land has been purchased and added to the park since then. The only downside to this campground is that it’s located right next to I-84 and a working railroad, so light sleepers might want to bring earplugs. Tip: Tent sites C1-C6 are farther from the highway and are also right next to the Gorge 400 trail.

In nearby Cascade Locks, take the time to take a quick detour to Train Appreciation Park, a little-known roadside attraction tucked away from downtown that simply sports a lawn with a tree sign pointing to the park and a bench that looks towards (you guessed it) the railroad.

Remember, if you plan to drive along the waterfall corridor on Highway 30 between Bridal Veil Falls and the state park between May 24 and September 5, you must purchase a fixed term license.

St.Paul
History buffs and nature lovers get the best of both worlds as they stroll through the National Heritage area of ​​Champoeg, where ‘forests, fields and wetlands recreate the landscape of a bygone era’. Located on the south bank of the Willamette River, the park is worth an extended stay with gentle hiking trails, wildlife viewing, historic sites, and disc golf, as well as kayak fishing. There is also year-round camping.

Once the site of the bustling pioneer town of Champoeg, the park (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is where Oregon’s first provisional government was formed by vote in 1843. You can easily spend a day explore the history of the park with exhibits at the Champoeg Visitor Center that detail the history of the Kalapuyan people of the Willamette Valley as well as fur trappers and settlers. You can also take a guided walking tour for a deeper dive into the site’s past. Behind the visitor center is a 19andcentury-old style garden. And don’t forget to visit the Butteville Historic Storefounded in 1863, believed to be Oregon’s oldest operating store where you can buy pints of ice cream handcrafted on site.

Camping opportunities abound here, with a choice of tents, yurts, cabins and motorhomes. Sites range from tree-covered nooks to those in more open grassy areas, so it depends on your preference. Tented campers will likely want to opt for either the Loop A section, which is shaded by Oregon white oaks, or the group sites, located near the dock, away from the main campground. Loop B, located in a grassland area, is less shaded, so RV camping may be more desirable unless you’re hoping to get a summer tan. There are also cabins in this loop.

Portland
Government Island State Recreation Area includes three islands in the Columbia River: Lemon, McGuire and, of course, the 1,760-acre Government Island, which is the most developed. Camping is permitted on the islands as long as you stay below the vegetation line around the perimeter. There is only one catch: the islands are only accessible by boat. So if you’re looking to beat the crowds, this is your place. Just keep in mind that there are no designated campsites and things are pretty straightforward, with outhouses, picnic tables, and grills dotted around the perimeter of the island. One of 14 landing sites in the Portland-Vancouver area used by Lewis and Clark, the island got its name after it was used by the U.S. military to grow hay.

As for nature and recreation, the islands are home to freshwater wetlands, so bring a pair of binoculars for wildlife spotting. Try to spot the great blue heron, pileated woodpecker, bats and salamanders. However, the interior of the island, which includes Lake Jewett, is off-limits to the public and can only be accessed with a permit through the Portland Harbor. As with any campground, be sure to pack and get out to keep things clean and safe for wildlife and future visitors.

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