Dawn was just breaking in the sky as I stirred awake. Aspen and Jim continued to snore softly as I contemplated the beginning of a new day. This morning musing brought the realization that for the first time in over one year I felt totally and completely relaxed and at peace.
Those who view our semi-nomadic life from the outside are surely shaking their heads, questioning how our “rough” life portrayed online could be less than restful. And, to be fair, we love this path we’ve chosen. This does not, however, mean that our last year was easy. It involved a stressful job change, the loss of Jim’s brother, and many thousands of miles in the search for a new spot to call home for a bit.
A few months into our new gig we found ourselves in need of a mini-adventure, time to get away, sleep in, drink whiskey around the campfire, and reinvigorate our spirt. As we chill at South Beach State Park, just outside of Newport, I have fallen in love all over again with the amazing state parks Oregon has to offer. Most offer a variety of options, great trails for biking and hiking, clean but basic facilities, and friendly volunteer camp hosts. Here are our top five.
Nehalem Bay State Park
Nehalem Bay likely ranks first on our list of favorite state parks in Oregon. We have spent many, many hours hiking the trails, wandering the beach, and loving the proximity to the delightful small town of Manzanita, within walking distance from the campground. With around 265 campsites, a few yurts to rent, and even an airport for those flying into camp or fish Nehalem Bay has something for everyone. And the sunsets.. pure heaven.
Cape Lookout State Park
Another frequent hang-out spot. Cape Lookout is simply remarkable. The campground offers a bit more rustic experience with 38 hook-up sites and 170 fantastic rustic sites. The beach is right there and the storm viewing is epic. Located near the tiny village of Netarts and the dairy capital of Tillamook, it’s easy to hang out at camp, hike the ridge trail or explore the surrounding area including one of our favorite Harvest Host stops: Blue Heron Cheese Company.
Cottonwood State Park
Oregon’s newest state park is also it’s second-largest encompassing 8000 acres of the former ranchland. With only 21 primitive sites and 4 rustic cabins, you can lose yourself in the wild beauty of the John Day River. There are several scenic hiking trails and fishing is fantastic from the shore or boat access. Due to location, this park does require some precautions. Potable water is only available at the day-use area, which doubles as a fun look into the history of the former ranch, and cell phone service is non-existent so make sure to watch for rattlesnakes while hiking and let others know where you’re heading.
Tumalo State Park
Tumalo is one our list of favorites mainly based on location. Bend is Central Oregon’s playground and this state park is just minutes from downtown, the river, and the host of breweries and restaurants that make the town so appealing, including Boneyard Brewing, one of our all-time favorites. With a mere 77 sites, Tumalo fills up quickly and reservations are pretty much required year-round, but well worth it to tip your toes in the Deschutes, check out some of the nation’s best brews and enjoy the joy of camping close to the luxuries of city life.
South Beach State Park
Our home for a few days. South Beach found us visiting a few times each year and always in May when Rogue Brewery hosted their Brewer’s Memorial ale festival in honor of Brewer, the former mascot & CEO. Newport is also home to Local Ocean Seafood, one of our favorite seafood spots on the coast. The campground offers yurts and around 200 campsites with water and electric, some fantastic hiking trails, walking distance proximity to Rogue Brewery and disc golf.
There are many more truly amazing spots to discover all over this beautiful state and our upcoming mini-adventures are sure to find some more gems. Make sure to head out and check them out for yourself; you will not be disappointed!