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.

Harris Beach State Park on the Southern Oregon Coast

Harris Beach State Park is situated directly on the ocean along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. It’s another one of Oregon’s fantastic state parks that’s well kept and in high demand. Our site was a nice blacktopped site with water and electric hookups that just fit our 28′ Airstream and truck. In addition to the tent and water/electric sites, there are 63 full hookup sites, some of them offering pretty great ocean views (site A20 and vicinity). 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 — be sure to check out Black Trumpet Bistro for some delicious food! There’s a lot of natural beauty to explore in the area, so just hop in the car and drive. The coast is absolutely gorgeous here and it’s only about a half hour drive to Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Campground Stats

Name: Harris Beach State Park

Address: 1655 Chetco Ave, Brookings, OR 97415

Website: www.oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com

Dates Stayed: November 6, 2021 – November 11, 2021

Site: B33

Rate: $30.00

Speed Test: AT&T – 68.7 Mbps down/2.82 Mbps up; Verizon – 17.2 Mbps down/7.26 Mbps up

Amenities:

  • Mix of FHU, W&E, and Tent Sites
  • Yurts
  • Hiker/Biker Sites
  • Restrooms with Individual Shower Rooms
  • Dump Station
  • Picnic Table
  • Firepit
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Playground
  • Recycling Center

We might have a new favorite Oregon State Park!

Silver Falls State Park 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. 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 state parks list.

Campground Stats

Name: Silver Falls State Park

Address: 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385

Website: www.oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com

Dates Stayed: November 1, 2021 – November 5, 2021

Site: B30

Rate: $28.00

Speed Test: AT&T – 122 Mbps down/10.3 Mbps up; Verizon – 77 Mbps down/9.95 Mbps up

Amenities:

  • RV Sites with Water & Electric
  • Tent Sites
  • Horse Camp Sites
  • Group Sites
  • Cabins
  • Dump Station
  • Restrooms with Flush Toilets
  • Individual Shower Rooms
  • Firewood for Purchase
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Pit
  • Playground

Our campsite was an extremely long (83 feet) back-in site with an electric and water hookup. The sites are paved, which is great with all the rain the area receives. We stayed fairly late into the season when the campground wasn’t very busy, so it was peaceful and quiet. A handful of deer seem to call the campground home as we saw a few wandering about every day. I popped into the restrooms to check them out and they were super clean, which is impressive considering all of the rain and pine needles that must get tracked in but there was no trace of. The showers are individual shower rooms and were equally as clean. We used a vault toilet at the North Falls trailhead and even that was super clean – like, the cleanest vault toilet I’ve ever seen.

The main draw to Silver Falls is the abundance of waterfalls, ten of which you can enjoy if you traverse the Trail of Ten Falls. I’ve seen the length of this trail posted as both 7.2 miles and 8.7 miles, and seeing as we only did bits and pieces of the trail, I’m not sure which is more accurate. There are also other multiple shorter loops and out and back trails that lead to some of the falls, so it is definitely not necessary to do the entire Trail of Ten Falls in order to enjoy this park.

This park/trail map is from the Oregon State Parks website:

On our first full day in the park, the rain held off for a while and we were able to visit the South Falls area of the park. This part of the park is home to a café, a store, restrooms with flush toilets, a swimming area, an off-leash dog area, and a starting point for three of the park’s trails: the Rim Trail, the Canyon Trail, and the Maple Ridge Trail. This is also where you will find the park’s most visited waterfall, South Falls. South Falls is the second largest falls in the park at 177’ tall, just one foot shy of the tallest falls, Double Falls. While there is a very short walk to a viewing platform, South Falls is best enjoyed by taking the 1-mile loop that will take you on a path down behind the falls, across a bridge at the base of the falls, and loops back up to where you started.

On our second day of exploring, we drove to the North Falls trailhead. From here we did a short out and back to North Falls, where again you can follow the trail to behind the falls. You can continue along the trail, which is the Canyon Trail and part of the Trail of Ten Falls loop, but we opted to walk back towards the parking area and follow another short out and back to Upper North Falls. My watch measured these two little out-and-backs as 1.37 miles total, but the park lists it as 1.8. I guess it depends how far past North Falls one goes in order to determine the length.

As the names suggest, North Falls is on the north-ish (more east) end of the park and South Falls is on the south-ish (more west) end of the park. As we drove from North Falls back towards the campground on the south end of the park, we stopped at the Winter Falls trailhead. We hiked the short distance to Winter Falls and then, again, returned to the trailhead. This little roundtrip was less than a half mile, so again, another very doable length to view a beautiful waterfall. If you continue past Winter Falls, you’re able to access the most remote falls in the park: Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Lower North Falls, and Double Falls. From what I can tell from the map, this hike would be around two miles round trip.

We ended up extending our stay one night in order to avoid a travel day consisting of high winds and lots of rain, which is a pretty typical weather situation for this time of the year. Most of the day was spent inside the Airstream, but the rain did let up for a little bit, so we drove back over to the South Falls area so we could walk around and get a little exercise. There were only three other cars in the parking lot, so if you want the trails and waterfalls all to yourself, then visit while it’s raining.

Even though we stayed at Silver Falls State Park during a fairly rainy part of the year and things were quite damp, we really enjoyed our stay. A visit during the latter part of the year allowed us to enjoy the fall colors, as well as a campground and trails without very many people. I think some of the falls dry up during the warmer months, so it was nice to be able to experience them after the area received a decent amount of rain and the falls were flowing at a pretty good clip. I found myself often commenting out loud how beautiful everything was — the fog, the moss, the trees — it all felt somewhat magical!

 

Bullards Beach State Park – Bandon, OR

Oregon has great state parks! We’ve stayed at a few in the past, and additionally have explored a few more, and this has been our favorite one to date in regards to the campground. There are three loops: A, B and C. There’s a mixture of full-hookup sites and electric-only sites, as well as Yurts (some are dog friendly), a very popular hiker/biker camp, and a horse camp. We were in site B55, a full-hookup, back-in site that was a little difficult to get into thanks to the narrow interior campground streets, but plenty spacious once we got backed in. We walked through B loop and C loop and found that the sites in B loop are a little closer together, but have more privacy due to the trees and shrubbery between each site. The sites in C loop are a bit more spread out and better for big rigs, but they’re a lot more open with trees that provide shade, but not privacy. The showers are separate from the restrooms, with both facilities being fairly basic with concrete block walls and cement floors, but very clean. There are at least four camp hosts on site and firewood is available for purchase from one of them from 4pm-8pm nightly.

The beach is accessed by a 1.25-mile paved trail. Dogs are allowed on the beach but must be leashed and there’s a restroom with flush toilets. The lighthouse is a bit further up the road – 3 miles one way from the campground – and is open seasonally. There are pit toilets by the lighthouse. The beach itself is not the most scenic beach we’ve seen in Oregon, but it’s clean and isolated and it’s the beach, so it’s great!

Bullards Beach State Park

56487 Bullards Beach Road, Bandon, OR

www.oregonstateparks.org

  • Full Hookups
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Fire Pit
  • Picnic Table
  • Firewood and Ice for Sale
  • Yurts
  • Horse Camp
  • Hiker/Biker Camp
  • Recycling
  • Dump Station
  • Potable Water Fill
  • Trail to Beach
Site B55 is a level, black-topped site with shrubbery that gives it privacy.
Each site has a picnic table and fire pit.
We could see the site behind us from our rear window, but it was vacant all but one night of our stay.
Bullards Beach is 4.5 miles long.
The Coquille River Lighthouse is open from 11am to 5pm daily mid-May through September.

Bandon has the perfect balance of the charm one would expect from a coastal Oregon town and amenities a visitor might need – good restaurants, two grocery stores, a post office, and many services including a carwash that accommodates RVs. We stayed in Bandon October 8th-12th, so we missed the summer crowds; however, when the summer crowds are gone, so are the summer hours at many of the shops. On the one day we went into town to do some exploring, it was a few minutes before 5pm, so everything was closing up.

We ate at two different restaurants while in Bandon and they were both delicious. If you’re looking for a casual seafood experience, Tony’s Crab Shack is your place. We ate dinner here twice; one night we both got the crab sandwich and another night we both got the fish tacos. Both meals were great! We also ate at Alloro Wine Bar, which was a nice departure from all of the seafood options in the area. Travis had the duck breast and I had the Mediterranean arugula salad and dungeness crab bisque.  Everything was good, though the bisque was more of a soup and needed to be thicker. We had the chocolate espresso brownie for dessert and it was delicious. Being a wine bar, they have a huge wine selection and offer tasting flights.

For the best views of the beach/ocean in Bandon, head to Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. The beach here is huge, but we visited on an extremely windy day, so we didn’t stick around long enough to walk the beach. If standing at the right angle, it definitely appears as though a rocky face is protruding from the water. There is parking and beach access at the viewpoint.

There’s an organization in Bandon called Washed Ashore that makes amazing sculptures completely out of trash that washes up on the beaches. The sculptures travel around the country to bring awareness to the ocean trash problem. If you find yourself in Bandon, be sure to stop in. And if you find trash on the beach, be sure to pick it up!

 

We really enjoyed our time in Bandon and will definitely be back!