Fall Camping Oregon – As good as it Gets

We LOVE off season camping. We love open campgrounds, fewer crowds, empty beaches, and the joy of fall in Oregon. During the “discovery” season from late September/ early October until May 1st of each year we never make campground reservations, preferring to simply flip a coin on the way out of town to decide where we’re going..


This September has been extraordinary weather here in the Pacific NW, dry and clear, which, has unfortunately NOT been good for the forest fires raging throughout the area. After a smoky weekend last week at Le Page we knew we wanted to head to the coast, not just to get some fresh air but also to see how Porter liked the beach.

We will never forget Maddy’s first trip to the beach, when it was evident that she had never before experienced the dogs love of the beach. We wondered, was Porter an experienced beach dog or did we have another newbie on our hands?

Jim took the afternoon off and so we were able to leave Portland promptly at 4pm on Friday. We were sure, with the early start and late season camping, we’d have no problem getting our choice of campsites at one of our favorite beaches, Nehalem Bay State Park. A mere 1 mile walk along the beach into the quaint seaside town of Manzanita, Nehalem Bay has roomy sites, a fantastic beach, and nice facilities. With access to both the ocean and the bay, there is plenty of opportunity for water sports and fishing, and the park has miles of biking/ hiking trails. On Tuesday afternoon more than half of the camps 265 sites were available for the asking and so, on a gorgeous, 70-degree September Friday afternoon we headed out.

As we pulled into Nehalem around 630pm and noticed the line of campers waiting to check in at the gate we began to question whether not we had made the right decision to just go for it. I got out of the truck to wait in line with Jim offering advising me to “get a good site”. Imagine my surprise when it was finally my turn in line and the park ranger told me there was ONE site left. ONE. I took it to be a joke and said “ok, but we’d like to be in loop A or B preferably”. His response “I am not kidding. There is ONE site left and it’s D3 if you want it.” WOW…not what we expected! Apparently the salmon were running, the crabs were delicious, and the warm weather caused a mass exodus for the ocean!

With a full campsite and the end of a long week we made a quick trip to the beach to find we’d missed the sunset but were lucky enough to see an enormous bull elk and his herd of about 30 females. They were passing through the reeds and grass at the top of the dunes and got split up by all the campers heading back and forth for a sundowner. The serene evening air was filled with the sound of his buggling as he called to them.

It is often said that to determine the life you really want, you need to imagine what your perfect day would consist of. I can tell you, without hesitation, my perfect day would ALWAYS start with a morning coffee traveler and a long walk on the beach with Jim and black dog. There are few moments in life when I am more at peace with the world, then wandering amongst the few other souls spending their morning breathing in the vibrantly scented sea air as the day awakens around me. Saturday proved to be one of my perfect days…. after a great sleep we spent over an hour beach combing, chasing seagulls and meeting other dogs.

We did quickly realize that Porter had not, as of yet, experienced the beach. He was cautious of where to place his feet, questioning the soft sand. When I took him into the foam that the surf had created along the waterline he sniffed it curiously but when a wave unexpectedly swept over his paws he ran out of the surf, crying like a startled baby!

It was a truly remarkable weekend at the Oregon coast. With temperatures in the upper 60’s to low 70’s the weather was prefect. The glorious sunny day was replaced by a full moon each evening, illuminating the hills of the surrounding area. We spent the day reading, hiking, and napping but I also experimented to see how Porter would do heeling alongside me while I biked. We just did a short loop around the campsites as our first outing but he was amazing, heeling right  next to me as we cruised along. A nearly perfect leash dog! How did we get so lucky a second time with our adoptions?!


This weekend was what we’d longed for last weekend and didn’t get. Gorgeous weather, lots of fresh air and exercise coupled with a whole lot of relaxation. Great food, delicious cocktails and wins by both the Ducks and the Beavers and we came home happy campers. The sunset Saturday evening was yet another fantastic moment in time. As I had written about in an earlier post, we truly believe that the moment of sundown, where life recycles itself for a new day, is magic and you’ll see by the picture below, it was a good one!



I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join our worldwide network of thousands of like-minded souls. Each month look for recipes, travel tips, and inspiring adventures. Get ready to start creating your OWN Next Big Adventure
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.