The Best Free Dispersed Campsites on the Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast is home to some of the most scenic camping in the United States.

But, while paid camping at developed campgrounds is readily abundant, free dispersed camping is in surprisingly short supply.

Although there is no longer any free beach camping (that I know about, at least), there are a ton of awesome free dispersed campsites if you’re willing to drive 30 to 45 minutes inland.

Here’s where to go dispersed camping on the Oregon Coast on your next trip.

Related Post: The Best Dispersed Camping in Oregon

Please always follow the Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping, especially packing out all of your trash, including human waste.

Best Free Camping on the Oregon Coast

Jump to the free campsite you want to learn more about:

Or, use our Oregon Coast dispersed camping map to browse the area’s best free campsites.

My Favorite Free Campsites on the Oregon Coast

These are my five favorite free campsites on the Oregon Coast. However, there are a ton of other dispersed camping options available if you give yourself plenty of time to explore in person.

Tillamook State Forest

Near Cannon Beach

Peace and quiet abounds when dispersed camping in Tillamook State Forest.

Despite the proximity to both the Oregon Coast as well as Portland, it’s easy to find a completely private campsite here.

There’s a mixture of relatively flat, gravel access roads as well as others that are very steep, narrow, and rough. There are campsites accessible by all vehicles (including smaller RVs and trailers) while others require high-clearance and/or 4WD.

Look for dispersed campsites around Cook Creek near Mohler, off Highway 53 near Coal Creek and Cole Mountain Ridge, west of Timber along Wheeler Road, and off Highway 6 near Jordan Creek and Lyda Camp OHV Area.

But don’t limit yourself to just these areas and others listed online – there are hundreds of under-the-radar campsites here if you spend time exploring in person.

Just know that most of the roads here are winding, unpaved logging roads – many unnamed. It’s super easy to get lost if you’re not paying close attention. So, make sure to bring a map (paper or downloaded for offline use).

Tillamook State Forest is perfect for those looking to camp near Nehalem, Tillamook, Cannon Beach, and other towns along the North Oregon Coast.

More Info:

Tillamook State Forest is managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Dispersed camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Tillamook Forest Center: (503) 815-6800

GPS: 45.863917, -123.758333

Elk River Road (Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest)

Near Port Orford

Elk River Road is home to my favorite free camping on the Southern Oregon Coast.

Located in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Elk River is dotted with an abundance of dispersed campsites. Most are little more than pull-offs, just off the main road, but a few are large and somewhat private. A handful even have river access.

Dispersed camping starts just after the Elk River Salmon Hatchery on Elk River Road (County Road 208). You’ll notice campsites and pullouts almost immediately, but I personally prefer to drive in several miles before setting up camp.

There are also several small free first-come, first-served developed campgrounds along Elk River. Sunshine Bar Campground and Butler Bar Campground are two I’ve visited myself.

Elk River Road is paved but it’s very windy with the occasional large pothole. Most of the dispersed campsites are somewhat small. Last time I visited, there were several minor rockslides partially blocking the road. I don’t recommend this area for big rigs, although smaller RVs and trailers should be fine.

It takes just 30 to 45 minutes to drive to Port Orford, depending on which campsite you stay in.

More Info:

Elk River Road is part of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Dispersed camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Powers Ranger District: (541) 439-6200

GPS: 42.717083, -124.356417

Wildhorse Meadow (Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest)

Near Gold Beach

Wildhorse Meadow is an excellent spot for free camping near Gold Beach.

Although it’s less than 25 miles from the coast, the drive into this designated dispersed camping area consists of navigating miles of steep, winding, and narrow unpaved roads. You’re looking at about an hour of driving time from Gold Beach.

But making the trek is well worth it if you value privacy. Wildhorse Meadow gets very little traffic, even during the summer months. The busiest time of year is during the fall hunting season.

There are just three campsites at Wildhorse Meadow itself. Each has a picnic table and a fire pit. But there are tons of dispersed campsites in the surrounding Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, including Grassy Flats Dispersed Campsites.

Because of the unpaved and often rough access roads, Wildhorse Meadow is best left for normal passenger vehicles. Don’t bring anything but the smallest RV or trailer here. High-clearance is helpful but not required.

More Info:

Wildhorse Meadow is part of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Dispersed camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Gold Beach Ranger District: (541) 247-3600

GPS: 42.461667, -124.162583

Smith River Falls Campground (BLM Land)

Near Reedsport

Smith River Road, which starts just east of Reedsport, is lined with several free campgrounds, including Smith River Falls Campground.

Just a mile down the road from Smith River Falls, this small BLM campground has 10 first-come, first-served campsites. The campground is typically open from Memorial Day until the end of September.

It takes roughly an hour to reach Smith River Falls from Reedsport. The cascading waterfalls are a very popular swimming hole in the summer. Although the campground itself doesn’t have access to the falls, it does have easy river access for swimming as well as a boat launch.

The campground is a bit of a mission to reach thanks to relatively steep, winding, sometimes gravel roads (albeit usually very well-maintained), but all vehicles, including RVs and trailers, should be able to make the drive. But the tight campground roads themselves and the smallish campsites limit camping to rigs under about 30 feet long.

Smith River Falls Campground is usually relatively peaceful, even when full, but is known as something of a local party spot on summer holidays and weekends. Visit midweek if you prefer quiet.

Nearby Vincent Creek Campground and Fawn Creek Campground are two additional free BLM campgrounds if Smith River Falls Campground is full.

More Info:

Smith River Falls is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Free camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Coos Bay District Office: (541) 756-0100

GPS: 43.797028, -123.811778

Mount Hebo (Siuslaw National Forest)

Near Hebo

Mount Hebo is located roughly midway between Lincoln City and Tillamook just off Highway 101.

It’s part of Siuslaw National Forest which is chock full of dispersed campsites. My favorites are those just off Forest Road 14 and its various side roads as you make your way up to the Mount Hebo View Point. You can actually see all the way to the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.

This unpaved road is somewhat rough (mostly just potholed), but just about any passenger vehicle can make the drive in dry weather. I don’t recommend taking RVs or trailers here because of the narrow roads, lack of turn-around spots, and smallish campsites.

4WD and high-clearance aren’t necessary in dry weather. But, if you plan to camp here in spring or fall, they’re certainly very helpful.

South Lake Dispersed Area is another free campsite in the Mount Hebo area that’s worth checking out.

More Info:

Mount Hebo is part of Siuslaw National Forest.

Dispersed camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Hebo Ranger District: (503) 392-5100

GPS: 45.221861, -123.727944

Other Places for Free Camping on the Oregon Coast

The five free campsites outlined above are the best of the best when it comes to camping for free near the Oregon Coast – in a forested, campground-like setting.

But there are several additional options for free overnight parking for camping if you simply want somewhere to legally sleep inside your van or RV for the night. 

Blue Heron French Cheese

Blue Heron French Cheese has long been one of my favorite places for free camping on the Oregon Coast.

Although a Harvest Host membership ($99 per year) is technically required to camp here, non-members are almost always welcomed to stay for one night, as long as there are spots left.

Signing up with Harvest Hosts is a great idea for full-time RVers who want to boondock at farms, wineries, and breweries across the country – but, in my opinion, it’s not really worth it for most casual campers.

Blue Heron French Cheese is conveniently located just outside of Tillamook. Campers are directed towards the back parking lot and the adjacent field. Although it’s very close to Highway 101, it’s pretty quiet here at night.

Inside is a cheese and wine bar with a deli plus ice cream and chocolate for sale. Grab coffee or espresso in the mornings. Goats and other farm animals are fun for children to feed. Do note there is a slight manure smell here due to the surrounding farmland.

I believe that camping is restricted to self-contained vehicles only. This means RVs, trailers, and camper vans with onboard toilets. Tent camping is no longer allowed.

Make sure to register when you arrive. Last time I was here, camping was limited to 2 nights.

Oregon Coast Casino Camping

Casino camping is another option for free camping on the Oregon Coast. Here are three options to look into:

  • Lucky 7 Casino – Just a few minutes south of the Oregon border, the Lucky 7 Casino in Smith River, California offers free parking lot camping (for up to three nights) just off Highway 101.
  • Spirit Mountain Casino – Located in Grande Ronde, Spirit Mountain Casino is a great place for free RV boondocking (for up to three nights) just 30 minutes from Lincoln City.
  • Three Rivers Casino – Perhaps the best place for casino camping on the Oregon Coast, Three Rivers Casino in Florence welcomes RV boondockers to camp for up to four nights for free.

Learn more about casino camping.

Roadside Overnight Parking on Highway 101

Highway 101 down the Oregon Coast has several large roadside pull-outs without “No Overnight Parking” signs.

I personally avoid this type of “camping” as I usually don’t feel very safe sleeping in my vehicle alongside a busy highway. And then there’s road noise and the slight chance the police might kick you out despite the lack of “No Overnight Parking” signs.

If you do decide to go this route, iOverlander has dozens of user reviews for pull-outs along the Oregon Coast. Many are recently updated.

However, these listed spots quickly become overly popular. Legal camping at them is often short-lived and quickly outlawed. So, just know camping, even where others have successfully stayed overnight in the past, is not guaranteed.

Thor’s Well on Cape Perpetua near Yachats is a popular place for roadside camping on the Oregon Coast. Many visitors stealth camp in the parking lot. Even if you don’t decide to stay here for the night, Thor’s Well is certainly worth a visit in and of itself.

A stretch of road just north of Gold Beach is another promising area for this type of free camping. I haven’t camped here myself, but I did notice several pull-offs without “No Camping” signs filled with RVs and vans early in the morning the last time I drove down the coast.

I can’t offer many additional specific recommendations for roadside overnight parking on Highway 101 since it’s not a type of camping I really like to do – I much prefer to spend an extra hour driving inland to a dispersed campsite in a nearby national forest.

Oregon Coast Dispersed Camping Rules and Regulations

Haystack Rock near Cannon Beach, Oregon at sunset

Always make sure to follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping on the Oregon Coast – or anywhere else, for that matter.

Because dispersed camping is more popular than ever before, it’s of utmost importance to treat our public lands with respect so they remain open and available to all.

Most importantly, pack out all of your trash, properly dispose of human waste (pack it out or bury in a cat hole), and stay in previously-used campsites whenever possible.

Contact the nearest ranger station for the most up-to-date information about current rules (including any fire restrictions) as well as current road conditions.

Related Post: The Best Dispersed Camping Apps

Have Fun Dispersed Camping on the Oregon Coast!

Unfortunately, free beach camping on the Oregon Coast is seemingly a thing of the past.

For example, the popular Bastendorff Beach near Coos Bay, once home to a tiny speck of BLM land open for dispersed camping, is now day-use only.

But, even though free beach camping is out of the picture, there are still a ton of free dispersed campsites just 30 to 45 minutes from the Oregon Coast.

More Help: jake@campnado.com

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Post written by Jake Heller, the founder of Campnado. Read all Jake's posts. Or reach out to him directly: jake@campnado.com

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ReaderX
1 month ago

Thanks for sharing your tips. While camping along the 101 highway near Gold Beach, OR definitely offered sunset/sunrise appeal, we were looking to stay for longer than a single overnight and therefore opted to camp 10 minutes inland along the North Chetco River Rd (which becomes a Forest Service road) near Brookings, OR.