McKenzie River Highway Camping and Accommodations

A bridge over the McKenzie River in Oregon.

A bridge over the McKenzie River in Oregon. Photo © Bruce Fingerhood, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Map of The Willamette Valley, Oregon

The Willamette Valley

A great place for families, including pets, and those who want to get away from the noise of the McKenzie highway is the Wayfarer Resort (46725 Goodpasture Rd., Vida, 541/896-3613, $110–325), featuring over a dozen cabins on the McKenzie and glacier-fed Marten Creek. Accommodating 1–6 people, the cabins have porches with barbecues overlooking the water, full kitchens, and lots of wood paneling. Two larger units can sleep eight and are equipped with all the amenities. Children can enjoy fishing privileges in the resort’s private trout pond while the folks play on the resort’s tennis court. All guests are welcome to supplement their menus with pickings from the Wayfarer’s organic gardens and berry patch. In the summer, advance reservations are a must for this popular retreat.

McKenzie River Inn B&B and Cabins (49164 McKenzie Hwy., Vida, 541/822-6260, $98-185) has simple B&B rooms in an attractive house and riverside cabins.

The riverside Eagle Rock Lodge (49198 McKenzie Hwy., Vida, 541/822-3630 or 888/773-4333, $130-225) is one of the more elegant places to stay along the McKenzie. The large 1947 house has five extra-comfortable rooms in the main house and three suites in the carriage house; beautiful gardens and places to lounge outside surround the buildings. Guests have the option of ordering dinner from the lodge’s personal chef ($40), which is particularly nice since there aren’t many restaurants in the area. The lodge sponsors a Wooden Boat Festival at the start of fishing season in late April; new and historic drift boats are displayed.

Heaven’s Gate Cottages (50055 McKenzie Hwy., Vida, 541/896-3855, $115–130) offers housekeeping cabins right on the McKenzie (and the highway); the cabins are sandwiched between the highway and the river, the unspoiled riverside view more than compensates for the traffic (which drops off considerably by nightfall). One cabin is right over a good fishing hole, and night lights illuminate the rapids for your contemplation. These cabins may be old, small, and semirustic, but their riverside location helps overcome a multitude of issues. Note: although the official address for Heaven’s Gate is in Vida, the cabins are much closer to Blue River.

The former Blue River ranger station, which sits above the highway away from the river, has been repurposed as the lodge for the McKenzie River Mountain Resort (51668 Blue River Dr., Blue River, 541/822-6272, $129–249); vacation cabins used to house the rangers. This is a popular base for mountain bikers riding the McKenzie River Trail; the resort offers a shuttle service. It’s common for groups to rent the entire lodge.

Although Harbick’s Country Inn (54791 Rte. 126, Blue River, 541/822-3805, $70–110) may not be as charming as some of the other lodgings along the McKenzie (it’s basically a motel), it’s a friendly place and within walking distance of one of the finest public golf courses in the country, Tokatee. Because of this, it’s quite popular—reserve in advance.

The Cedarwood Lodge (56535 McKenzie Hwy./Rte. 126, McKenzie Bridge, 541/822-3351, Apr.–Oct., $115–195) is tucked away in a grove of old cedars just outside the town of McKenzie Bridge. The lodge has nine vacation housekeeping cottages that feature fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms (with showers), fireplaces (wood provided), and portable barbecues. This is a sweet place to spend a couple of nights, particularly in those units with decks on the river.

The spacious and attractive cabins at Inn at the Bridge (56393 McKenzie Hwy., McKenzie Bridge, 541/743-2012, $199) are open year-round. Though these beautiful cabins look like they are part of the landscape, they were built in 2006 and are fully modern, with two bedrooms, full kitchen, river-rock fireplaces, two bathrooms, and a back porch overlooking the river.

Belknap Lodge and Hot Springs (59296 Belknap Springs Rd., McKenzie Bridge, 541/822-3512) offers lodge rooms, cabins, camping, and access to two hot springs swimming pools. The lodge rooms range $100–185 per couple; bathtubs are plumbed with hot springs water. The five cabins range $65–400; the least expensive are very rustic but pet-friendly. Campsites are $25–30. The main attraction on the property is Belknap Springs. The water, which contains 26 different minerals, is gently filtered piping hot into a swimming pool on the south bank of the McKenzie. The property is clean, the scenery is beautiful, and the price is right. For $7, drop-in visitors can use the lower pool for an hour; a day pass is $12 and just what the doctor ordered to ease the aching muscles from that killer hike or the ski marathon. But don’t wait too long to fill this prescription—the pool closes at 9 p.m. If you forget your towel, you can rent one.

Belknap Hot Springs also operates Camp Yale, an RV park/resort home. Located just a mile from the hot springs on Hwy. 242, the RV sites start at $25. The so-called “mountain homes” range from one to three bedrooms, all with full kitchens and bathrooms; prices start at $225–250 for six people.

Camping

The following campgrounds are under the jurisdiction of the Willamette National Forest, McKenzie Ranger District (info 541/822-3381, reservations 877/444-6777). Many are along the beautiful McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. Its prime location halfway between Eugene and Bend also helps make the area a popular vacation spot during the summer, so reservations should be made at least five days in advance. Sites at most of these campgrounds run $12–18 per night; except as noted all of the listed campgrounds have drinking water, vault toilets, and picnic tables.

Several choice campgrounds are south of the McKenzie Highway, off the Aufderheide Highway; these places are convenient to Cougar Reservoir and Terwilliger Hot Springs. Delta campground is closest to the McKenzie Highway; it’s alongside the river amid oldgrowth trees less than a mile south of the highway and about a mile north of the Aufderheide. Slide Creek campground is on the east bank of Cougar Reservoir; it’s a busy place with a boat ramp and swimming area. A few miles south of the reservoir, find French Pete and Frissell Crossing campgrounds, both are quiet spots along the South Fork of the McKenzie.

A half-mile west of McKenzie Bridge on Route 126 is the 20-site riverside McKenzie Bridge Campground, with a boat launch onto the river. East of McKenzie Bridge about 3 miles on Route 126 is Paradise Campground. Although there are 64 tent/RV (up to 40 feet) campsites, only half of the sites are in premium riverside locations. The summer trout fishing here can be very good, and the fireplace grills and wooden tables make it easy to cook and eat a fresh-caught meal. Welcome to paradise!

Olallie Campground is 11 miles east of McKenzie Bridge on Route 126 and has 17 sites. Olallie is situated on the banks of the McKenzie River; boating, fishing, and hiking are some of the nearby attractions. A couple of miles past Olallie on Route 126 is Trail Bridge Campground on the north shore of Trail Bridge Reservoir. Piped water, vault and flush toilets, and picnic tables are provided at this 26-site campground. Boat docks are close by, and the reservoir is noted for its good trout fishing. This campground is first-come, first-served and not on the reservation system; it is open June-October.

Another ideal campground for boating enthusiasts is Lake’s End on nearby Smith Reservoir. One of the few boat-in campgrounds in Oregon, this park can only be reached via a 2-mile sail across the lake. To get there, take Route 126 for 12 miles northeast of McKenzie Bridge, turn left, and follow Forest Service Road 730 two miles to the south end of the reservoir. Boat across to the north shore for camping. Be sure to take along plenty of water, because the campground does not provide any. You will find, however, picnic tables, vault toilets, and plenty of peace and quiet away from the cars and traffic of the other mainstream parks. Lake’s End is open May-September and has no fees or reservations.

On the south shore of Clear Lake, 19 miles northeast of McKenzie Bridge on Route 126, is Coldwater Cove Campground, open mid-May—mid-October. A county-run cabin resort, Clear Lake Resort (541/967-3917), is adjacent to the campground and has a store, a summer-only café, and rustic cabins ($64-117, bring cooking utensils and bedding), as well as boat docks, launches, and rowboat rentals. No powerboats are permitted on the lake. The road to the resort closes at the end of September; guests can hike in to rustic cabins during the winter.

A handful of small campgrounds dot Route 242, the old McKenzie Pass road, but none have piped water.


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Oregon.

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