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Camping Virgin

Last year, we had a great thread on Family Friendly Campgrounds. Heather emails with a twist to the family camping adventure, seeking suggestions for places to rent a trailer and great places to take it:

I am a mother of a very active three year old son. My husband and I would like to attempt our first camping trip. We are far from being outdoorsy. My idea of a vacation is staying in a five star hotel with room service! But I think it would be a great getaway for our family and I would like to start some traditions on our own. Ideally, we would like to tow or drive a smallish camper somewhere not to far out of Portland. Does anyone have any suggestions of where to rent a trailer and great places to take it? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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I would suggest looking into the yurts at the state campgrounds on the coast. These things are like little bare bones hotel rooms, but with a pretty strong sense of camping. The drive is variable, depending on where ont he coast you go and whether you hit traffic.

The yurts ARE sometimes very hard to get without reserving ahead of time, though. (For some weekends, 9 months or more ahead) If you are plannign on a yearly tradition that you can plan far ahead for though, you might be the perfect candidate.

I've never had a relaxing time towing anything for a long distance, so I guess I'm biased towards somethign thats always there.

The coast is *fantastic* for very active boys. Kites, castles, water, dogs, running, etc. etc. and nothing really to hurt themselves on.

Have fun :)

I heartily agree with Chris' comment. Yurts are great if you can get a reservation.

I would also add that McIver State Park, about a 40 minute drive from Portland,is a nice camp ground if you are looking for something low key. The campground itself is quite a distance from the river- you have to drive to the day use area but it also means that there is no threat of your very active toddler running to the river's edge.
Its beautiful, peaceful, and close in (relatively speaking).

They have several VERY CLEAN bathroom facilities along the camping ground loop and running water facets at each camping lot.

We'll def. be going back!
Have fun!

I agree that investigating the "camping lite" options at Oregon State Parks is a good idea for a first-timer. In addition the Yurts, you can also find rustic cabins and even TeePees in some Oregon Parks. More info:

http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/cabins.shtml

It is definitely high season so reservations may be hard - but not impossible- to come by. Checking back frequently is definitely a good strategy.

You may also consider finding a guide service/outfitter that will take your family camping. I once treated some LA-friends who had never camped or fished to a guided horse/mule pack-trip in Montana. The outfitter took care of everything (tent set-up, cooking, etc.) we just brought day packs and fishing gear.

AND NOW, BACK TO YOUR ORIGINAL QUESTION....I don't have any experience renting a RV/Camper but Cruise America is the best-known of the rental companies:

http://www.cruiseamerica.com/

If you rent or borrow an RV, here are a few of tips:

1) Practicing "backing up," setting up and any other "making camp" maneuvers BEFORE your head out to minimize any surprises and frustrations when you arrive

2) If you rent, make sure that there is no confusion on what is/isn't included in the rental and what you need to do before returning the vehicle.

3) As for places to take a camper, most of the campgrounds mentioned in the family camping threads will accommodate RV/Campers in some sites. There are a lot of good family-friendly recommendations there.

Be sure to check detailed info on any campground you are considering beforehand. Make sure that there are sites that can accommodate an RV/Camper/Trailer (including size of the vehicle). If you want to avoid backing-up, look for "pull-through" sites.

Whatever you do, have fun!

the cabins and yurts at the state parks look great, can anyone recommend any particular parks?

We stayed in a Yurt at Beverly Beach (a few years ago in April so it was pretty empty. the scene might be different in summer since it's a big park.)

My Yurt experience was that you still have to pack the other camping stuff: sleeping bags, stove, cooler, camp chairs, etc. The only thing we didn't bring were our mats and the tent.

We got a little cabin at Umqua Lighthouse on the coast last year and had a great time. The cabins are perched above a small pond with a nice walking path around it, and you can walk from the campground to the Lighthouse. You have to drive to the beach, but that wasnt a big deal. If I remember correctly, they had 2 cabins and 2 yurts at that campground. We had a great time, and managed to get our reservation on very short notice by just calling every morning to see if there were any cancellations. The nice thing about the cabins is that you have a dry, warm place to sleep and to put the kids to bed in at night--the weekend we went was fairly rainy--but we put Anders to bed as usual and enjoyed quiet nights by the campfire.

Not to mention, super affordable--I think we only paid $35/night or something. Have fun! I highly recommend camping with kids--I have so many fond memories of camping as a kid. We were too poor to stay in hotels, so all we ever did was camp, but now that I'm a parent, I want my kids to grow up camping so they have a great appreciation for nature even if we have the means to stay in a hotel.

We just spent the day with a friend at Mt Hood Village Resort.

http://mhcrv.com/dbmhc/MHCCmnty.nsf/vwPages/RVParkRVParkHomePageWDCSCZ-5QMQ5X

Her father has her RV parked there for the summer. We had a great time. It's an hour from Portland but very scenic. The swimming pool was great and it has a workout facility and a cafe. The only negative was that you could hear Hwy 26 a little too much for my taste. If a trial run with an RV is what you are looking for, this might be your place.

Beverly Beach is beautiful.

We also like Ft. Stevens near Astoria. http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_179.php

They are about to open up a new campground (July 8th) near Banks/Vernonia on HWY 26 - LL Stub Stewart. http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_255.php

I would recommend making sure that the campsite has at least partial shade. I failed to do so the first year and a tent in the full sun mid-August can be a struggle during nap time.

Another place would be Silver Falls State Park. It's about an hour and a half from Portland and has 10 waterfalls in the area. We just returned from a camping trip there. We took our 2 & 4 yr old boys and they had a blast. They had cabins for rent, a 4 mile paved bike path and numerous hiking paths. They also have a swimming area and horses for rent. The hiking trails for the waterfalls are very manageable for little guys. Not to mention incredibly beautiful. Have fun!

Thanks for everyones suggestions! I knew the Urbanmamas would be the best resource!

I don't know anything about renting an RV, but we have a travel trailer and take it out frequently - mostly to the coast & central oregon.

A couple of helpful websites:

* Oregon State Parks that allow camping: http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/camping.shtml.

* http://www.reserveamerica.com/ to see what spots might be available at virtually every state or federal park.

There are numerous state parks on the coast - we've driven through Beverly Beach and South Beach - both look really nice. I really want to stay at Nehalem Bay or Cape Lookout SP someday.

There are also places to stay in the Gorge. This past weekend we camped near Hood River, I won't mention the park b/c I wouldn't recommend it, but Ainsworth looks really nice. Proximity to lots of hiking/waterfalls. Pretty forested and lots of pull through spots. I've heard good things about Memaloose (near The Dalles) and Lepage Park too.

Down south there is always Silver Falls SP or Detroit Lake. Champoeg too!

The Mt. Hood area has a lot of campgrounds - a lot of federal parks especially. We're taking a trip to Trillium Lake this summer. Timothy Lake is also a popular choice.

If Central Oregon isn't too far for you - there are state parks available there - La Pine, Prineville, Tumalo, Cove Palisades (we stayed at the latter over Memorial Day - a really great park with lots of water nearby!).

Good luck! I didn't think I was the outdoor type either, but ever since we got our trailer, we are constantly itching to get out and have been getting out monthly since January and have plans about every other weekend this summer. Most worthwhile purchase we've ever made for our family (kids are 4 & 2)!

Just saw this family camping event at McIver State Park:
http://www.tryonfriends.org/events/camping/index.html
-Seems perfect for the virgin camper!

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