Last-Minute Camping in the Northwest
4 great no-reservation campgrounds in Oregon and Washington
North of Walla Walla, WA
Palouse Falls State Park, near Starbuck:
- You may not be able to see Palouse Falls (pictured) from the 10-site campground, but this time of year, you can hear the thundering Palouse River as it tumbles over the lip of a miniature Grand Canyon. After you pitch your tent, stroll to the overlook and imagine you’re the kayaker who took the 200-foot plunge last spring and broke nothing but his paddle. $12; parks.wa.gov or 509/646-9218.
- Plan B: About 8 miles south, half of the 50 sites at the private campground at Lyons Ferry Park overlook the Snake River. $17; 509/399-8020.
Columbia River Gorge, OR
- Viento State Park: This former whistle-stop 8 miles west of Hood River works well as a shaded base camp for last-minute adventurers from Portland. Kiteboarders head to the water, while hikers amble along a decommissioned mile-long stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway to picnic in the misty shroud of Starvation Creek Falls. Serious climbers do an all-day trek to the summit of Mt. Defiance, a thigh-blaster with a heart-stopping view of the gorge. From $17; oregonstateparks.org or 541/374-8811.
- Plan B: Nine miles west, a trail from the seven tent sites at Herman Creek Campground wanders through the gorge’s largest remaining stand of old-growth cedar. $10; 541/308-1700.
- Lava Lake Campground, Deschutes National Forest: A lodgepole-pine forest shrouds 43 sites from the sun—and the high-peaks vistas—so rent a canoe (Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe, $60 per day; 541/317-9407) and savor the summit of the South Sister while casting for rainbow trout. $14; 541/383-4000.
- Plan B: One of the six waterfront sites at the adjacent, and no less lovely, Little Lava Lake. $12; www.fs.fed.us/r6 or 541/383-4000.
Near Olympic National Park, WA
- South Fork Hoh: This campground at the edge of the Hoh Rain Forest receives more than a foot of precipitation each year, yet except for the Hoh River just steps from your site, there’s no running water. Pack your own, and solitude’s your payoff. Plus, the South Fork Hoh Trailhead is just 2 miles away. Free; 360/374-6131.
- Plan B: Ten riverside sites at local favorite Coppermine Bottom are about a 15-minute drive along Hoh Mainline Road. Free; 360/374-6131.