When you pull into your spot at the cabin village in L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, there's one thing you'll notice immediately: panoramic views that sweep out toward the Oregon Coast Range.
Even if the views weren't spectacular, as one of the few parks with cabin rentals available while many remain closed due to COVID-19 and/or the winter season, it makes for an easy getaway. Though some cabins along the coast are starting to reopen, Stub Stewart is only 33 miles from Portland, offering a quick retreat for those looking to beat the pandemic-surge blues. After being holed up in our homes for months on end, a cabin stay might be just what you need to recover from…well, "cabin" fever.
Opened in 2007, the park has come a long way from its former days as a tree farm. The sprawling recreation area was the first new full-serve state park to open in Oregon since 1972, with year-round camping that includes tent sites, cabins and RV parking.
The park takes it name from lumberman Loren LaSells "Stub" Stewart, who served on the State Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee as well as the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission. Stewart was given the nickname "Stub" by his friends since he was always the shortest person in class, and for most of his life was simply known as Stub Stewart. He was also owner and president of Bohemia Lumber Company, and many of the park trails have names that reflect the area's logging history.
Set atop a forest hillside, the Mountain Dale Cabin Village is a cozy enclave with 15 cabins and all the camping-related fixings—fire pits, picnic tables, a woodsy setting—but unlike tent camping, you have a heated room with electrical outlets and lighting, as well as beds that don't require an air pump. (Just make sure to bring your own bedding or you'll be in for a chilly night.) Five of the 15 cabins are pet-friendly if you want to bring your fur baby along. Also FYI, you must book a minimum of two nights for a cabin stay.
Nearly 30 miles of trails open to hikers, bikers and horseback riders wind through second-growth forest. If you want to keep your hike within close range of the cabin village, take the trailhead for Barberchair Trail, located just down the stone steps and you can hike a short loop to Boomscooter Pond and back. At the time of this writing, there is some construction along these trails, so some parts are a bit uneven. Be prepared for muddy ground, too.
The trail network also connects you with the 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a paved path that cuts through L.L. Stub Stewart State Park for 4 miles. Certain trails are specially designed for mountain bikers as well, if that's more your thing. Another trail leads to two disc golf courses, one that's beginner-friendly and the other more advanced. You can make the trip as long or short as you like, since the trail system loops all around the park, though check the map for trails that are closed during the week for logging.
Once back at your cabin for the night, you can sit on your porch with a drink and enjoy the views. While the cabins are a step up from tent camping as far as comfort goes, there are no kitchens, televisions or bathrooms inside the cabins, though you have the option to cook outside by the fire ring. Be prepared for wet weather if staying during the rainy season—in which case you might want to have some sandwiches ready. Luckily, there's a public restroom just steps away from the cabins, so you won't be stumbling around in the dark—just be careful not to stub your toe on the parking blocks if venturing out while half asleep. As of right now, the showers are closed due to COVID restrictions.
Though modest, the cabins are a nice welcome from the chilly weather, especially after you crank up the heat. Wood-paneled interiors and vaulted ceilings make the place as cozy as ever. In keeping with the rustic lifestyle, there is no Wi-Fi, so you'll want to bring your own electronics if you're set on a late-night movie binge. Or you can just pass out.
All in all, if you're looking for a place that's far enough to feel like a proper getaway but not too far, a cabin retreat at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park is worth the trip. Just whatever you do, don't watch any horror movies set in log cabins while you're there. Especially if you anticipate making late-night bathroom trips.
GO: L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, 30380 NW Highway 47, Buxton, 503-324-0606, stateparks.oregon.gov.
Directions: From Portland, take US 26 west about 29 miles and then turn right on OR 47 north. Drive another 4 miles and make a right at the sign for L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. You'll soon pass the visitor center on your right. Drive another mile and then turn left when you see the sign for Mountain Dale Cabin Village.