Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial kickoff to summer, is quickly approaching, which means you can officially begin planning your warm-weather camping trips (if you haven’t already started booking).
Oregon Parks and Recreation is making that planning a bit easier by waiving fees for all tent, RV and horse campsites on Saturday, June 3. That happens to be State Parks Day—an occasion that has been held annually since 1998 as a way to thank Oregonians for supporting their spectacular network of natural playgrounds.
Several events are also scheduled to be held in honor of State Parks Day. Closest to Portland, you’ll find the Friends of Stub Stewart State Park hosting a fair at the 1,600-acre property of the same name just off of Highway 26 past Banks. In addition to free snacks, arts and crafts, and interpretive displays, there will also be informative booths featuring members of local fire departments, state forestry agencies and volunteer organizations.
Along the Coast, staffers will lead a hike through the Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, where you’ll learn about the area’s varied terrain (tidal marsh, forest, sand dunes and wetlands) as well as the plants and animals that call that place home. That 2.5-mile trek starts at 10 am in the parking lot off of Sandlake Road. Note that the first mile is on flat packed gravel accessible to both strollers and wheelchairs, though after that the trail is covered in sand.
While a bit farther of a drive, Smith Rock is a popular Central Oregon destination marking the occasion (it is, after all, one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon). If you’d like to help keep it beautiful and accessible, the Trail Keepers of Oregon will guide volunteers through some maintenance projects starting at 8:30 am—just be sure to bring work gloves, water and food. It also may be the last time you can cross the pedestrian bridge and access some of the most popular paths there, since the crossing will be temporarily removed for a construction project to widen it this summer.
Though if you’re looking for a labor-free way to celebrate State Parks Day in the same region, The Cove Palisades State Park is 30 minutes north of Smith Rock and will be the site of the Festival of the Land, which includes a mini farmers market, a petting zoo, kids activities and archaeology hikes.
In addition to no-cost camping, parking is also free on June 3 as is fishing on June 3 and 4.
“Oregon has one of the best state parks systems in the country,” OPRD director Lisa Sumption stated in a press release, “and it’s because you have invested in parks, cared for them and preserved them for everyone to enjoy. Thank you.”