Top 10 campgrounds for experts

These beautiful spots are for everybody—you just need to hike a little to reach them


Mirror Lake, Mt. Hood National Forest

Just an hour from Portland, the mile hike up to rhododendron-rimmed Mirror Lake is more popular than a noontime food truck, but thankfully most folks retreat to their cars at the end of the day—giving you front-row views of Mt. Hood and (naturally) its reflections. Come morning, leave your things and continue 1.8 miles to the ridgetop of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain for even more stunning views of the volcano (and great rocks for sunbathing). No toilets or potable water. Free; $5/day rec pass; no reservations;

Strawberry Campground, Malheur National Forest

Rising above Eastern Oregon, the quiet and craggy Strawberry Mountain Wilderness—named for the wild berries that ripen here in July—seems more like the Canadian Rockies than the high desert. Depending on the strength of your quads, call it good at Strawberry Lake (1.2 miles in), a gentle pool below an amphitheater of cliffs. Or continue another 1.8 miles to Little Strawberry Lake for even more solitude and expansive vistas. Feeling invincible? Day-hike 4 miles more to 360° panoramas on 9,038-foot Strawberry Mountain. $8; no reservations;


Rock Cliff Campground, Jordanelle State Park

Compared with the park’s lively hub at Hailstone, which buzzes with motorboats and RVs, Rock Cliff is a low-key corner dedicated to nature and wildlife. Its six-site hike-in campground sits on a quiet tributary of Jordanelle Reservoir. Nab sites 1, 2, or 3 for riverside views, and look out for marmots and eagles. Even moose occasionally wander along the bank, browsing on shrubs. The 50-yard walk to the campsites feels like a small price to pay for scenery and seclusion just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, and the rustic vibe comes with civilized comforts like plumbing. Showers, fishing, and RV/ trailer hookup; $16; $7 park entry;   


Heather Lake, Mt. Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest

Tucked below dramatic 1,500-foot-high cliffs, as if poured into a giant bowl, tranquil Heather Lake is reached by a moderate 2.5-mile climb up from the Mountain Loop Highway. (On the way, watch out for colossal cedar stumps left from logging days.) A half-mile trail encircles the lake, allowing easy access to huckleberry bushes and close-up looks at the waterfalls cascading off the lower flanks of Mt. Pilchuck. You’ll find flat places for your tent but no toilets or potable water. Free; $5/day rec pass; no reservations;

Shi Shi Beach, Olympic National Park

Once you navigate a forested 2- to 4-mile approach and a 200-foot descent down a bluff, you can set up camp anywhere on 2.5-mile-long Shi Shi Beach (say shy-shy)—one of the most spectacular stretches on the Olympic coastline. The primo real estate is between Petroleum Creek (potable if boiled or filtered) and the sea stacks and seastar-filled tidepools at Point of the Arches. Go for a bracing dip, build a campfire, and settle back for a wide-open sunset. $5; $15 park entry and fees for parking and permits;

Unless noted, these 10 campgrounds have potable water but do NOT have flush toilets. 

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