Lingering Snow Has Delayed the Start of Camping Season in the Deschutes and Umpqua National Forests

You’ll need to find a low-elevation site if you plan to sleep under the stars in late May or early June.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the typical unofficial kickoff to summer camping season, however, you’ll need to stow your tent for now if you were headed to some of the state’s higher-elevation parks. Lingering snow is delaying openings across several national forests.

Today, the U.S. Forest Service announced the cancellation of all reservations at 20 campgrounds in the Deschutes National Forest through June 16. That includes several popular destinations like Elk and Lava lakes in the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, Trapper Creek in the Crescent Ranger District, and Three Creek Meadow and Whispering Pines Horse Camp in the Sisters Ranger District. Booking fees will be refunded.

Cool spring temperatures have left much of the forest under snow, particularly in the mid- to upper elevations of the Cascades. Snowpack depths along heavily trafficked routes like the Cascade Lakes Highway, which opened May 16, vary from 1 to 4 feet.

That means the Deschutes National Forest’s campground concessionaire, Vista Recreation, hasn’t been able to reach certain areas to conduct annual, preseason safety inspections, repairs and hazardous tree removal. In many cases, the roads to campgrounds are impassable, and the tent and RV sites themselves still blanketed in snow. The pack is so tall at one location, Soda Creek Campground, the street signs are still buried.

The new tentative opening date for the affected Central Oregon parks is June 17.

The Umpqua National Forest made a similar call last week, canceling overnight reservations at the Diamond Lake and Broken Arrow campgrounds for the weekend of June 4. The agency says RVs and rigs hauling trailers could not yet safely navigate to those areas, and crews have not been able to assess water systems and other amenities given the amount of snow.

You can now make a reservation for those two campgrounds for the weekend of June 10.