RV campers looking for a primitive camping experience that is off the beaten path will find Hilgard Junction State Park, located in northeast Oregon, the ideal location for self-contained camping. The park is surrounded by National Forest land and runs along the Grande Ronde River. The small facility is perfect for a few nights of riverfront relaxation and solitude.
Although the park is small, there are plenty of things to see and do nearby. The park is located near the Historic Oregon Trail. In the mid-1800s, the Oregon Trail began as a 2,000-mile route that pioneers used to emigrate from Independence, Missouri to Oregon. While many settlers stopped along their journey and built homesteads in states like Wyoming and Idaho, the pioneers were often Oregon-bound. The Oregon Donation Land Act in 1850 encouraged settlers to move west and settle in the Oregon Territory, so many people set out on the long and often challenging journey to the Oregon coast. The significance of the trail is still an important part of American history, and the fate of many of the pioneers has not been forgotten. Visitors staying at Hilgard Junction State Park have opportunities to learn about the importance of the trail in and around the vicinity where the park stands today.
Campers driving on Interstate 84 near Highway 244 have access to Hilgard Junction State Park, which is located 1.3 miles south of Hilgard, Oregon. From the larger cities in Oregon, visitors can reach the park within a day. From Portland, Hilgard Junction is 252 miles east, and from Bend, the park is 280 miles northeast. Visitors coming from Boise, Idaho will have a 180-mile drive.
Campers entering the park must pay the daily camping fees at the self-pay station. There is a charge for extra vehicles.
The Hilgard Junction Campground is open during the park’s operating season. The first-come, first served facility has back-in, asphalt driveways for RV campers in self-contained rigs, and the spaces accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length. The campground is primitive with no hookups, but there are hydrants with drinking water nearby. The campground has flush toilets, and there is firewood for sale if you’d like to have a fire during your stay. Campers should pay the daily camping fee at the self-serve pay station when entering the campground. Pets and generators are allowed at this campground as long as noise is kept to a minimum during quiet hours which are from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am.
The Hilgard Junction State Park is a small park that offers solitude and family fun. Camping guests have access to the day use area, which has plenty of green grass and trees for lounging riverside. If you’d like to have a picnic lunch, the day use area has a few picnic tables for guests to eat outside while enjoying a view of the river. After your picnic, opt to play horseshoes in the park’s horseshoe pit, or if games are not for you, plan to relax and enjoy the silence and sounds of the river.
If you crave excitement, consider spending some of your camping trip floating the Grande Ronde River. The river is a popular destination for kayakers and river rafters. If you plan on floating, be aware that permits are required for private parties floating the river, and free permits are available at most of the major launch sites. Permits are self-issued and essential because they help the state gather river data. Please adhere to the Wallowa/Grande Ronde River Regulations when planning your float. If you have never floated a river before or you want to take a guided float trip, visit the Bureau of Land Management’s website for information on floating. The site also offers the list of the state-approved local outfitters and river guides, so you will know you've got a reputable float team taking you on your adventure.
The Blue Mountain Interpretive Park is a seven-mile drive from Hilgard Junction and is a location that offers day hikes along several of the area’s main interpretive trails. The trailhead gives guests access to the lower trailheads which provide a total of 3.3 miles of paved and accessible paths. Guests who want to hike the upper trails should be aware that the trails are native surface and not advisable for persons with disabilities. The interpretive site is accessible and has picnic tables, toilets, drinking water, and parking. There is a daily vehicle fee that is payable upon entry. If you are driving to this location with your RV, note that there is a 12' 9" clearance limit where Forest Road #1843 passes under the interstate to enter the park.
Although the park's Oregon Trail kiosk is not the most prolific interpretive site in the area, the posted signs offer guests information about the significance of the trail as it passed through the Hilgard Junction vicinity. The kiosk has six panels that tell about the life and the times of the people as well as the importance of the landscape in and around this section of the Oregon Trail. Even though many of the topics are informational, some anecdotal stories give a human insight to the pioneers who traversed the trail many years ago.
The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is just fifty miles away from Hilgard Junction State Park and is a perfect year-round activity for people of all ages. This must-see facility is one of the more significant historical areas along the Oregon Trail. The center provides a wealth of informational and entertaining details about the life and times of the pioneers traversing the country in search of the land in Oregon. The living history demonstrations, the multimedia presentations, and the special events are only some of the activities that guests will have the opportunity to interact with while visiting. For hours, location, and the times of the special events contact the center.
Oregon is a beautiful state, and the state’s wildlife only adds to the awe-inspiring scenery. Park guests will have no shortage of wildlife viewing opportunities. Throughout the year, the area is known for mink, beaver, and birds, and during the fall, elk and deer herds pass through the vicinity. If you are a birder, consider heading to the Bird Track Interpretive Site, located six miles away near the Bird Track Springs Campground. The interpretive trail is a favorite area for birdwatchers because the scenery invites a variety of bird species, many which are considered rare and beautiful for birders.