Deschutes National Forest
Guide

Introduction

Fabled for its more than one million acres of scenic forestland in the heart of Oregon, Deschutes National Forest is one of the state’s natural gems. With over 9,000 feet of elevation change throughout the forest, you can experience a wide variety of different climates and terrain types.

There are five wilderness reserves contained within the park: Diamond Peak Wilderness, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, Mt. Thielsen Wilderness, Mt. Washington Wilderness and Three Sisters Wilderness. Each has its own unique ecosystem, ranging from snowy mountain peaks to serene alpine lakes. You’ll find a wide range of different plant and animal species depending on where you are in the park, including deer, elk, black bear, mink, otter, and bobcat. There are hundreds of miles of hikes in the area, as well as mountain biking and horseback riding trails. Hunting is allowed in large portions of the park as well, where you’ll find elk, deer, and black bear.

There are also three scenic byways that cut through the park, giving you hundreds of miles of beautiful drives through the area. You’ll be able to choose from 80 campgrounds while staying in the forest, depending on the type of camping that you want. Read on to learn more about three of the featured campgrounds.

RV Rentals in Deschutes National Forest

Transportation

Driving

Located in central Oregon, Deschutes National Forest is fairly easy to access from Eugene and Portland. There are many different campgrounds in the park, some of which are directly off main roads, and others that will require long drives on steep, windy roads. If you have a large rig, try to find a campground that is closer to the forest’s main roads.

If you are coming from Portland, take US-26 east to US-97, which will lead into SW Sanctuary Drive, one of the main roads cutting through Deschutes National Forest. From Eugene, you’ll take OR-126 and US-20 until you reach US-97 south, which then takes you to SW Sanctuary Drive.

If you are concerned about navigating small roads with your RV, pick one of the campgrounds that is close to Bend, the main city just east of the national forest.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Deschutes National Forest

Campsites in Deschutes National Forest

Reservations camping

Bull Bend Campground

This campground is located in the Bend/Sunriver/La Pine Area of Deschutes National Forest. It’s a fairly small campground, with just 12 non-electric sites. It’s fairly secluded, located right on the Deschutes River, making it a popular choice for RV campers who want to fish on the river. The driveways are fairly long, so it can accommodate most campervans. The campground is open May through October and can be booked online.

North Davis Creek Campground

Located in the Cascades Lake Area, this campground is a secluded spot that rarely gets much traffic. If you want a spot to birdwatch and fish undisturbed, it’s one of the best locations in the park. There is potable water in the campground, as well as vault toilets. The 14 sites don’t have hookups of any kind but do have fire pits and picnic tables. There is a boat launch just outside the campground.

Elk Lake Campground

This is a more popular campground, as it is located right on the northern shore of Elk Lake. It’s a great choice for RV campers who want to be close to water activities, such as fishing and water skiing. There are drinking water and vault toilets, although there are no hookups.

Seasonal activities in Deschutes National Forest

In-Season

Hiking

The varied terrain and huge elevation changes found in the park make for scenic and challenging hikes. There are hundreds of miles of trails in the area, taking you up to snowy mountain peaks or past the blue waters of Lake Billy Chinook. Each of the park’s five nature reserves has their own unique terrain, giving you new microclimates to explore as you cross the park.

Fishing

The park has a wide range of different fishing opportunities, giving RV anglers plenty of water to cover. Deschutes River is packed with trout and salmon in the spring, although angling is excellent year-round. Lake Billy Chinook, as the name suggests, is famous for its chinook fishing, as well as its rainbow and brown trout, large and smallmouth bass, and whitefish. You’ll need the proper licensing if you plan on fishing in Deschutes National Forest, so check with park officials if you are unsure about licenses.

Boating

Deschutes National Forest has a wide range of different water bodies, from Lake Billy Chinook to the Deschutes River. These make for a variety of water activities, including speed boating, kayaking, canoeing, and windsurfing. Although some of the lakes have motorized boat restrictions, others allow them, so you can water and jet ski. You can also kayak and canoe down the beautiful Deschutes River. There are a number of campgrounds throughout the forest that have boat launches as well as marinas, including many at Elk Lake and Lake Billy Chinook.

Off-Season

Hunting

There are over 1 million acres of forest in the park, a large portion of which are open to hunters. You’ll find abundant elk, deer, and black bear. The varied forest terrain, mixed in with alpine lakes and snowy peaks, gives you plenty of ground to cover as you track game. You’ll also have plenty of sight lines due to the elevation change.

Do note that, as a National Forest, hunting laws are strictly enforced, and you’ll need proper licenses to hunt. Black bear and elk hunts are limited to narrow seasons, so always make sure that you are in the proper season.

Mountain Biking

With over 9,000 feet of elevation change, Deschutes National Forest is a popular destination for mountain bikers. The dense forest trails give way to snowy peaks as you climb, making for rapid, exhilarating descents. There are hundreds of trails to choose from, and there is one that is perfect for mountain bikers of all experience levels. Phil’s Trail is one of the most popular choices and is one of the most sought-after trails in the Pacific Northwest.

Birdwatching

Deschutes National Forest is home to an astonishing range of bird species, making it a bird-loving RV camper’s dream destination. With so many different habitats, each of the park’s five natural reserves has its own unique bird species. In the park, you’ll be able to see American kestrel, western meadowlark, yellow-headed blackbird, and eagle.

The Forest Service has a wide range of online resources that highlight many of the birds that are found in the park, from the falcons to the waterfowl. You can also find more information by visiting the sites of Oregon’s Audubon society, many of which produce useful field guides that walk you through the birds of the area.

Find the perfect campsite.