Adventure is written all over this Central Oregon camping paradise in the heart of the Cascades.
Set in Central Oregon's high desert, just east of the Cascade Range, Bend is a small but growing city that attracts outdoor recreation fans with year-round sunshine and easy access to some of the state's most spectacular natural areas for hiking, mountain biking, and skiing. The Deschutes River, a tributary of the Columbia River, flows right through town, offering white-water rafting and fishing, while Smith Rock State Park—the de facto birthplace of sport climbing—is only a short drive away. While outdoor fun reigns supreme here, it’s also a bit of a foodie destination, with a wide range of local breweries. Whatever your camping style, you'll find your dream spot near Bend, where tent sites, RV parks, yurts, and farmsteads complement the state parks and national forest.
One of Central Oregon's biggest draws, the Deschutes River and its tributaries, lakes, and reservoirs attract boaters and paddlers, particularly in the summer months. Private and public camping opportunities abound near the river, especially given it passes through some state parks, including The Cove Palisades State Park, LaPine State Park, and Tumalo State Park, a riverside gem with canyon trails, swimming holes, and excellent rainbow trout fishing. Unfortunately, this pristine spot is no secret—book early to secure your spot in the summer.
Spread out over nearly a million acres, quiet Ochoco National Forest offers a diverse mix of canyons, forest, arid high desert, and lakes. It's a great place to camp, with both dispersed campsites and campgrounds, plus plenty of cabins and private options available to book.
Directly west of Bend, the Willamette National Forest is among the most popular spots in Oregon for hiking and camping. About a fifth of the forest is designated wilderness, accessible only on foot or by horseback, making the area particularly popular for multi-night backpacking trips.
Bend attracts lovers of the great outdoors throughout the year, with all sorts of summer fun, including rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and river rafting. Winter sports enthusiasts flock to the area in the cooler months to ski the slopes of Mt. Bachelor, the crown jewel of the Deschutes Forest. Summers are generally hot and dry, and this time of year is certainly the busiest for camping, so book ahead to sleep under the stars.
Further, in the mountains, Scout Lake features a popular campground and Sandy swimming beaches. When it comes to staying cool, it doesn't get better than the Cascade Lakes. Paddle or cruise your boat across Elk Lake, or kick back on your hammock at a seasonal waterfront campground.