It's never too early to start planning your outdoor adventure in Oregon. As permits are becoming the norm in the Pacific Northwest, knowing what to get and when to get it can be as confusing as trying to file for unemployment during a pandemic. (And we haven't even covered our wilderness parking passes yet.)
Planning a hiking, camping, or backpacking trip this year? Here's what to know before you go.
Most Bureau of Land Management campgrounds (just over 100 in Oregon) are first come, first serve, though some campgrounds do accept reservations (at recreation.gov), fees for which vary from site to site. The facilities at the campgrounds might include restrooms, picnic areas, garbage bins, electrical hookups, potable water, electrical hubs, group shelters, and sleeping pads. (Though some campsites have just the basics—a picnic table and a fire pit.) Dispersed camping, for the purists among us, is allowed on public lands away from developed recreation facilities.
Oregon State Parks
We’ve got more than 250 state parks to choose from in Oregon, and most of them accept campground reservations. (Though for the first-come, first-served crowd, you’ve got options as well.) Reservations, which cost $8, are accepted one day to six months in advance. Cabins and yurts are also available (and somewhat difficult to reserve) at some state parks for folks who like nature but not that much, reservations for which run between $42 to $99 per night.
Oregon State Forests
Campgrounds at Oregon State Forest operate on a first come, first served basis except at group campsites in the Tillamook State Forest (Jones Creek and Nehalem Falls campground, and Browns Camp OHV campground and staging area) and equestrian-specific campgrounds in the Clatsop and Santiam State Forests. The Oregon Department of Forestry offers three types of camping in 28 different areas: developed campgrounds, designated campsites outside of regular campgrounds, and dispersed camping, the fees for which range from $5 per vehicle per night to $20 per night for up to two vehicles.
US Forest Service
Camp like a ranger in one of the Forest Service’s many cabins and fire lookouts. Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, the Forest Service offers recreational rentals six months in advance through recreation.gov, or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
Hiking & Backpacking
In 2021, the city of Corvallis celebrated the opening of the Corvallis to the Sea Trail, a 62-mile network of public land, abandoned roads, gated corridors, and low-traffic roads that stretch from Corvallis to Ona Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast. Be prepared—the trail is very difficult. With limited water along the route, travelers should know that any natural water sources will need to be purified. Hustling hikers can complete the trek in just three days, but the C2C partnership says the trail is best for a five- to six-day trip at a more leisurely pace. Prepare to camp out (in designated camping spots only!), and don’t forget to grab yourself a free permit.
Central Cascades Wilderness
Implemented in 2021 because of years of overuse and fears of loving the area to death, overnight use through Oregon’s pristine Central Cascades now requires an overnight permit ($6). Day-hikers also need a permit on 19 of 79 trailheads withini the area ($1). After a rocky inaugural year plagued by no-shows, changes in 2022 include new season dates (June 15 through October 15), increased quotas, and no pre-season permit advance like last year. Permits are available through recreation.gov.
Pacific Crest Trail
Crossing the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail off your bucket list this year? Don’t forget to snag a free long-distance permit if you plan on hiking (or riding horseback) for 500 or more continuous miles along the PCT in a single trip.
Crater Lake National Park
Per the National Park Service, you need a backcountry camping permit for any and all overnight trips in Oregon's only national park, regardless of the season. Good news for those who don't care for hunching over their computer and waiting for the permit season to open (but bad news for advance planners): Permits are available no more than one day in advance, and can only be obtained in person, from 8 am to 4 pm (4:30 in the summer months), from the ranger station at at park headquarters. Dispersed camping is allowed with a permit, but you've got to be at least a mile from any maintained road, 100 feet from a water source or a meadow and out of sight of trails and other hikes—plus no campfires.