To shower or not to shower: Camping near Bend

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 27-July 4, 1996
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To shower or not to shower: Camping near Bend
Question: My wife and two sons (ages 12 and 11) are camping up the California coast. Then we're heading into central Oregon for three to four days. We are camping in a tent but like the convenience of a shower. Where would be a good place to stay in the Bend area?

Philip Hunter
Palmdale, CA
[email protected]

Mt. Bachelor is the backdrop to a
camping trip in central Oregon.

Adventure Adviser: Phil, Phil, Phil. There's nothing like a hot shower, I'll admit, but why sacrifice true, usually RV-free camping for a little running water when there are plenty of lake and riverside campsites to be had in central Oregon? Besides, a good scrub with cold, fresh water will really get you going in the morning.

Yes, the reality is that most campgrounds in the Bend area are a little on the primitive side, which is a good thing. If you've got an open mind, there are a few that might work for you.

Take Big River, on the Deshutes River in the eponymous national forest, for instance. About 20 miles southwest of Bend off U.S. 97 and County Road 42, it has 13 sites along the river, each with picnic tables and fire pits. This is a no-fee, no-reservation area, with boat launching facilities nearby. Call the Bend Ranger District at 503-388-5664 for more details.

If you're not sold on shower-less camping, there's always Lava Lake Campground on the shores of beautiful (you guessed it) Lava Lake, about 40 miles south of Bend off Cascade Lakes Highway 46. This one is plush by Oregon standards: 43 sites, vault toilets, picnic tables, showers, and--believe it or not--a coin-operated laundry. Mini-golf, however, is sadly not available. Bring your fishing rods and canoe if you've got 'em, and your camera. Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters are in the background, making it a primo spot for those inevitable family photos. They don't take reservations, but it will cost you $10 a night. The Bend Ranger District has more info.

For other suggestions, I recommend picking up a copy of The Complete Guide to Pacific Northwest Camping (Foghorn Press, $16.95). It's crammed full of about a bizillion (exaggeration alert) campgrounds, so if my ideas don't fit the bill, you're bound to find something that'll fly with the family.

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