Oregon's Best State Parks: Lite

Natural beauty with a low degree of difficulty, from pet-friendly yurts to deluxe cabins on the coast.

By John Shewey and Ketzel Levine August 1, 2013

Tumalo State Park

Drive time: 3½ hours

Bend poses many dilemmas. Coffee shop, or wilderness? Shop, or paddleboard? At least outdoor lodging is a no-brainer. Tumalo State Park stretches idyllically along the Deschutes River just north of town. The campsites are hot commodities, some nestled riverside, others perched on the juniper-clad bluff. But the park’s serpentine trails are rarely crowded, and the solar showers give you a few morning minutes to weigh your other options.

Best site Everyone covets the yurts. Among standard campsites, grab shady A85.  

VITALS  $21 tent, $26 hookup, $39 yurt; reservations available; pets on leash only plus two pet-friendly yurts; electrical hookups; drinking water; flush toilets and solar showers

Cape Lookout State Park

Drive time: 2 hours

Despite easy access to 101, Cape Lookout’s deluxe cabins (BYO bedding, food, and dishes) are worlds onto themselves. Perched in woods overlooking the sea, they’re close enough to the nearby bucolic campgrounds for easy visiting, far enough away for privacy. Hang on the porch as a salt breeze plays through the conifers, or take off for adventure on the panoramic Cape Lookout trail. Welcome to the ocean-view home you can finally afford.

Best site Animal companions are welcome at the Meares cabin.  

VITALS $19 tent, $76 cabin; reservations available; pets on leash only; electrical hookups; drinking water; flush toilets

Cove palisades state park zack frank ckjuda

Image: Zack Frank

Cove Palisades State Park 

Drive time: 3 hours

If your idea of fun involves water and engines, this destination is de rigueur. This massive, aqua-centric outdoor paradise—where basalt walls and stone hoodoos tower spectacularly over shimmering water—sprawls across the Deschutes and Crooked River arms of 4,000-acre Lake Billy Chinook. Water toys rule, from Jet Skis to houseboats; on-site Cove Palisades Marina offers rental craft of every description. Feeling waterlogged? Check out the Crooked River petroglyphs and hike scenic interpretive trails instead.

Best site Camping may not be The Art of War, but the high ground still has its perks—including commanding views. Grab C30 or C32 in Deschutes Campground. 

VITALS $20 tent, $26 hookup, $80 cabin, $5 extra vehicle; reservations available; pets on leash only, plus park has an off-leash area; electrical hookups; cabins; drinking water; flush toilets and showers 

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