Get happy, campers.

Get happy, campers.

It’s officially summer today. If you haven’t poked your head outside yet this year; the question is: why not? The weather has been begging you to get outside and explore. With less of the usual late spring drizzle, feels like it  could be the best camping summer ever. For those of us who grew up camping, outdoor adventuring is practically second nature, but if you didn’t grow up in a camping family it can be hard to know where to start. With that in mind, here are a few suggested campsites that are just a short drive from Portland with varying levels of comfort to get even the novice camper back to nature.

Drive a little more than two hours northeast of Portland, and nestled in the foothills of Mt. Adams you’ll discover a magical place called Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Within it’s boundaries you’ll find old growth forests, high mountain meadows and more than a few campgrounds. Named after Gifford Pinchot, a conservationist who first opposed the government oversight of public lands until he witnessed the clear cutting methods employed by the timber industry in the Northwest. After that Pinchot became dedicated to saving trees and when you visit the forest you’ll see that his efforts have certainly paid off. For those who crave the wild and who aren’t afraid to rough it, Paradise Creek camp site offers few amenities, but is long on natural beauty, peace and solitude. There’s also fishing in the creek, and nearby hiking trails to keep you occupied.

Recreational opportunities abound at Lost Lake Resort located south of Hood River in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Although the bathroom options are still primitive, this campground offers rustic cabins with linens for those who aren’t ready to invest in camping gear, but the star attraction here is the lake. When the weather heats up, this is the perfect place to cool down in pristine mountain water. It’s an impressive expanse of a lake with about 290 square acres of water that gets up to 167 feet deep. You can bring your own boat, or rent a canoe, rowboat, kayak, pedal boat or paddle board by the hour to explore and get some exercise. Anglers will find the lake home to brook, rainbow, brown and Kokanee trout. With no less than seven hiking trails, there’s more than enough to keep even the most adventurous camper busy.

A bit closer to Portland, nestled in heart of the Columbia River Gorge, is the Eagle Creek Campground. Recent years have seen a sharp uptick in the popularity of this scenic area and it’s easy to see why. With it’s pristine natural setting within an hour of Portland, there are still plenty of amenities like flush toilets for those who like a little civilization in the camping experience. Unlike a lot of Columbia Gorge campgrounds, this one is located a bit farther of the freeway, so you’ll feel more like you’re off the beaten path. There’s also a spectacular hiking trail that takes hikers six miles up through breathtaking forests, past stunning waterfalls and ending up at another hidden gem: Wahtum Lake. The vast majority of the hikers, and thus the traffic are day trippers, but with no reservations, it can be difficult to secure a camping spot on a weekend, so plan to arrive on a weekday for the best chance to camp through the weekend. The campground and the hiking trail may not be best suited for families with small children, however, due to the many steep cliffs in the area.

Finally, for a more glamorous camping experience, consider the Sou’wester Lodge located on the Long Beach Penninsula in Seaview, WA. With a number of vintage travel trailers available in addition to traditional camp sites, there’s really something to fit every budget and every comfort level. Besides the close proximity to the ocean, the star attraction here are the live music and other events hosted at the Sou’wester. This summer there are a number of vintage travel trailer rallies scheduled, so check the calendar to make sure there are still openings at the campsite before you depart.

If you need a little help with your preparations, check out this collection of camping hacks to improve the quality of your outdoor adventuring. Happy camping!