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Located in the very heart of the Oregon Cascades, Willamette National Forest covers the area of 1,678,031 acres. While this might seem a bit intimidating, outdoor enthusiasts love exploring the diverse terrain and deep woods of Willamette National Forest. From fascinating rock formations to hidden lakes and scenic overlooks, this place is heaven for outdoorsy people longing to unplug for a couple of days and simply enjoy nature.
This area was named after the Willamette River and was established as a national park back in 1933. There are eight designated wilderness areas within Willamette National Forest. These are created to protect the flora and fauna of this gorgeous place. Even though it sounds remote, the national forest is just a short drive away from several large cities like Eugene and Bend. When you want to embark on an adventure, search for an RV in Lane County and see some stunning views while driving through Willamette National Forest.
Willamette National Forest is an excellent hiking spot. More than 1,700 miles of trails lead in all directions. This place is abundant with scenic vistas and gorgeous nature that will take your breath away. The largest trail within this system is the 670-mile Oregon Timber Trail. However, not everyone can conquer it. Luckily, Willamette National Forest campers do have plenty of other options. Santiam Wagon Road Trail is very popular among hikers of all levels because it is shorter than other trails in Willamette National Forest and is rated moderate to easy. This trail was used by pioneers hundreds of years ago. Mountain bikers use it as well because it allows them to access some less traveled pathways through the woods.
There are three large watersheds in Willamette National Forest-McKenzie, Santiam, and Willamette. These form dozens of smaller lakes hidden all around the forest. The banks of the lakes and rivers are lined with douglas fir, cedar, and pine. The fascinating flora and fauna of this place is a joy to explore, especially when you find out there are more than 300 animal and fish species residing in this area. Birdwatchers who go motorhome camping here love observing northern bald eagles and northern spotted owls. Butterfly watchers come here in spring and summer when the wildflowers are in bloom. They frequent the Cone Peak Trail because it passes through several sections of the forest that are filled with wildflowers.
Willamette National Forest is a paradise for campers. There are around 70 campgrounds in the area, but not all of them can accommodate long vehicles. Should you want to go RV camping at Willamette National Forest, here are a couple of scenic places you could consider. Cove Creek Campground is among the largest within this state forest. It sits at an elevation of 1,600 feet, right next to Detroit Lake. Surrounded by dense woods, the campground feels private and secluded. It features basic amenities like flush toilets, showers, and trash collection. There are 63 sites, and each has a picnic table as well as a fire ring. It is open from spring to late fall. Since Detroit Lake is just a short walk away from the camp, anglers and boaters often camp here.
Big Lake Campground is a popular option as well, especially in summer. The campground is located at the top of Santiam Pass and has 49 sites for RVs. This place offers breathtaking views of Mt. Washington and the surrounding nature. Campers will have access to showers, toilets, and drinking water. Big Lake Campground is open from May to October, depending on the weather. Keep in mind there are no hookups at any of the campgrounds within Willamette National Forest. Also, make sure you have enough supplies before you arrive here because the nearest store is miles away.
Located east of the Cascade Mountains, Bend is a small community that lays on the banks of Deschutes River. It is a place where pine forests turn into the high desert. People who enjoy the great outdoors visit this place because of trails and natural wonders that surround this lovely city. The High Desert Museum is among the most popular attractions in Bend. This unusual museum spreads over 135 acres of wooded land and aims to educate the visitors about the high desert and its ecosystem. The exhibits change depending on the time of the year. For instance, summer is reserved for learning about the birds from the area, while spring is for reptiles and other wildlife. An exhibit called By Hand Through Memory is all about fish species that can be found in this part of Oregon.
This part of Oregon was shaped by the volcanic activity, and visitors may see that if they go on a short hike around Bend. The best example of this is the Pilot Butte, a lava dome located on the outskirts of the city. Three trails lead up to the scenic overlook at the top of an extinct volcano. It is an excellent spot if you want to see the panoramic view of the high desert, as well as the Cascades.
Visitors who want to grab a bite to eat or buy some souvenirs could go to the Historic Downtown Bend. The streets are lined with tiny shops and charming restaurants offering all kinds of local food. The Old Mill District is also a good place to eat, as well as to stock up on food, drinks, and snacks.
When your RV rental is running low on gas, make a stop at one of the gas stations within the city limits. Oregon is an amazing place to explore, so it is not surprising if you are not ready to leave this area just yet. Continue your trip by going east to Burns and see Malheur National Forest.