Camping in Central Oregon

Mountain view from a tent

Whatever your preferred camping experience, you’ll find it in Central Oregon. Want to spend the night in a pristine forest, mere steps from the shore of a crystal-clear lake? You’ll find plenty of sites in the Deschutes National Forest around Bend and Sunriver. Curious about camping inside an active volcano? You can do just that within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. And if you’d rather watch the sunset and enjoy dark night skies from Central Oregon’s sweeping high desert, plenty of sites sit far from the region’s city centers.

So as you dust off your tent or refuel your RV, here’s a guide to the different kinds of camping experiences you can have around Central Oregon—along with where to enjoy them.

Camping Near Bend and Sisters

You don’t have to go far from Bend or Sisters to enjoy a scenic night under the stars. From high-desert parks to forested campgrounds, you’ll find plenty to love in the heart of Central Oregon.

Tumalo State Park: Just a 15-minute drive from downtown Bend is Tumalo State Park, occupying a parcel of partially shaded high desert along the Deschutes River. The park hosts 77 sites and seven yurts in a forest of cinnamon-hued ponderosa pine, offering easy access to a hiking trail and the park’s day-use area. Its natural beauty and close proximity to Bend makes the park a popular basecamp among summertime campers. And if hitting the trail sounds fun, whether at Tumalo State Park or elsewhere, learn more about hiking in Central Oregon.

Lava Lake Campground: Every summer, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway showcases alpine lakes, some of Central Oregon’s best-loved hiking trails, and impressive mountain views in every direction. If you’re spending some time along the highway, consider a night or two at Lava Lake Campground—which hosts about 40 sites near the shores of Lava Lake. (Fun fact: Just next door is Little Lava Lake, which forms the headwaters of the 250-mile-long Deschutes River.)

Camp Sherman Campground: You might only be about 20 minutes from the community of Sisters, but Camp Sherman Campground feels like a whole other world. Sitting along the crystal-clear Metolius River, the peaceful campground hosts 15 single sites in a shady forest and offers easy access to fly-fishing opportunities and scenic hiking trails.

Two people in a chair at a campground.

Camping Near La Pine and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument

As you head south in Central Oregon, you leave the high desert for forests of ponderosa pine and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument—home to Newberry Volcano and all manner of volcanic features. Here are a few campgrounds for making the most of your time in the scenic region of Central Oregon.

 A dispersed camping sight in the woods.

La Pine State Park: Stroll to the base of a 500-year-old ponderosa pine tree, explore more than a dozen miles of multi-use trails, watch the sunset over the slow-flowing Deschutes River, and spend the night in one of 129 campsites or 10 log cabins at LaPine State Park—just a 15-minute drive from La Pine.

Paulina Lake Campground: Sitting on the shore of Paulina Lake—in the Newberry Volcano’s still-active caldera—is the appropriately named Paulina Lake Campground. The popular campground hosts 68 sites that offer easy access to Paulina Lake and nearby attractions—including Paulina Peak, the Big Obsidian Flow, and more. (And if Paulina Lake Campground is all booked up, fear not: A handful of campgrounds sit within the Newberry caldera—including Cinder Hill Campground and East Lake Campground.)

Ready to see where else to go around the region? Learn more about outdoor recreation in Central Oregon.

Camping Near Madras and Prineville

Throughout Central Oregon, you’ll find the region’s high-desert expanse—where tumbleweeds occasionally drift onto the highway, where wide-open views of the Cascade Range await, and where dark night skies reveal constellations, shooting stars, and other celestial wonders. These campgrounds, not far from the likes of Maupin, Madras, and Prineville, each offer something unique that you won’t find anywhere else in Central Oregon.

The Cove Palisades State Park: The sprawling park sits where the Deschutes, Crooked, and Metolius rivers meet to form Lake Billy Chinook—all surrounded by cliffs of layered rock. In addition to water-based activities, The Cove Palisades State Park is popular with campers; it hosts nearly 275 sites across two campgrounds, each offering flush toilets and hot showers.

Prineville Reservoir State Park: Just 20 minutes south of Prineville, the popular park hosts 67 campsites and five log cabins on the banks of Prineville Reservoir. In 2021, Prineville Reservoir State Park was recognized for its starry night skies and named an International Dark Sky Park; naturally, stargazing is a popular pastime once you’ve put the campfire out.

Ochoco Divide Campground: As it heads east, Highway 26 leaves Central Oregon’s high desert for rolling hillsides and low-lying forests before ascending into the bucolic Ochoco Mountains. If you find yourself out that way, enjoy a quiet night or two at Ochoco Divide Campground, which hosts 25 sites in a ponderosa pine forest.

A tent next to Deschutes River.

Maupin City Park: Proof that you don’t have to head far from town for a scenic site, Maupin City Park sits in the heart of the community and hosts roughly 50 shady sites for year-round camping along the banks of the Deschutes River. Amenities include restrooms with coin-operated showers, full hookups for RV sites, and free Wi-Fi.

What to Know About Camping in Central Oregon

In a sense, your camping trip begins long before you pitch a tent or make the first s’more. Here’s what to know about how to have a fun, safe, and enjoyable camping trip in Central Oregon.

Coffee while camping.

Reservations: Most developed campgrounds in the Deschutes National Forest and on Oregon State Parks lands open their booking window roughly six months out—and continue to release sites on a rolling basis. So while you may find stray sights as your trip approaches, try to plan ahead as much as possible. And note that all cabin and yurt reservations at Oregon State Parks campgrounds must be made in advance.

First-come, first-served sites: If you’re a spur-of-the-moment traveler, good news: Oregon State Parks campsites can be booked day-of if they aren’t already reserved, and the Deschutes National Forest and Newberry National Volcanic Monument may hold some sites on a first-come, first-served basis for campers without reservations.

Campfires: Keep in mind that campfires may not be allowed at times during the summer to help prevent wildfires. Please check in with your campground host or the appropriate land manager, and respect all restrictions for the safety of yourself and others.

Dispersed camping: You’ll find dispersed campsites all over Central Oregon, offering solitude away from the region’s developed campgrounds. And while we’d encourage you to see what’s available around the region, we’d recommend first watching this video to learn about having a safe, enjoyable, and responsible experience:

Explore Nature’s Beauty

From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.