Tillamook State Forest encompasses Tillamook, Clatsop, Yamhill, and Washington Counties in Oregon. The vast wonderland covers 364,000 acres of mature pines, hemlock, and red alder trees dotted with wildflowers, larkspur, and hedge nettles. You can find the exhibit from the 1933 wildfires, which includes a 40-foot tall fire tower, several buildings and ground designs, and a 250-foot long suspension bridge. These fires caused extensive damage in an area that is now referred to as the Tillamook Burn.
Some of the activities you can enjoy with family and friends include RV and tent camping, hiking, biking, OHVing, picnicking, or horseback riding. There are also dozens of ponds, lakes, and several rivers you can swim in as well as the beautiful beach on the Pacific Coastline.
If you want to do some boating, there are five different rivers and lakes you can find just off Highway 6 with boat ramps for public use. You may also be interested in catching some fish such as salmon, trout, sturgeon, and tuna in the ocean. Or try your luck landing some bass, catfish, or crappie in one of the rivers, lakes, or ponds.
From Highway 26 just west of the Pacific Highway, head to Highway 6, which is the main road going through the entire Tillamook State Forest. If you are headed to do some off-roading, Rogers Camp, Browns Camp, or Lyda Camp, are all right off Highway 6 past Glenwood. For camping or horseback riding at Stagecoach Horse Camp or Elk Creek, you will find them just a little further southeast. And for some fun at the beach, head all the way to the coast of the Pacific.
Many of the streets off the highway into these remote campgrounds are tricky, especially if you are pulling a trailer or driving a big rig. In fact, many of these back roads are barely even roads and may require some tricky maneuvering to get to your destination safely. As long as you drive slowly, you should be fine, and it is a good idea to go slow anyway so you can get some pictures of the gorgeous scenery outside your windows.
Similarly, most of the campgrounds and staging areas are little more than dirt roads that head into the woods so you will need to be extra careful when driving a large campervan or big RV. It is best to park your rig at the campsite and walk or ride a bike to wherever you want to go.
In the lush Tillamook State Forest, off Cape Lookout Road by the Pacific Coastline, you can find Cape Lookout State Park Campground. This family campground has 38 spacious campsites with full hookups, fire rings, and picnic tables. The pads range from 37 to 65 feet in length so you should have no trouble fitting any size RV or trailer in there. However, with only 38 sites, you should reserve your space far in advance so you can make sure you get the size you need. There are modern restrooms located in the middle of each campground loop, and there are three showerhouses with hot water. You can also find firewood for sale by the camp office, as well as the amphitheater, where they hold programs for kids as well as adults. The park also has an RV dump site, a recycling center, and one large picnic shelter that holds 75 people. The beach is only a short walk away, and the Jackson Creek Trail Loop is right near the campsites. Pets are welcome as long as they are leashed or otherwise restrained during your stay.
Gales Creek Campground, off Highway 6 on Plantation Road, in Gales Creek has 21 campsites open from May through September. The maximum length of the pad sites is 30 feet so most RVs will fit here. Although there are no electric or water hookups, you can get water from a hand pump and there are restrooms available as well. The campsites are pretty close to the river and there are several nice trails to explore which are open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Also, each site has a fire ring and picnic table. Pets are welcome as long as they’re leashed or otherwise restrained while you are here. This is first-come, first-served so you need to get here early if you want a good spot, especially on the weekends.
Jones Creek Campground, on Jones Creek Road off of Highway 6, has 42 campsites with plenty of space for even the largest RVs and trailers. Fourteen of these are walk-in sites, but the rest are drive-ins. There is access to some awesome hiking trails, which are open to walkers, bikers, and horseback riding. You can also find some great spots for swimming and fishing along the Wilson River by the Wilson River Trail. Each campsite has its own fire pit and picnic table. There are trash dumpsters around the area as well as several pit restrooms and a water pump. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they’re leashed or restrained during your stay. They fill up fast, especially on the weekends, and are first-come, first-served so you will need to get here early.
Located on Foss Road at milepost seven, the Nehalem Falls Campground has 20 campsites nestled in the mature spruce, cedar, and fir trees. Fourteen of the campsites are drive-ins, while four are walk-ins, one is a group campsite, and the other is typically the camp host site. These shaded sites each come with a picnic table, fire grate, and a tent or RV pad. They also offer a potable water source with a hand pump, restrooms, fishing, and hiking. They even have a swimming beach on the Nehalem River within walking distance. They fill up fast, especially on the weekends, and are first-come, first-served so you will need to get here early. Pets are also welcome but must be kept on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times.
If you like swimming, there are some fantastic beaches in the Tillamook State Forest along the Pacific Ocean. There are also dozens of lakes and ponds as well as five different rivers you can swim in. For ocean swimming, try the Cape Lookout State Park Campground, which is right on the coastline. For river swimming, check out the Jones Creek Campground or the Nehalem Falls Campground. The Tillamook State Forest Center is also a fun place to swim on the upper Wilson River. So make sure you pack the floaties and sunscreen in the rig before heading to the forest.
If you are a thrill seeker, you can find some great spots for hang gliding in and around the Tillamook State Forest. In fact, this area is so popular for hang gliding that they actually have a Hang-Gliding Festival every year in April. There are six well-known airborne spots and many more unofficial spots to take off from. If you have your own equipment, make sure you pack it in the RV before leaving. If you don’t have one, don’t worry, you can rent them from one of the hang-gliding rental places in the area.
Whether you have a four-wheeler, three-wheeler, or a dirt bike, off-roading is a popular sport in the Tillamook State Forest as well. There are tons of spots to ride the trails or the dirt and gravel roads from Timber to the Tillamook Bay. Some of the most popular spots for OHVing include Browns Camp, Hollywood, Diamond Mill, Lyda Camp, Edwards Creek, and Jordan Creek. So if you want to head over the river and through the woods on your ATV or OHV, make sure you attach that trailer to the RV before heading out.
You can fish all year long in the Tillamook State Forest in any of the rivers, lakes, or ponds, as well as the Pacific Ocean. In the fall, you can fish for Chinook salmon in the Nehalem, Nestucca, Trask, and Wilson Rivers. In the winter all the rivers are full of steelhead and check out the Sturgeon Hole on the Tillamook River. In the spring and summer, you can catch just about anything from catfish to bass and even some coastal cutthroat trout. Make sure you have your Oregon fishing license and don’t forget to pack your poles in the RV.
Glass float collecting is an annual event held all along the coastline from the Siletz Bay to Roads End. Glass floats used to be used by Japanese fishing crews before plastic floats were invented and they are now saved by collectors. While it is rare to find an original glass float, a company named "Finders Keepers" has been making and hiding 3,000 blown glass floats along the coastline every year for tourists to find. People come from all over the world to find these beautiful globes. They start placing the glass floats in October and then once a month until Memorial Day they place more. Happy hunting.
There are literally hundreds of trails, both named and unnamed in the Tillamook State Forest. Whether you want to go backpacking for days, just take a short walk, race through the forest on bikes, or take your horse for a hike, there are plenty of choices in the Tillamook. If you like a challenge, try the 4.6-mile Kings Mountain Trail or the 7.4-mile Elk Mountain Loop Trail. For an easy hike, try the half-mile University Falls Trail or 2.1-mile Triple C Trail to Gales Creek Trail Loop. There is no excuse to just sit in the campervan in the Tillamook State Forest because there are plenty of places to explore for everyone.