Featuring 44 miles of gorgeous forested shoreline, numerous picnic areas, and peaceful surroundings, Hills Creek Lake is an excellent choice for a lakeside RV holiday. Located within Lane County and around 45 miles from Eugene, Hills Creek Lake is an impoundment on the Middle Fork Willamette River that was originally built by the U.S Corps of Engineers in 1961 for flood control purposes.
The lake has a total surface area of 2,735 acres, making it an excellent spot for water lovers looking for a wide-open lake to enjoy some recreational activities, such as boating, swimming, fishing, and waterskiing. Thanks to the location of the lake within the Willamette National Forest, you will also have no shortage of fun once you are off the lake. There are so many picnic areas, hiking trails, nature viewing, and winter recreational opportunities that you would have to spend months in the area to be able to complete them all. Birding is particularly popular as there is a section of the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail that is located in the area surrounding the lake.
While there are dozens of campgrounds within the Willamette National Forest (since it spans over one million acres), there are two great campgrounds right near Hills Creek Lake that you should check out. The largest of the two is the Packard Creek Campground, with 37 sites to choose from. If you want to get to a more private campground, there is a 21 site area known as the Sand Prairie Campground that could be more suited to your needs. Peak season at Hills Creek Lake is from May until September.
Getting to and from Hills Creek Lake is fairly straightforward. However, you should be aware that you will be in an area that is a decent length drive from civilization. There is only one way to get to the lake that is suitable for RV use, and it can be found by taking the Willamette Highway and turning off at Hills Creek Road.
If you are considering getting any supplies before your trip, we recommend that you plan ahead as there are limited places to stop once you get past Eugene. Some of the options include Oakridge (around 15 miles away), Lowell (around 30 miles away), and Pleasant Hill (around 38 miles away). The best place by far to stop would be in Eugene, which is the closest city to Hills Creek Lake at 50.5 miles away.
The roads in and around the lake are kept in great condition by the local county and the U.S Corps of Engineers. There are no obvious hazards that could damage your RV, but take caution when entering and exiting the campgrounds as these are the main culprits for any small incidents. During the wintertime, expect the roads to be very snowy.
There are plenty of parking options around the lake.
Unfortunately there are no public transport options that will take you to Hills Creek Lake.
The Packard Creek Campground is a great choice for RV lovers wanting to stay right near the lake and who want to enjoy all that the area has to offer. The campground is very family-friendly and has a total of 37 sites that you can choose to call home during your visit. The campground is on a flat area near the lake and has sites that are suitable for both RVs and tents.
All of the campsites at Packard Creek Campground are primitive, so don't expect any modern luxuries. Despite this, there are some amenities that you can make the most of, including a fire pit and picnic shelter at every site, water collection points, toilets, a swimming area, and boat ramp. Some sites even have individual boat docks, which is a rarity for government-owned campgrounds.
During the peak season between mid-May and mid-September, there are 14 reservable sites available for you to choose from. Please watch out for poison Oak as they are known to exist in this area.
The Sand Prairie Campground is more suited to those looking for a quieter camping experience in comparison to the Packard Creek Campground. Here you will find 21 RV friendly sites within one single loop that are all primitive and have no hookups available.
This campground also features fewer amenities than Packard Creek, so you can expect a more rustic camping experience. You will have to bring in your own water as there are no collection points available, but there are trash cans for your convenience. Pets are allowed, but they must be leashed at all times.
All sites within the Sand Prairie Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you want to stay here we recommend that you arrive early in the day to guarantee your camping site.
Swimming is such a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the summer months, and if you are considering swimming at Hills Creek Lake you should head to the Packard Creek campground. This area is a great spot to do some swimming as there is a marked swimming area that you can use and not have to worry about boats coming too close to you. There are no lifeguards on duty at the swimming area, so remember to swim to your abilities.
It should be no surprise that boating is one of the most popular recreational activities for visitors to Hills Creek Lake. There are multiple boat ramps available for you to use, and there are no major boating restrictions, so if you are a speed demon, you can get out and have some fun. Some of the popular boating activities include waterskiing, canoeing, and fishing. There are no rentals available from the lake, so remember to bring your own or rent one privately if you want to get out on the lake and have some fun.
You really are spoilt for choice when visiting Hills Creek Lake when it comes to picnic options. Since the lake is so large, many small parks and day-use areas are perfect for a nice relaxing picnic. If you want to stay central, then we recommend the Packard camping area as there are some additional picnic facilities there along with the campsites. Another great spot to check out is the Clark Picnic Area that is equipped with many tables and toilets.
Hills Creek Lake is the place to be if you are an angler as it has some of the best fishing areas in Oregon. The lake is especially known for being a great place to catch rainbow trout, but other fish call the lake home too, including crappie, chinook Salmon, and largemouth bass. Be sure to remember to bring your own fishing gear and license, so you are legally good to go and try to catch the big one.
There are plenty of hiking trails available near the lake for you to explore whether you are a beginner or seasoned veteran of hiking. The United States Forest Service and they are responsible for the trails since the lake is within the Willamette National Forest, and they are kept in very good condition. The Lower Larson Creek Trailhead is a great place for the advanced hikers to check out as it connects up with many miles of trails within the forest.
This area of Oregon is a haven for birds of all shapes and sizes. If you are lucky, you will get to see some of these beautiful creatures out in the wild when birding at Hills Creek Lake. The area is known in particular for being an awesome spot to view interesting birds such as goldeneyes, loons, bald eagles, and grebes. You will also get the chance to view some of the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail. This is a great accompaniment to any solo birding, as it is a self-guided audio tour.