Fall Camping Around Portland: 5 Stunning Spots

Camp life in Mount Hood National Forest
Camp life in Mount Hood National Forest Jake Wheeler
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Don’t tell anyone, but fall might be the best time in Oregon to go camping. To wit: School’s firmly in session, keeping the biggest crowds at home; the weather is cooler, yet still warm enough for a light sweater around the campfire; and rain isn’t nearly as prevalent as national outlets would have us think.

In that spirit, we've rounded up five of the best spots for fall camping around Portland, no matter what your outdoorsy style. Whether you want to lead a family outing, enjoy copious waterfalls, relish the awe-inspiring views of Mount Hood, or take a solo backpacking trip, there's an outing here for you.

Best Family Outing: Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls Lodge is a great spot within the park. 
Silver Falls Lodge is a great spot within the park.  PhotoAtelier

If you’re lucky or adventurous enough to get away for a family outing this fall, Silver Falls State Park offers a winning combination of scenic hiking and easy camping that comes with a myriad amenities.

Everyone loves Silver Falls State Park for the majestic Trail of Ten Falls, and rightly so: In less than nine miles, the full loop unveils close-up views of 10 waterfalls—more than five are at least 100 feet tall—and provides an opportunity to walk behind four. In between the waterfalls, hikers enjoy views of bubbling creeks, grandiose forests, and sweeping canyon viewpoints.

Hikers who can’t get enough of the Trail of Ten Falls can also stay the night and explore more of the park’s 9,000 acres. Silver Falls State Park hosts 14 cabins, all of which come with electricity, heaters, lights, bunk beds, and a futon. (Campers looking to rough it should act fast: The park’s 45 tent sites close for the winter on Oct. 31.)

Best Off-the-Beaten Path Campground: Shady Cove

Shady Cove Campground sits along the banks of Little North Santiam River.
Shady Cove Campground sits along the banks of Little North Santiam River. Bureau of Land Management (Oregon and Washington)

If Silver Falls State Park makes life easy with heated cabins, Shady Cove Campground veers in the other direction, giving campers 13 total sites, one bathroom, and no drinking water or cell service. Nestled against the banks of the Little North Santiam River, the first-come, first-serve campground provides little more than flat ground and a few fire pits.

But Shady Cove makes up for the lack of amenities with beautiful views and plenty of recreation. The Three Pools Day Use Area, a trail to Henline Falls, and another trail that leads to the beautiful Opal Creek Wilderness are all accessible from the primitive campground.

Best Solo Outing: Eagle Creek

Punchbowl Falls is one of many highlights along the Eagle Creek Trail.
Punchbowl Falls is one of many highlights along the Eagle Creek Trail. Thomas Shahan

Eagle Creek is among the most popular hikes in Oregon; the leisurely trail hosts a myriad waterfall viewpoints (including Punchbowl Falls and Tunnel Falls), manageable elevation gain, and well-maintained trails. Backpackers looking to spend the night and explore the surrounding Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness can stay at Seven and a Half Mile Camp —the last place to pitch a tent before the Eagle Creek Trail gains substantial elevation en route to Wahtum Lake.

Seven and a Half Mile Camp’s relative seclusion and complete lack of amenities make it a perfect destination for backpackers on their own: A handful of sites just off the trail (along with a few side trails to additional campsites toward the creek) offer seclusion and access to Eagle Creek itself (albeit not without a difficult scramble from the sites).

Best Hidden Gem: Serene Lake

Serene Lake is a popular destination at the height of summer: Wildflowers line the lake, swimmers dive into a 25-foot-deep swimming hole, and hikers bask in the shadow of Mount Hood.

But the secluded lake deserves love throughout the fall, as well; backpackers are treated to views of towering firs, Cascade peaks (including Oregon’s tallest peak, Mount Hood), and secluded mountain lakes along the way to the remote campsite.

The hike gains less than 1,000 feet before arriving at Serene Lake, making it ideal for novice backpackers and quick weekend trips out of town. Numerous trails line the lake, and hikers can take in the trail’s best Mount Hood views about 1.5 miles up from the shore.

Best View of Mount Hood: Burnt Lake

Burnt Lake is one of many hikes to offer impressive views of Mount Hood.
Burnt Lake is one of many hikes to offer impressive views of Mount Hood. Tony Fischer

Let’s be honest: Admiring Mount Hood, the highest peak in Oregon and the crown jewel of the Oregon Cascades, never gets old. If you’re looking to take a quick backpacking trip and admire the scenery from a secluded campsite, Burnt Lake is an unmatched destination not far from the communities of Zigzag and Government Camp.

The six-mile trail hosts a mix of dense forests, trickling creeks, and stunning Mount Hood views (at least on sunny days). The mountain hides behind only the trees surrounding Burnt Lake, and the best views come from the south side.

Keep in mind that although seven campsites line Burnt Lake, and the south side of the lake might be ideal for enjoying the views, this region is mostly reserved for day use.

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