10 Things to Do on the Ultimate Oregon Car Camping Road Trip

Article by Theresa Conn

10 Things to Do on the Ultimate Oregon Car Camping Road Trip

This past summer, I embarked on an epic summer road trip: six nights camping in Oregon. The main driver for my trip out west was the Oregon Cascades 100 Mile Ultramarathon. (Before you’re impressed, no, I was not running it — but one of my best college buddies was, and a goal that big requires a support team.)

It also required a big carry-on full of costumes.

I rented a van to cart around our crew, used my NEMO operations experience to prepare an over-the-top race binder, and headed west. What followed was an incredible road trip in my new favorite state.

Here are ten things to do on your Oregon car camping adventure:

1. Chase Waterfalls Along the Columbia River Scenic Byway

The Columbia River Scenic Byway begins less than 20 miles from Portland. The road traces cliffs and passes beautiful waterfalls. Two worthy stops are Multnomah Falls and LaTourell Falls. Midway up the highway, the Vista House Observatory has sweeping views across the river to Washington.

2. Catch a Wave (or a Marg) at Hood River Gorge

Kite surfing is wildly popular in the Hood River Gorge, and both rentals and lessons are available… but a solid alternative is to watch other people kite surf while enjoying tacos and frozen drinks from the Downwindr food truck.

3. Watch the Sun Set at Rowena Crest

High in the Tom McCall Preserve, beyond Hood River, a twisty road beckons brave motorists. At the top? A paved pullout with beautiful views of the curving highway and the Columbia River — and the perfect spot to watch the sky change at dusk.

Watch out for that curve!

4. Take a Hike to Ramona Falls

Deep in the forest beneath Mt. Hood, the trip to Ramona Falls is a 7-mile out-and-back hike. I loved the adventurous river crossing and meeting folks hiking the longer Timberline Trail.

5. Visit the Timberline Lodge for Some Scary Film History

The Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood was used for exterior shots of The Shining. Inside is a cozy mountain resort featuring a restaurant and small exhibit about the history of the lodge. After checking out the large network of trails surrounding the lodge, grab some roadside ramen at Koya Kitchen.

6. Get Active Outside in Bend

While it was the starting line for the Oregon Cascades 100 ultramarathon, Bend offers a variety of adventure sports. Mountain biking and hiking are popular in the Three Sisters Wilderness, and the Deschutes River is a hub for fishing and boating. Crux Fermentation Project is a great spot to share some post-adventure pints.

7. Grab a Slice in Sisters

After a long day adventuring outside, the small town of Sisters offers a quiet place to relax. Surrounded by thousands of acres of ponderosa pines, the cute downtown area has a bustling food scene. A favorite is pizza from the Boone Dog Pizza truck, best enjoyed with a pint of cider purchased from Eurosports, the shop next door. (Yes, it’s a bike shop AND a bar.)

8. Take a Pit Stop in Eugene

En route to the coast, Eugene offers plenty of spots to refuel. Funky sandwiches and over 100 varieties of beer flow at Bier Stein or, for the caffeine-inclined, try out Vero Espresso for a different kind of brew in an old Victorian house.

9. Explore Oregon’s Route 101

Cape Perpetua State Park offers deep forests and cliffside hikes along the Pacific. Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, and Devils Churn are all great stops to stretch your legs. Finish the day with a fish fry at Yachat’s Luna Sea Fish House; simply turn west for dinner and a show at sunset.

A beautiful spot for a sunset.

10. Truffle Shuffle With The Goonies

Ecola State Park and Astoria were filming locations for 1985’s The Goonies. After checking out the County Jail and Flavel House Museum sites, grab lunch at Sasquatch Sandwich Shop for funky takes on classic sandwiches.

The Goonies movie was filmed on this beach in Ecola State Park.

Oregon Car Camping Kit

The Dagger Osmo 2P kept me dry and comfortable.

Because I was flying into PDX, my car camping kit was comfy but light: Dagger OSMO 2P, Disco Women’s 30 Reg, and Switchback. My setup kept me warm at night in Oregon’s damp forests and chilly high deserts. If checked baggage limits weren’t in play, though, I would go for an Aurora Highrise 4P, Roamer, Jazz Luxury… and a Stargaze!

  • Dagger OSMO™ 2P Ultralight Backpacking Tent: 

    Our classic tent got a serious upgrade with our new OSMO fabric, a composite weave made from 100% recycled fabric.
  • Disco™ Women’s 30 Regular Down Sleeping Bag: 

    As a side sleeper, I love Disco’s Spoon™ shape. This bag is a staple in my gear closet, and I can rest easy knowing the insulation is 100% Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified.
  • Switchback™ Ultralight Sleeping Pad: 

    Lightweight and easy to fit in a suitcase, the Switchback is great for no-fuss travel, and can double as a camp seat, yoga mat, and foam-rolling station.
  • Aurora Highrise™ 4P Camping Tent: 

    This roomy shelter offers a great basecamp. Steep side walls allow standing room, a total luxury when getting ready for a day outside.
  • Roamer™ Self-Inflating Mattress: 

    Roamer proves that camping doesn’t have to be roughing it. A glorified bed, I used this self-inflating foam pad for three weeks this summer while moving into a new house. I had trouble transitioning from the floor.
  • Jazz™ Double Luxury Synthetic Sleeping Bag: 

    Extra cozy and easy to use, the Jazz pairs perfectly with Roamer and has a built-in soft sheet. Our updated version offers a 30-degree temperature rating, which would have been perfect for my time in Oregon.
  • Stargaze™ Recliner Luxury Chair: 

    My go-to campfire buddy, the Stargaze is always the talk of the party. Nothing beats swinging and reclining under a night sky.

Theresa Conn is NEMO’s Director of Sustainability. Along with hiking, she loves playing piano and the fiddle.