Portland  isn’t particularly convenient for campers. If you are planning to use a campground as your base for visiting downtown Portland , you’ll be facing a lengthy commute. The good news is that within 30 miles or so of downtown, you’ll find some lovely state parks.
South of Portland, with easy access off I-5, is Champoeg State Park  (503/678-1251, www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks ), a lovely park along the Willamette River that’s also a major site in Northwest history. Campsites are in shaded groves alongside the river, and bike and hiking paths and museums make this park a worthy recreational destination. In addition to year-round tenting ($19) and RV ($24) sites, there are also yurts ($36) and rustic cabins ($39). Champoeg State Park is about 30 miles south of downtown Portland, off I-5 Exit 278. Reserve campsites at 800/452-5687 or www.reserveamerica.com .
For those who enjoy rural serenity within commuting distance of downtown, there’s camping in Milo McIver State Park (503/630-7150 or 800/551-6949, www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks , Mar.–Oct.). This retreat, set on the banks of the Collowash River five miles northwest of Estacada, is 25 miles from downtown Portland, but in spirit it seems farther away, particularly when you’re gazing at the knockout sunset view of Mount Hood . To get to the park, take I-84 east to I-205 south and follow it to the exit for Route 224/Estacada. The road forks right at the town of Carver to go 10 miles (look for Springwater Road) to the campground. There are 44 hookup sites, flush toilets, showers, firewood, and a laundry, as well as fishing for winter steelhead and late-fall salmon. Other recreation includes hiking, horse trails, and a boat ramp. Tenting fees are $18 per night.
Another camping option about 35 miles east of Portland  off I-84 is Ainsworth State Park (503/695-2301 or 800/551-6949, www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks ). Picnic tables, fire rings, flush toilets, and an RV camp enhance a prime location near the trails and waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge . Nightly rates are $17–20 on a first-come, first-served basis. You can get there via the Columbia River Highway or by taking Exit 35 off I-84 West.
East of Portland, a few miles north of I-84 on the Sandy River, is Oxbow Park (503/797-1850), operated by Metro, the Portland regional government agency. Oxbow Park is right on a bend in the river in a quiet woodsy setting, and it offers flush toilets but no showers. There’s also a strict no-dog policy. To reach Oxbow Park, take I-84 Exit 17, follow 257th Avenue to Division Street, turn east (right), and follow signs to the park. Campsites are $15, with an additional $5 per vehicle entrance fee.