9 First Come, First Served Camping Spots for the Last-Minute Oregon Adventurer

Did you fail to reserve your spot six months ago when summer was soooo far away? All is not lost.

By Nick Campigli and Margaret Seiler

This could be you, if you get up very early and snag one of these first come, first served spots. 

Picture this: it’s summertime, you’ve got your camping gear, you’ve packed your s'mores and your insect repellant, and you and your friends are ready to go. There’s just one problem: As a spontaneous adventurer, you neglected to make campsite reservations a million moons ago. All is not lost, however. We here at Portland Monthly have put together a list of wonderful walk-up campsites in state parks and national forests where you can pitch a tent and enjoy some of that sweet Pacific Northwest fresh air without having thought that far ahead. Pro tip, though: for a first come, first served site, you need to get there, well, first. You’re probably not the only one who failed in the forward planning.

Meditation Point at Timothy Lake

While the other campgrounds around Timothy Lake take reservations, the handful of walk-in (or boat-in sites) at Meditation Point, which juts from the northwestern shore, are first come, first served. They're a 1.2-mile hike or bike from the West Shore Day Use Area. 7 sites $10 a night, plus $10 day-use fee for parking area

Lost Lake Campground

Despite the mysterious name, Lost Lake campground has been found by many over the years to be an excellent spot for family-friendly camping, kayaking, and swimming. Located next to (you guessed it) Lost Lake, the campground boasts a lodge to buy food and rent boats. Most of the sites here are reservable, but the lakeside F Loop is the sweet spot for the spontaneous. Get there early, though—these spots go VERY quickly. 24 sites (F loop only) 9000 Lost Lake Rd, Hood River, $36 a night

Cascadia State Park

Located near the city of Sweet Home, the Cascadia State Park campground is a lush area with a rich Indigenous and settler history. While the park is large, there are only about two dozen first come, first served campsites. Two hiking trails are near the campground: one three-quarter-mile trail leads to Soda Creek Falls, and another leads to views of historic Douglas fir trees that follow the South Santiam River (also a fishing and swimming spot). 22 sites. Cascadia State Park, Cascadia, $17 a night

Fall Creek State Recreation Area

Near Eugene, the Fall Creek Reservoir is a tree-lined area comprising six separate parks. On the south side of the reservoir, the Winberry day-use area has a two-lane boat ramp. Also present are a beach and picnic area with barbeque grills and fire rings. If you want to spend a night under the stars, the Cascara campground has 39 campsites with toilets, a boat ramp, and a swim area. These first come, first served campsites are tucked among the Douglas firs. Down the road from the Cascara Campground is the Fisherman’s Point Campground, where all sites are also up for grabs for last-minuters. 64 sites 84610 Peninsula Rd, Fall Creek, $8 a night

Seal Rock Campground in Olympic National Forest

Close to Quilcene, Washington, around three and a half hours north of Portland, Seal Rock is right on the Hood Canal. There's a launch point for kayaks and canoes, and don't forget a Washington shellfish license if you plan to avail yourself of the oyster beds. 41 sites US 101 2 miles north of Brinnon, Washington, $18 night

Ukiah-Dale Forest State Scenic Corridor

Winding through a forest of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and western larch, the corridor provides a pleasant scenic drive to a sweet campground and fishing spot. Surrounded by old-growth pines and larch, the campground is located alongside Camas Creek. If foraging is your thing, you can find mushrooms and berries in the forest surrounding the campsite. Or you can head to Camas Creek or the John Day River to fish for trout or steelhead salmon. 27 sites Ukiah-Dale Forest State Scenic Corridor, Ukiah, $10 a night

Minam State Recreation Area

Between Elgin and Enterprise by the confluence of the Minam and Wallowa Rivers, the Minam State Recreation Area includes a boat launch just off OR 82 and a remote campground two miles upriver—you’ll be sharing space with Oregon’s wildlife (like the occasional cougar!). The Oregon State Parks website recommends floating from the boat launch to the campground, so bring waterproof bags if that's your plan. 22 sites Elgin, $10 a night

Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site

Located at the headwaters of the Wood River nearly five hours from Portland, this is a secluded campground where you can relax among the lodgepole pines. It’s also a great spot to bring your own boat and paddle your kayak or catch some trout for dinner later that night. Crater Lake is only 20 miles away, and an equestrian trail originating from Collier State Park runs through the campground. 10 sites Chiloquin, $10 a night

Bates State Park

Deriving its namesake from an old lumber company town, Bates is now a scenic state park with more than three miles of hiking trails and a campground. When you visit or stay at the park (east of Prairie City, it's about five and a half hours from Portland), you can find panels scattered around the area that detail the town's history from the early to the mid-20th century and the steps now taking place to restore the local environment's land and waterways. 28 sites Old West Scenic Bikeway, Bates$11 a night

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