U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Deschutes National Forest


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Forest Information

The Deschutes National Forest is located in central Oregon and is comprised of 1,605,297 acres. There are about 104 developed campgrounds of which 59 meet the selection criteria.

The Deschutes National Forest has several distinctive personalities linked by three National Scenic Byways - the wild personality of a gentle forest land; the tranquil personality around its many lakes; rushing rivers, challenging trails, and fighting fish reflect the adventurous personality; and the volcanic landscape reminds visitors of its dynamic and changing personality. The Scenic Byways provide access to each of the Deschutes's personalities, wonders, and recreational opportunities. Beautiful scenery, unique discoveries, wonderful adventures, and delightful forest experiences await anyone interested in a super camping vacation. A wide variety of car, tent, and recreation vehicle (RV) camping provide visitors with good locations for discovering, exploring, and enjoying the Deschutes National Forest.

Many people first experience Deschutes National Forest from their vehicle via one of the National Scenic Byways that cris-cross the Forest. Oregon's Outback Byway begins (or ends) near the community of LaPine and stretches some 171 miles to Lakeview, OR. This route winds through open prairies with alternating fields of hay and sagebrush and between towering pine and spruce-covered mountain ranges. This is the "lonesome" part of the Forest where livestock and wildlife easily out number humans.

Vistas along the Outback National Scenic Byway go on forever while the traffic and population centers are few and far apart. This cannot be said for the two other Byways in the Deschutes National Forest. Specifically, the Cascades Lakes and McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byways have awesome views of central Oregon as they wind passed populated areas.

The McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass starts in Sisters, OR and almost immediately climbs to 4,817 feet. Santiam Pass on US Rt. 20, turns south onto State Rt. 126 and then, at State Rt. 242, it heads east up and over McKenzie Pass (5,324-ft) before returning to Sisters. (Note: State Rt. 242 has a total 35-ft length limitation on all vehicles.) The whole route is 82 miles long and offers some of the most magnificent, breath taking views in Oregon. This route illustrates Oregon's "fire and ice" geologic history. From overlooks along the Byway visitors can enjoy panoramic views of glacier-carved mountains. The Byway also goes through old-growth forests, has stops for walks beside thundering rivers and waterfalls, and there is vast field of lava at the Dee Wright Observatory located on top of McKenzie Pass. It is a great way to discover what the Deschutes has to offer.

Visitors get a very different view of the Deschutes National Forest along the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. Nicknamed the Deschutes' "String of Pearls," this Byway, designated Forest Route 46, stretches some 66 miles in the shadow of the Cascade Mountain range from Bend to west of Crescent, OR. The nickname is derived from numerous lakes along the Byway. These lakes range from the enormous man-made Wickiup Reservoir to the scenic, world-renowned fishery of Hosmer Lake. However, for some visitors the "pearls" are really the adventures and experiences they found in the Forest. Examples are: watching an eagle soar; paddle across a lake with the rising sun reflected in the water's calm surface; seeing an osprey catch dinner; hiking or mountain biking in nearly pristine areas; winning the battle with a fighting trout; seeing wildlife, free and unafraid, in their natural habitats; enjoying a quiet moment as the day fades; and stars sparkling around Mt Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister mountains. These are just a few of the "pearls" awaiting visitors to the Cascades Lake National Scenic Byways.

For visitors who want to spend more time exploring and enjoying the delights along any of these Byways, there are several developed campgrounds nearby. There are Link Creek, South Shore, and Blue Bay campgrounds just below US Rt. 20, next to Suttle Lake and Cold Springs campgrounds just off State Rt. 242. The number of campgrounds along Forest Rt. 46 are many and most are within a short drive of the Byway. A few are: Lava Lake and Little Lava Lake campgrounds at the headwater of the Deschutes River and offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains; Quinn Meadow Horse Camp, an attractive horse campground with such character, non-equestrians want to stay there; and Gull Point campground, on the north shore of Wickiup Reservoir, has spacious campsites with parking aprons large enough for any size recreation vehicle with a power boat in tow.

There are some outstanding areas for recreation not on a National Scenic Byway. Two worthy of mention is the Metolius River and Newberry Volcanic National Monument (a.k.a., Newberry Crater). Metolius River has been a favorite summer vacation spot for decades, evident from the number of summer cabins along the river's banks at the tiny community of Camp Sherman. There are some Resorts in the Camp Sherman area and some Forest Service developed campgrounds, several of which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The Newberry Volcanic National Monument, with its varied volcanic geology, many sights to see, miles of trails, pleasant campgrounds, boating and fishing opportunities, two full service Resorts, and proximity to Bend, OR, make the area a destination for campers to consider. Other camping areas that have fewer recreation opportunities, and therefore smaller crowds, but do have their own special features, are Three Creek Lake and Driftwood campgrounds adjacent to the Three Sisters Wilderness, and Perry South campground on the massive Lake Billy Chinook.

The biggest "problem" with Deschutes National Forest is it offers far too much for just one or two visits. It is a Forest where each visit can be a varied and different forest experience. Campers, hikers, bicyclists, anglers, off-road enthusiasts, photographers, bird watchers, and others have discovered and enjoyed the Deschutes National Forest. Discover what so many have already learned - Deschutes National Forest is a special place.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 1001 SW Emkay Drive Bend, Oregon 97702 541-383-5300 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Bend-Fort Rock 1230 NE 3rd St., Suite A-262 Bend, Oregon 97701 541-383-4000 Crescent P.O. Box 208 136471 Hwy 97 N Crescent, Oregon 97733 541-433-3200 Sisters POB 249 Pine St & Hwy. 20 Sisters, Oregon 97759 541-549-7700

Fred and Suzi Dow