Happy 100, Oregon State Parks!

In celebration of 100 years of Oregon State Parks, I thought I’d put together a post highlighting the Oregon parks we’ve had the pleasure of staying in. The Oregon park system is comprised of 254 parks with more than 100,000 acres. Oregon State Parks offers more than 50 campgrounds across the state, with the majority of them accepting reservations. We’ve had the opportunity to stay in seven of the park campgrounds during our travels, which I’ve briefly reviewed below. I cannot sing the praises of the Oregon park system enough. We’ve found most of them to be gorgeous and well maintained — and a few of these parks rank at the top of our favorite-places-we’ve-ever-stayed list. Check out everything the Oregon State Parks system has to offer, including making reservations, by visiting their website.

From east to west and then south, with regards to the above map, here are the places we’ve stayed:

Emigrant Springs State Park | Meacham, OR

This park gave us very mixed feelings. It’s a beautiful little park along the route of the Oregon Trail, and pays homage to that history with displays and ranger talks (in season). We spent two nights here end of September/beginning of October 2021 as we made our way west from Bozeman to drop the Airstream off at Ultimate Airstreams in the Portland area. We had one of the 16 full hookup sites, 5 of which are open year round. There are also 32 sites with no hookups. Amenities include restrooms with individual shower rooms, firewood for sale, cabins for rent, and horse sites. The campground is small and wooded and VERY pleasing to the eye. The ears, however, not so much. With the convenient access right off I-84 comes a lot of noise. Like A LOT. Of the 122 different overnight locations we stayed with the Airstream, this was probably the loudest. It’s so unfortunate, because it really is a beautiful park, but some of the sites actually back right up to the interstate. Another issue with this park is packrats. We had never heard of packrats being an issue outside of the Southwest, but noticed multiple people with their hoods popped, including the camp host. We asked him if there was a packrat issue and he said yes, they’re terrible. I would rate this park 3.5/5, deducting 1 star for the noise and .5 star for the packrats. To read more about our stay, check out this post.

Ainsworth State Park | Cascade Locks/Corbett, OR

We stayed at Ainsworth State Park for two nights right after our stay at Emigrant Springs. There are 40 full hookup sites here which I believe are all pull throughs. There are also a handful of tent and hiker/bikers sites. Amenities include restrooms with showers, firewood for sale, a dump station, and hiking trails. I’ll be honest — Ainsworth State Park does not compare aesthetically to the other Oregon parks we’ve visited. The campground could use a little love, but it was quiet, the restrooms were clean, and it’s in the perfect location to explore the waterfalls (including Multnomah Falls) of the Columbia River Gorge located along the Historic Columbia River Highway (U.S. 30). FYI, the campground is closed in the winter. I would rate this park 4/5 stars due to having full hookups and a great location despite its shlumpy appearance. To read more about our stay, click here.

Silver Falls State Park | Sublimity, OR

We had the pleasure of spending four nights at Silver Falls State Park in early November of 2021. Silver Falls is known as the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Park system and it’s easy to see why. Located about 65 miles south of Portland and 20 miles east of Salem, the park, including the campground, is a forested, mossy, waterfall wonderland that is meticulously maintained. It’s the largest state park in Oregon and has more than 24 miles of walking/hiking trails, 14 miles of horse trails, and a 4-mile bike path. Amenities include water & electric sites, a dump station, horse sites, group sites, cabins, a playground, and restrooms with individual shower rooms. The day use area of the park also has a restaurant, a gift shop, an off-leash dog area, and a swim beach. The main attraction in this park is the Trail of Ten Falls, which is a 7.2-mile trail that weaves through the forest to each of the 10 waterfalls in the park. When we stayed in early November, we were able to still enjoy the fall colors, but it was very damp and rained pretty regularly. Regardless, this park definitely finds itself towards the top of our favorite places stayed list and might just be our favorite Oregon State Park! This park definitely gets 5/5 stars, even though there isn’t much around it. To read more about our visit, check out this post.

Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park | Florence, OR

We stayed at Jessie M. Honeyman in mid-August of 2018. We had originally planned to visit Crater Lake, but due to a wildfire, we rerouted and booked 3 nights at this park on short notice. Our site was the only one available at the time. This campground is open year round and offers 47 full hookup sites, 121 sites with electric & water, and 187 tent sites. In addition, there are yurts, group sites, and hiker/biker sites available. So, it’s a pretty big campground, and VERY busy during the summer months. (According to a Campendium review, it’s also quite busy during the winter.) This state park is a few miles south of Florence, one of the nicest little towns you’ll find on the Oregon Coast. The lodge at the park’s Cleawox Lake offers various watercraft rental. But the draw for this particular park is the sand dunes. Access to the adjacently located dunes is available from H Loop of the campground. Guess what loop we were in? That’s right — H Loop! Seeing as we really needed a place to stay when our plans changed fairly last minute, beggars can’t be choosers, but H Loop is loud. Like, really, really loud. For this reason, and because our site was really difficult to back into (it was at the wrong angle), this state park campground may have been our least favorite state park stay ever. At any state park. However, I would like to point out that based on the reviews that this park has received on various platforms, pretty much everyone else loves this park. So, take my opinion with a grain of….sand, I guess. We’d rate this park as a 3.5/5, deducting 1 star for the noise and .5 star for the difficulty in accessing our site. But we loved the location in regards to Florence, which not only offers good food options, but is also home to Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of 11 lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. To read more about our stay and activities in this area, read this post.

Bullards Beach State Park | Bandon, OR

Bandon, home to Bullards Beach State Park, is another fantastic little coastal Oregon town that has everything you might need during a visit. We had a couple of wonderful meals during our stay, but it’s not just the town that’s great — Bullards Beach is another fantastic state park! We spent four lovely nights here in October of 2019. We had a private, level, back-in site with full hookups. The campground also offers yurts, a horse camp, hiker/biker sites, restrooms with showers, a dump station, and a trail to the beach. The 4.5-mile long Bullards Beach is accessed by a 1.25-mile paved trail from the campground. You’ll also find Coquille River Lighthouse about 3 miles from the campground. Our tranquil, quiet stay may have been due in part to the time of year we visited, but we felt so at peace at Bullards Beach and would recommend this campground to anyone. Obvi, 5/5 stars. To read more about our stay, including some great food options in the area, check out this post.

Humbug Mountain State Park | Port Orford, OR

Humbug Mountain is a really nice little campground with 90 sites; two-thirds tent, one-third RV. It also offers hiker/biker sites, restrooms with showers, a dump station, and a short trail to the beach which is basically a private beach for the campground because of how it is accessed. There are a few hiking trails that leave right from the park, including the Old Hwy 101 Scenic Trail, which is 2.6 miles one way and is part of the 425-mile Oregon Coast Trail. Port Orford has some of the prettiest coastal views, including the views from Battle Rock City Park right in town, as well as from Cape Blanco Lighthouse at Cape Blanco State Park. To read more about our time at Humbug Mountain SP, click here. This park gets a 4.75/5 from us, with a slight deduction due to lack of privacy between sites.

Harris Beach State Park | Brookings, OR

Harris Beach State Park is situated directly on the ocean along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, arguably the most beautiful stretch of coastline Oregon has to offer. This is a high-demand campground and with a handful of sites with ocean views, it’s easy to see why. The sites are spacious, with some offering full hookups and others water and electric. It’s a short walk down to the wild, sand beach with large rock formations. There’s a paved trail that leads into downtown Brookings from the park or it’s about a 5-minute drive. Brookings has all of the amenities you would need, including some restaurants and breweries. This campground gets a solid 5/5 from us. To read more about our stay at Harris Beach, check out this post. There’s a lot of natural beauty to explore in the area, so just hop in the car and drive! Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park is only about a half hour drive.

While the state of Oregon is home to 254 state parks, coastal Oregon is home to 36. Thanks to the 1962 Beach Bill, the public has free, unrestricted access to all of the state’s beaches. The 36 state parks (averaging one every 10 miles) found driving down the 101 allow for numerous places to pull off to enjoy the view, picnic, use a restroom, or stroll on the beach. The 362 miles of Oregon Coast is really the perfect place for a road trip. We spent four weeks on the Oregon Coast in July/August of 2018. Besides staying at the parks mentioned above, we also explored some of the state parks that don’t offer campground facilities, but do offer access to beautiful sights and recreational opportunities.

Shore Acres State Park | Near Coos Bay, OR

Shore Acres State Park was a delightful and unexpected little park located just south of Coos Bay. It was once the grand estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson and features a beautiful botanic garden. There’s a formal garden, a Japanese-style garden with lily pond, and two rose gardens. There are also trails, one of which leads to secluded Simpson Beach. There’s also an observation building, which sits where the Simpson mansion once stood, to protect you from the elements as you view the ocean, looking for whales.

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint | Near Tillamook, OR

Known for its lighthouse, stunning ocean views, and octopus-shaped Sitka spruce, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint is a must-see when driving the Three Capes Scenic Loop. The day we visited was quite overcast, but on a clear day, it’s possible to see sea lions, dolphins, or migrating gray whales. There are a few short trails through the forest, which also double as a National Wildlife Refuge.

Cape Blanco State Park | Near Port Orford, OR

Built in 1870, Cape Blanco Lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse on the Oregon coast, as well as the westernmost point in Oregon. According to the Oregon State Parks website, more than eight miles of hiking trails lead to the beach, viewpoints of ocean vistas, fishing spots along the Sixes River, and the lighthouse. The Historic Hughes House, built in 1889 for ranchers Patrick and Jane Hughes, is also a part of the park and available for tours. Cape Blanco State Park has a 52-site campground that also offers cabins, hiker/biker sites, and a horse camp. But hold on to your hats, because it’s regularly quite windy here.

Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area | Near Newport, OR

A popular surfing area, Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area is a day use park. The naturally carved bowl shape fills with water from crashing waves that then violently swirl, churn, and foam. The park is also a great area to view whales during migration season.

Seal Rock State Recreation Area | Near Newport, OR

While Devils Punch Bowl is located about 15 minutes north of Newport, Seal Rock State Recreation Area is located about 15 minutes south of Newport. The large rock formation in the picture below is actually not named Seal Rock, but Elephant Rock. The smaller rock formations to the left of Elephant Rock  (better seen in the second picture) are the Seal Rocks, where seals and sea lions used to gather regularly. To read more about where to see seals and sea lions in the wild along the Oregon Coast, read this article from the Travel Oregon website. Seal Rock State Recreation Area, however, is still a great place to explore tide pools and see sea birds. Or run along the beach with your dog, because as you can see from the pics below, even in the middle of summer, Oregon beaches are sparsely populated.

Brian Booth State Park | Near Newport, OR

Brian Booth State Park is located just north of Seal Rock State Recreation Area. The park is comprised of two distinct areas: Ona Beach (which is a day-use area with beach access) and Beaver Creek State Natural Area (a marshy area popular for kayaking). We only visited Ona Beach, but as you can see from the picture below, it’s another beautiful, somewhat otherworldly beach on the Oregon Coast.

As you can see, the Oregon State Parks system offers bountiful opportunities for great places to stay, a mix of recreational activities, and amazing views, whether they be forests, waterfalls, or rugged coastlines. Some Oregon State Park campgrounds are first come, first served, but most are on the reservation system (and reservations are highly recommended at those parks). Campsites become available at 6am PST six months in advance, so planning ahead may be required for summer stays at some of the more popular parks.

The Oregon Coast – Part Two

Our original plan after Winchester Bay was to make our way to Crater Lake for the Crater Lake Rim Run. Because of a wild fire burning in the northeast corner of the park, we had been keeping an eye on the air quality conditions, which got worse everyday. A few days before the race, we decided to pull the plug on the trip. We didn’t want to drive all that way to see beautiful Crater Lake in a smoky haze and we didn’t want to put our health at risk by running the race. We were disappointed about canceling a trip that we had been looking forward to for four months. Months worth of our route had been determined by this trip to Crater Lake and this became a learning experience for us — DO NOT plan things so far in advance. Anyway, with Crater Lake out, we had to figure out where we were going to stay. It was a weekend, in summer, on the Oregon Coast, with three days’ notice — not easy conditions. We called around and checked online for more than two hours for anywhere along the coast from Coos Bay to Florence, and I happened upon one site available at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park for the three nights we needed.

Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Address: 84505 Highway 101 S, Florence, OR 97439

Phone: (541) 997-3641

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Yurts
  • Tent Sites
  • Hiker/Biker Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Picnic Table & Fire Ring
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Dump Station
  • Water Fill
  • Playground
  • Lake with Boat Rentals and Swim Beach
  • OHV Access to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Check in isn’t until 4pm, which was a little tough for us because we came from Winchester Bay, 35 minutes away, where check out was 11am. We pulled over in a turnout on the way to kill time, but we still got to the campground around noon. Since I pre-registered, they basically checked us in at that time and said we could drive past our site to see if the previous people had left yet (check out is 1). We drove through, scraping our sway bars on every single gigantic speed bump along the way and saw that the people had not left yet. Per the check-in person’s advice, we drove back out and pulled into the day use area to wait. There is a lot of parking in day use, including some RV spots. We ate lunch and explored the area a bit until 1, and then headed back into the campground – after we removed our sway bars. This time the people were gone and we didn’t scrape any speed bumps.

We stayed in site H381, which is one of the shortest sites throughout the huge campground. When we pulled up to it, we weren’t sure we’d be able to back into it, as it was at the opposite angle in regards to the direction of traffic and it was small. Even the camp hosts right across from us were certain we wouldn’t fit. We inched our way back and forth until we got in and once we did, we noticed the site was much longer than the labeled 31 feet, just difficult to access. We had an electric and water hookup, but as this was a short stay, we only hooked up electric and used our full freshwater tank (which we filled at our last place) for the duration. This is a huge campground (over 400 sites) and its main draw is the access to the dunes right next door. Because we were in H Loop, the loop directly next to the dunes, all we heard all day long was the engines of the various OHV vehicles, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Cleawox Lake is located within Honeyman Park. The Lodge offers a swim beach, restrooms, and boat rentals. We rented a kayak for an hour ($10) one morning and paddled around the lake a bit. The lake isn’t huge, so an hour is really all you need.

Honeyman State Park is a few miles south of Florence, one of the nicest little towns you’ll find on the Oregon Coast. There’s a Historic Old Town district home to restaurants, shops, and art galleries. We ate at three different places in Florence, and Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish and Zebra Bar was by far the best! We also did some shopping at a great little store in Florence called Artêfacts.

Heceta Head Lighthouse is located 12 miles north of Florence. Of all the Oregon lighthouses we visited, and we saw 6 of 9, this one probably has the most picturesque location. First illuminated in 1894, the 56-foot tower sits 205 feet above the ocean. There’s a half-mile, uphill walk from the parking area, which has a day-use fee of $5, which was free for us with our State Park campground pass. There’s also a network of trails around the lighthouse, including one that connects to the popular Hobbit Trail. The lighthouse is currently closed to tours due to restoration. Also on the property is the old lighthouse keeper’s house, which is currently used as a bed and breakfast.

The beach in this picture is adjacent to the parking area. The bridge is Hwy 101.
You’ll notice a white curtain is drawn inside the top of the lighthouse. When a lighthouse is functioning, the lens around the lightbulb is constantly in motion. When the lens stops turning and sits still, there’s potential for a fire to start by sunlight passing through the lens, which is basically a very strong magnifying glass. The curtain is drawn to prevent this from happening.

While we were grateful to find a place to stay somewhat last minute, we wouldn’t stay at Honeyman State Park again unless we had to. It was too loud and too busy for our liking; although, being in Florence was really nice.

 

Bastendorff Beach County Park

Address: 63379 Bastendorff Beach Road, Coos Bay, OR 97420

Phone: (541) 888-5353

Amenities:

  • Water and Electric Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Playground
  • Dump Station
  • Picnic Table and Fire Ring

While the address for Bastendorff Beach County Park says Coos Bay, a more accurate location is Charleston, a small fishing village eight miles southwest of Coos Bay. Because of this location, the campground is a 20-25 minute drive from what Coos Bay has to offer. The campground shows its age and we wouldn’t stay here again, but it did the job. There is no area to check in, but I always put the information (confirmation number, site number, hookups, balance owed) in my calendar on my phone, so I knew where we were going. Our site was very private, though just barely long enough to park our truck in front of the Airstream. The campground was pretty quiet, except for the distant fog horn that sounded every 20 seconds or so throughout the night. Access to the beach is a half mile down the main road. This was the only beach of all the beaches we visited in Oregon that was gross. Garbage. A man peeing. Excrement that was possibly human. Apparently, up until very recently, people were allowed to sleep on the beach. Sounds dreamy, right? The area was more of a homeless tent city than a nice family getaway, so the city put the kibosh on that. We spent five nights here, and as it was only water and electric hookups, we had to conserve water usage so as not to fill the grey and black tanks. We made it through the week, but did end up dumping a grey tank that was at 100% capacity.

A few miles south of Bastendorff Beach is the Cape Arago Lighthouse. It is currently owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. There is no (legal) public access to the lighthouse, but there is an overlook just south of Sunset Bay State Park. The fog horn that sounds through the night comes from the Cape Arago Lighthouse.

There are three State Parks just south of Bastendorff Beach: Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park, and Cape Arago State Park. Oregon has 36 state parks along the coast. The main purpose of these parks seems to be to preserve the land, as opposed to preserving a historic interest, recreational potential, or a natural wonder, as you find in other state parks. These coastal parks are generally trees with some trails that lead to one of the many beaches. Don’t get me wrong — I love that Oregon has set aside all of this land for public access! It’s just that so far, the many state parks we had visited in the previous four weeks on the coast had all been the same without much excitement. Shore Acres State Park was a little something different than the usual.

Shore Acres SP was a delightful and unexpected little park. It was once the grand estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson, and features a beautiful botanic garden. There’s a formal garden, a Japanese-style garden with lily pond, and two rose gardens. Of course, there are also trails, one of which leads to secluded Simpson Beach. There’s also an observation building, which sits where the Simpson mansion once stood, to protect you from the elements as you view the ocean. We were lucky enough to see a lone grey whale just off shore.

This is a nice little park if you’re in the area. FYI: No dogs allowed. They are not allowed outside of vehicles. Also, there’s a $5, cash only, parking pass fee. There’s an onsite gift shop that does accept credit cards.

The Coos Bay and North Bend area is the Coast’s largest urban area and you’ll find more restaurants, shops, and services here than most anywhere else along the Coast. We visited 7 Devil’s Brewing a couple of times while staying at Bastendorff Beach and I’d recommend a visit if you find yourself in the area.

 

Humbug Mountain State Park

Address: 39745 Hwy 101, Port Orford, OR 97465

Phone: (541) 332-6774

Amenities:

  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Water & Electric Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Hiker/Biker Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Picnic Table with Fire Ring
  • Dump Station
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Short Trail to Beach

This was a really nice little campground with 90 sites; two-thirds tent, one-third RV.

There is a short trail to the beach from the campground, and seeing as through the campground is the only way to access the beach, it’s very unpopulated.

There are a couple of trails within Humbug Mountain State Park. One is the Humbug Mountain Trail, which is a moderately difficult 5-mile loop. The other trail, the Old Hwy 101 Scenic Trail, is 2.6 miles one way and is part of the 425-mile Oregon Coast Trail. We did a portion of the Old Hwy 101 Trail.

This gate is off to the right as you drive into the main part of the campground.
Some portions of the trail were black top, some gravel.
There are wild berries everywhere!
There are some pretty great views!

Port Orford had some of the prettiest coastal views we had seen up to this point, including the views from Battle Rock City Park right in town.

We visited one last lighthouse while in this area — Cape Blanco Lighthouse. It’s the oldest standing lighthouse on the Coast and is the westernmost point in Oregon. Just up the road from the lighthouse is the Hughes House, a restored home of an early settler (whose son was a lighthouse keeper at Cape Blanco for 37 years). The views from the lighthouse are gorgeous, but the wind, a calm 22 mph while we were there, is something else. This is not somewhere I’d like to experience a winter!

Humbug Mountain in Port Orford was a great place to wrap up our stay on the Oregon Coast. We ate at a couple of restaurants in Port Orford —  we’d recommend The Crazy Norwegians. We also hadn’t been at a place with laundry facilities for a bit, so we hit up Busy Bubbles, which is a (very clean) laundromat AND a self-serve car wash (which has a bay large enough for an RV). There are a few places we wish we would’ve had time to explore, the city of Bandon being one of them, but we’ll definitely be back!

Off to the Redwoods!