When it comes to camping you simply can’t beat FREE!!! But often times it is hard to find a good campsite which is close to some of the larger National Parks that is not overrun with people.
When I visited the Crater Lake area, I was well aware that finding last minute accommodations was difficult to impossible. Hotels in the area charge high premiums and depending on when you visit the campground is typically booked well in advance or even closed due to weather. It just so happened that I arrived late in the season, campground was already closed and I was wondering just what else would be out there for me as a tent/car camper.
I found a small forest road, FR960 and took my chances driving down a few hundred yards before realizing that there were a few established campaigns for dispersed camping. My signal with AT&T was sparse so finding this site was strictly by chance (the Dyrt hadn’t yet released their offline PRO Version just yet).
Driving down the road it was gravel and had a few small ruts here and there but nothing so serious I couldn’t make it down the path taking it at a slower pace. I discovered a small pull out right at the beginning of the roadway which looked to be about the size of a small RV, very level and established with a fire ring. As I continued onward a small campground road spurred off to the right with what looked to be several sites alongside it as well. I opted to keep going as there were already a couple people there and the beauty of forest camping is that you don’t have to be right on top of your neighbors unless you want to.
Further down the road pull offs to both the right and left with spaces perfect for large rigs and smaller ones as well. The one on the left seemed to be calling my name as I noticed it was almost a cove of trees which would serve as a great protectant and blockade to the crisp night winds which I knew were coming this time of year. I settled in and explored the remainder of the camp on foot including a small climb which went to a few spaces with amazing views of the peaks above but looked pretty exposed due to new growth trees and low laying shrubs being the only vegetation. Sure this looked beautiful but I knew it would be cold!!
After settling in for the night in my site I was able to cook dinner on my camp stove and cozy down. Due to the winds getting a bit high I was a little hesitant to use the established fire ring because this area in particular is very prone to forest fires, something which can be seen quickly driving through camp with residual charring and many new growth trees in place of old forest.
By dawn, ice lined my windows of my car and snow capped the distant peak, the one which I would have been camping by had I have stayed up at the higher elevation campsite. But there was a sense of quiet which is unmatched by the commercial campgrounds in the area where you will find slamming doors and the sound of people moving around to get their day started. Though many were nestled into the campsites in various cubbies and enjoying their time at the forest camp, the feeling of solitude was still abundant.
There were no frills with this campground other than the location itself. No restrooms, no running water, nothing!! You as a camper have to plan if you are visiting this location and be able to be off grid safely and responsibly. If you are choosing to stay here remember the Leave No Trace principles and make sure you fully extinguish your fires.
The campground itself is only a few miles away from the northern most entry of Crater Lake. No reservations are accepted and no supplies are available without driving in to the neighboring communities of Crescent or Chemult.
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