Oregon Coast dispersed camping

Oregon Coast Dispersed Camping

The Oregon coast is a well-known and beloved camping region. To give you a good idea of what to expect if you go free camping in Oregon, we’ve written a detailed guide on how to find camping spots, who to talk to about the rules, regulations, & permits, and what to bring with you.

Also, we’ve prepared a list of the best camping spots along the Oregon coast, so you can have some options to consider before you head westward toward the sea.

The Overview

Whether you’re into whale-watching, winter coastal storms, each of which looks like a painting from the Romanticism era, or visiting the world-renown Tillamook Cheese Factory – the Oregon coast is a place to be.

During the winter months, many folks come to the coast just to watch the storms.

When it comes to visiting Oregon’s coastal patch, if you were to turn a blind eye to the notable absence of koalas and kiwis, you’d swear that you were somehow teleported to Australia.

Huge dunes, lighthouses, an ocean full of whales, at times stormy weather conditions, and huge flocks of colorful migratory birds – all of these points of interest are typically associated with the Land Down Under. Turns out, all of it and then some, you can experience in Oregon, too.

The great thing about the Oregon coast is that there is a huge number of excellent dispersed camping spots that you can use.

Other than the obvious vicinity of the Pacific and the many coastal bays, there are also multiple other bodies of water near the western shores of the northern US.

Depending on where on Oregon’s coast you’re camping, you can get near rivers, creeks, and lakes, too, for good measure.

Oregon’s famous Umpqua river camping springs to mind, for example, with its developed campsites and an entire National Forest of the same name – open for camping and exploration.

We’ll talk in detail about the specifics of camping near an ocean coast, what to bring with you if you decide to pitch a tent on one of Oregon’s beaches, forests, or lakesides, and the most important rules and regulations issued by Oregon’s State Forests officials.

We will provide you with a couple of ways to find the best camping spots in this region. Also, we’ve prepared a list of the best camping sites on Oregon’s coast, so you can get an idea of where you may want to go and what to expect once you land there.

What You Want to Bring with You

Camping equipment for dispersed camping

Setting up a dispersed campsite near an ocean is not the same as setting it in the middle of a forest or a desert.

Of course, many items you need for dispersed camping on the coast are the same as for any other type of camping. For example, a detailed map, foldable chairs, tents, a stove, a water container, and perhaps a power generator so you can power some appliances such as coolers and phone batteries.

Now, if you fancy camping on a beach, you may want to add some or all of the following items (according to your needs):

· A radio (either battery or solar-powered)

· Sun protection cream

· A couple of extra swimsuits

· Lifejackets

· A waterproof blanket

· An insect repellent

· A nylon rope (to make a clothesline)

· Two tarps (one to place under your tent and the other for sun protection that goes over your tent)

Rules & Regulations (Oregon’s State Forests)

Forest in Oregon

When it comes to camping near or on the coast of Oregon, much of the general area is a part of some national forests and state parks.

To be precise, there are 79 state parks near Oregon’s coastline. These vary in size from the small ones that are suitable for taking pictures and having a picnic, to the large ones that have large beaches suitable for lengthy camping trips, exploration, photography, fishing, hiking, and other cool activities.

The important thing here is that most of these areas are subject to the same set of rules & regulations roundabout what you can and cannot do when camping.

Here are some general directions to follow and adhere to if you want to set up a camping spot near or inside Oregon’s national forests (which often includes the beach areas):

· Make sure to check the open fire regulations for that period issued by the Oregon Department of Forestry,

· Do not use fireworks (regardless of whether it’s wildfire season or not),

· Do not camp within 25 feet of a river or a creek,

· Don’t cut down trees and attempt to make your campsites,

· If there are no waste disposal amenities, make sure to pack your waste and dispose of it at the nearest trash container. Also, only dispose of human waste at least 100 feet away from campsites, trails, or bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, or creeks.

· Unless you’re camping in a designated campsite for larger groups of people (check on the regulations around this here), there’s a limit of 8 people and 2 vehicles per campsite inside or on the edges of a forest.

· If you’re bringing your pets with you, they must be on a 6-foot leash at all times. Animal waste must be disposed of properly – the same way as human waste.

Here are a couple of examples of national and state forests with useful brochures with tips and camping instructions:

Clatsop State Forest recreation brochure

Tillamook State Forest recreation brochure

Siuslaw National Forest recreation website

Elliott State Forest recreation website

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest recreation website

In case you’re interested in the various rules and regulations about camping in any of Oregon’s forests (not just the ones that spread to the coastline), you can visit this website to learn more.

How to Find the Best Camping Spots on Oregon’s Coast?

RV Camper in Oregon

Figuring out the best spots for whale-watching, storm-observing, and pitching a tent on the vast shores of the state of Oregon will not be a problem. It might only be a problem because you may have a tough time picking from the huge sea of options.

That said, searching for a suitable camping spot can be much easier if you make good use of the new high-tech software that finds and lists cool camping spots. These apps typically also feature the reviews of the campers who have already visited that area, so you can read about their first-hand experiences in detail.

There are three great dispersed camping apps that you can use to find some of the best camping spots not only around Oregon’s coastline but also in other areas in this and other states, too.

–          The Dyrt – Whether you’re into dispersed camping, booking a campsite well in advance, RV-ing, or glamping, The Dyrt can be a fantastic way to find awesome campsites fairly easily. Comes complete with user reviews, too.

–          Campendium – A website aimed primarily at RV campers, but tent campers can also use it.

–          Freecampsites.net – This one features a simple website layout and it’s completely free, run, and full of valuable camping info provided by the website’s online community.

Also, once you’ve pinpointed the perfect camping spot for you, it’s always best to contact the local authorities in charge of that particular area. 

Whether that’s the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), USFS (US Forest Service), or some branch of the local State Forest, they can give you the most accurate information regarding the current state of affairs related to camping.

Due to flood or fire hazards, regulations change around different camping areas in terms of pricing, availability, or safety, so contacting the relevant administrative office before you head to that area is always a good idea.

Best Dispersed Camping Areas Along the Oregon Coast

Fishing in the ocean off the coast of Oregon can be a great off-day activity if you mean to camp on a local beach.

Also, visiting some of the many lighthouses can be a great excursion for people with kids and those, in general, who may not be in the mood to brave the rough waves in the coastal areas.

On the other hand, you can always choose to simply observe events on the rough seas and some of the many curious and unique animal species that inhabit this coastal area, such as whales and rare migratory birds.

Here are some of the best camping spots on Oregon’s Coast:

Cole Mountain Ridge Road

Waterfall in Oregon
  • Map
  • Toilets: No
  • Visitor Frequency: Moderate
  • Water: No

If you’re interested in finding an area next to the well-known and beloved Cannon Beach, then Cole Mountain Ridge Road can be the perfect destination.

The campsites are along this road. Despite being close to this road, the campsites’ drive-ins are not at all RV-friendly, so don’t try to enter this dispersed camping area in an RV, or a similar big rig.

All the camping spots are in the Tillamook State Forest. The camping spots are all small and made in the clearings among the trees.

An important thing that needs to be considered is that lumberjacks occasionally work here, so don’t be surprised if you hear ‘Timber!’ nearby where you’ve pitched your tent.

Another thing to note is that there are no developed water sources anywhere near the camping spots, so make sure you bring water with you – and plenty of it, too.

Tillamook State Forest (Cook Creek Rd/ Nehalem River)

Tillamook State Forest
  • Map
  • Toilets: No
  • Visitor Frequency: Busy
  • Water: No (it is possible to filter the water from the nearby river)

Speaking of the Tillamook State Forest, if you venture further into this woody area’s depths, you will find several cool camping spots along the banks of the Nehalem River.

Now, although this camping area officially does not come with a potable water source or other water-related amenities, you can simply scoop a bucket or two from the river if you run out of water.

Before drinking the water from the river, you should first make sure that you’ve filtered it.

While fairly clean, the river water can be dirty and infested with parasites – depending on what patch of the river you extract the water from.

The best overall option is to always bring potable water with you, so you can have some in case the filtering apparatus malfunctions.

Forest Road 58 (Siuslaw National Forest)

Siuslaw National Forest
  • Map
  • Toilets: No
  • Visitor Frequency: Not busy
  • Water: No

Located in the Siuslaw National Forest, Forest Road 58 can be found between Tillamook and Coos Bay.

The great thing about this location is its large size offering more than enough camping spots dispersed throughout the woods.

Another noteworthy point of interest is the Heceta Head Lighthouse, which is a place that offers a fantastic scenic view that you won’t be able to find in many other places.

The general area around this lighthouse, and the lighthouse itself, is quite well-developed, making it a particularly great venue for photos. Whether you want to take pictures of the lighthouse itself, the lighthouse and the surrounding area, or just the surrounding area – this lighthouse can be a great vantage point.

Though the camping spots are quite well-established and tucked between the trees, forest tracks and roads are not that well-developed, so accessing these spots with a heavy rig can be challenging.

Also, bring your water canisters and other amenities with you, because there are no potable water sources along this route. There aren’t any toilets or other amenities either, so bringing a port-a-potty with you might also be a good idea.

If you are considering braving this coastal forest area with a vehicle after all, here’s an MVUM map of the area that will come in handy.

Elko Dispersed Camping

Gold Beach
  • Map
  • Toilets: No
  • Visitor Frequency: Busy
  • Water: No

Located near Gold Beach and south of the Rogue river, Elko dispersed camping spot can be a fantastic opportunity for forest camping near the ocean.

Of course, it’s important to point out that the coast and Gold Beach, in particular, are technically close to this camping spot – but getting there means navigating through a variety of labyrinthine dirt roads and forest paths.

So, if you plan to set up a camping spot somewhere in Elko and then make a quick detour to visit Gold Beach, for example, make sure to prepare for a slightly lengthier trek than you might anticipate if you take a look at the distance as the crow flies.

Other than that, the big payoff when this camping location is in question is the fantastic forest greenery, comfortable climate, and sense of connection with nature in a place that’s a forest – at an elevated plateau – and near the Pacific, too. 

Wildhorse Dispersed Camping

Rogue River
  • Map
  • Toilets: Pit toilets
  • Visitor Frequency: Moderate
  • Water: No

In case you want to experience the best of Oregon’s three worlds, camping out in a forest, near the famous Rogue river, AND close to the ocean and the Gold Beach, the Wildhorse campground might be just the thing for you.

Although this campground is not that large and contains only different sites on it, what recommends it as a great place to pitch your tent would be the presence of a few amenities often absent in other campsites.

There are some developed fire pits (which you are encouraged to use instead of making your fire pits) and pit toilets, so human and animal waste disposal won’t be that much of a problem. Also, there are picnic tables, so eating meals with friends or family is much more convenient.

When it comes to waste disposal, you will have to pack your garbage and dispose of it outside the campsite, as there are no rubbish bins or containers.

The same goes for water.

There is no source of potable water on the campground, so bringing your water is a must. (You might try to retrieve some water from the nearby Rogue River, but filtering that water is a strong must)

Siltcoos Lake

Siltcoos Lake
Photo by Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: No
  • Visitor Frequency: Moderate
  • Water: No

Boasting a rich network of dirt roads you can take, the Siltcoos Lake is an excellent dispersed camping area located in the Siuslaw National Forest. This place is well-known for its natural beauty, the vicinity of Siltcoos lake, and the famous Oregon Dunes Recreational Area.

This camping area is a fantastic choice for families and casual campers because it’s near the town of Florence. You can easily restock on camping supplies, food, water, and anything else you might need to make your camping trip more fun and comfortable.

The lake has become quite popular with dispersed campers, so make sure to leave the area the same way you found it. As long as you adhere to the Leave No Trace principles, you’re good to go.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a dispersed camper who prefers a minimalist approach to camping, an RV camper, or a person primarily into photography, trekking, or some other outdoor activity, Oregon’s rich coast can be the perfect place for dispersed camping.

Dunes, freshwater lakes, beautiful forests, dirt tracks, and an ocean are all the wonders of nature that you can find close to each other only on the Oregon coast.