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 One

A little less than a month ago, we were sitting in Spokane, complaining about the endless heat that we had been experiencing for the previous eight weeks, and we decided enough was enough. We had a route planned from Spokane through central Oregon (Deschutes/Bend areas) to Crater Lake, where we were going to run the Crater Lake Rim Run mid-August. All of these areas were forecasting temps in the 90s (not to mention quite a few wildfires), so we scrapped the plan. We had been seeing Instagram posts from people on the Oregon Coast that were enjoying temps in the 60s and low 70s and we decided we wanted to be those people too. As the Oregon Coast is very popular this time of year due to the rest of the country basically melting, we knew it’d be difficult to find spots, so we wanted to have definitive reservations. We searched and called and called and searched, asking places if they had ANY availability during the date range we were looking for. After piecing together 5 nights at Harborview Inn & RV Park in Garibaldi and 10 nights at Winchester Bay RV Resort in Winchester Bay, we filled in the blanks with one night at the Lincoln City KOA (which is actually in Otis) and three nights at the Waldport/Newport KOA in Waldport.

Before I go any further, I want to explain the wonderfulness that is the Oregon Coast. Thanks to Oregon’s 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 the Oregon Coast is really the perfect place for a road trip!

 

Harborview Inn & RV Park

Address: 302 S 7th Street, Garibaldi, OR 97118

Phone: (503) 322-3251

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thrus (Kind Of)
  • Hotel
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Bay Views
  • Crab Pod and Cooker Rentals
  • Cable TV

Harborview is a small RV park and hotel on Tillamook Bay, in the small fishing village of Garibaldi, just north of Tillamook. Most of the sites are drive-in sites, meaning they cater to motorhomes, as the hookups are on the opposite side for a backed-in trailer. We had site 7, which they consider a pull-thru site, though that involves driving down a curb, which we realized when we were leaving our Airstream isn’t able to do. Our site was labeled as being 52 feet, but was much smaller, so we had to park our truck elsewhere, which is fine due to the number of parking spaces they have around the hotel. The site was very level, we had full hookups, and the weather was perfect — so we were literally happy campers. Sites 23 thru 30 are waterfront sites with great views, but honestly, the view from every site is pretty decent.

Site 7
Max LOVED the fresh air and watching the world go by outside the open windows!

The town of Garibaldi is very small, but does have a decent little grocery store and a nice gas station. For those who have never gotten gas in Oregon — it’s state law that they pump it for you. The gas station employee started panicking when Travis tried to pump it himself, not knowing the law, though you can pump it yourself after 6pm. There are also a few restaurants, a few shops, a Coastguard station, and a train that does scenic rides to Rockaway Beach and back. Garibaldi’s location on Tillamook Bay, as opposed to the ocean, seems to allow for more clear, sunny days than other parts of the coast. Rockaway Beach is only a 10-minute drive north, yet any time we drove through there, there were overcast skies with a thick marine layer.

We had delicious fish tacos at Source, a restaurant right in Garibaldi. Their hours are weird, so make sure you check to see if they’re open before you go — but definitely go!

An intact former U.S Coast Guard Lifeboat Station sits at the end of a pier across the bay from the RV park. It became fully operational in 1937 and could accommodate two 36-foot motor lifeboats and one 26-foot oar-powered surfboat. It was decommissioned in the early 1960s when the Coast Guard relocated to a new facility.

The view of the pier from Harborview Inn & RV Park.
The decommissioned Lifeboat Station is open to the public at various times.

It’s a short drive (about 12 minutes) down to the famous Tillamook Creamery. They recently completed a huge expansion with a food hall, retail space, production process viewing area, and of course, cheese samples. The place is chaotic, but the food is terrific (check out their menu here) and there are ice cream flavors found nowhere else. I highly recommend a visit, but pack your patience.

The food hall has three parts: Area to order from the menu, which is full of deliciousness using local ingredients; Ice cream; and Yogurt & Espresso Bar
Oh. My. Word. The cheese curds. The BEST we’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot as were were born and raised in Wisconsin.
The retail area has Tillamook food products and logowear, gifts, and products from local companies such as beer. Lots and lots of beer.
Mmmmmm!
You’re able to watch the full manufacturing process during the self-guided tour.
Of course, you have to finish the day with ice cream! Travis got the special batch Pendleton Whiskey & Maple and I got the Caramel Toffee Crunch.
Cheers!

Cannon Beach is a 45-minute drive north from Garibaldi. We made the drive twice; once to visit the beach and Haystack Rock, and the second time to eat lunch at Pelican Brewing. It’s a beautiful little town, probably the nicest you’ll find on the coast, but during the summer it’s BUSY. Just know going into it that parking might be tough, but the beauty of the beach is worth it!

Haystack Rock – You know it’s going to be big, but when you see it in person, it’s really BIG!
It was such a beautiful day when we visited — windy — but beautiful!
The beach is so big too!
Max loved running around on the beach!
Pelican Brewing has decent food and good beer.

During our stay in Garibaldi, we also made a few other stops while exploring:

Cape Meares Lighthouse – Inactive, Built in 1890, Tillamook Bay

Tip: When driving there, follow the route along 131, not Bayocean Road. Bayocean Road is closed near the end and the lighthouse is not accessible by car this way. It should take about 40 minutes from Garibaldi.

Short Beach – Pretty much every beach on the Oregon coast is beautiful, and there are a lot of them, but Short Beach, just south of the Cape Meares Lighthouse, is above average. The trail from the road through the woods to the beach feels like a secret and opens onto the beach, which also feels like a secret.

 

Lincoln City KOA

Address: 5298 NE Park Lane, Otis, OR 97368

Phone: (541) 994-2961

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Thrus
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cable TV
  • Playground
  • Horshoes
  • Propane Fill
  • Dumpstation
  • Dog Area (Not Very Good)
  • Breakfast (For a Charge)

We stayed at the Lincoln City KOA for one night. The campground is located on Devils Lake, though you can’t actually see the lake from the campground. If we had been in the area longer, I’m sure we would have explored the opportunities the lake had to offer. Our site was a pull-thru, which is what we always try to get when we’re staying somewhere for just one night. We generally fill our freshwater tank and empty our black and grey tanks before leaving our previous spot so that when we pull in to our new spot for one night, all we have to do is hook up electricity, which makes for an easy set up. The only way I would stay at this campground again is if it were in a pull-thru site like we had. The campgrounds sits on a hill, but the pull-thrus are nicely leveled and easy to pull in to. The back in sites on the opposite side of the street from the pull-thrus would be difficult to get into because you have to back in uphill with a lot of speed bumps in the way. Things level out at the bottom of the hill where there are cabins and more back in sites, but those site are small and very close together. There’s an onsite Mel’s Kitchen, which offers a pretty large breakfast menu.

Site 12 – Fairly Level
Site 12 – Decent Privacy from Neighbors

We were able to get settled in early and quick enough to do the Cascade Head Trail hike, which is about a 10-minute drive from the KOA. Rumor has it this is one of, if not thee, most beautiful hikes on the Oregon Coast. The hike is about five miles roundtrip, but can be extended a tad in order to make it about 6.5 miles. It starts out in a forest which then opens up to a hilly, prairie area. No dogs are allowed on this trail due to ground nesting birds. There are pit toilets at the trailhead parking lot. The last part of the trail between the lower and upper viewpoints has a pretty good incline, which makes this a moderately rated trail.

 

Waldport/Newport KOA

Address: 1330 NW Pacific Coast Hwy, Waldport, OR 97394

Phone: (541) 563-2250

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Fire Pit & Picnic Table
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Playground
  • Recycling
  • Bay View Sites
  • Cable TV

Guys, we loved this KOA! It was small, well maintained, and had great views of Alsea Bay from many sites. The laundry room was nice (and busy), there’s a community fire pit that’s lit promptly at 5pm every evening, and they have recycling bins, which is so uncommon for pretty much everywhere (sad, but true). Our site was a small back in, but we had no trouble getting into it.

We had a nice view of Alsea Bay out our back window.
Site 18 was small and cozy but also nice and private.

We loved the little town of Yachats (pronounces Yah Hots), about a 15-minute drive, and wish we would’ve discovered it sooner. We ate at Yachats Brewing and it was soooo good! Fantastic farm-to-table food that felt real good in our tummies and Travis really enjoyed their beer too.

We were a little busy with work while we stayed in Waldport, but did explore the area a bit. We took a nice long walk on the beach at Ona Beach State Park. We stopped in at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center which is located in the Siuslaw National Forest. There’s a campground and a number of trails here and we hope to be able to explore it more thoroughly some day. We also stopped at Seal Rock and Thor’s Well, which is a bowl-shaped chasm along the rocky shore that seems to magically fill and empty in conjunction with the waves.

Ona Beach State Park
Cape Perpetua Scenic Overlook
Seal Rock
Seal Rock
Thor’s Well
Thor’s Well

 

Winchester Bay RV Resort

Address: 120 Marina Way, Winchester Bay, OR 97467

Phone: (541) 271-0287

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cable TV
  • Playground
  • Bay Views

We were able to score a spot at this beautiful RV resort for 10 nights! We had to move once, but it was well worth it as this was one of the nicest places we’ve stayed. It’s probably the best place we’ve stayed in regards to Max, as there’s a nice, long paved trail along the bay, lots of green grass, and dog waste bag dispensers throughout the park. As with the other places we stayed along the coast up to this point, we didn’t experience any of the wind the Oregon Coast is known for, thanks to being on the bay and not the ocean. We probably had more grey days than sunny here, but it was still much better than the heat we would’ve had if we had stayed on our original route.

Pretty much every site has a view of either Winchester Bay or the Umpqua River, as the resort sits on a peninsula.
We first were on Site 45, then Site 41. Both are one of their small, interior sites. Plenty long, we just needed to park the truck elsewhere.
We spent many nights outside by the fire, enjoying the sunset.

Winchester Bay is just south of Reedsport, where you can find grocery stores, gas stations, fast food, restaurants, a hospital, a post office, and the visitor center for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. There are a few restaurants and shops in Winchester Bay, but this is another quiet little fishing town like Garibaldi. We ate at Griff’s on the Bay twice, which is located in Winchester Bay. Their fish and chips are so good!

The fish was lightly breaded and so buttery!

We also ate at Harbor Light Restaurant in Reedsport, which had AMAZING pot pies and dessert to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. We drove down to Coos Bay, about a 30-minute drive, to 7 Devils Brewing for dinner one night. Again, great beer and food.

The Mill Casino in North Bend, just north of Coos Bay, had a Food Truck Off one weekend that featured 20+ food trucks, live music, and beer. Each food truck had a $2 sample available in addition to their regular menu, so we were able to get a taste of what quite a few had to offer.

The Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area is located in Reedsport, and is just a short drive from the RV park. Every evening a large group (about 100) of elk wander into a field to graze. It’s a pretty neat sight, seeing so many large animals altogether.

The Oregon Dunes Recreation Area stretches approximately 40 miles along the Oregon Coast from Florence to North Bend. There are large sections set aside for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, and you’ll find many campgrounds in that 40-mile stretch that cater to the OHV crowd. Winchester Bay has OHV access points by Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. We did the short hike from the John Dellenback Dunes Trailhead in Lakeside, which is just south of Winchester Bay.

We really enjoyed our time in Winchester Bay, as well as everywhere else along the coast thus far. It’s been great having such nice weather and moving at a little bit slower pace, which is what you find in these small coastal towns. Tomorrow we head up to Florence to continue exploring the coast, so look for a post about The Oregon Coast – Part Two soon!