The Best Free 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 some awesome free campsites if you’re willing to drive about 30 to 45 minutes inland.

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

See Also: Best Dispersed Camping in Oregon

Best Free Camping on the Oregon Coast

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

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

My Favorite Free Campsites on the Oregon Coast

Start your search for the best free camping near the Oregon Coast with my top five picks below.

But, remember, there are plenty of other dispersed camping options if you do your own research or just poke around a little in person.

Tillamook State Forest

Location: 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), but many others that 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 spots listed online – there are hundreds of under-the-radar campsites here. Look around on Google Maps satellite view for promising potential spots. And give yourself plenty of time to explore in person and you’re sure to find something truly special.

Pro Tips:

Tillamook State Forest is largely a mishmash of winding logging roads. It’s easy to get turned around. So, pay close attention and make sure you have a map (paper or offline). Don’t be afraid to scout ahead on foot to get a better lay of the land before navigating any particularly rough sections in your vehicle.

What I Like:

  • Close to Portland
  • Close to Northern Oregon Coast
  • Some Sites with Sweeping Views
  • Lots of Sites Along Creeks
  • Private and Secluded

What I Dislike:

  • Rough Roads
  • Lots of Clear-Cut Areas

Who Tillamook State Forest is Best for:

Tillamook State Forest is perfect for those who want to camp close to Nehalem, Tillamook, Cannon Beach, and other coastal towns in the area. It’s close to Portland too. Camping here is best for those willing to wander around for an hour or two to find the best dispersed campsite.

How Long Can You Stay:

You can dispersed camp in Tillamook State Forest for up to 14 days at a time.

For More Info:

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

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

Elk River Road

Location: Near Port Orford

Elk River Road is home to some of the best 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, somewhat private, and 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 the two I’ve visited myself.

Elk River Road is windy with the occasional pothole (yet paved) and most of the dispersed campsites are somewhat small. When I last 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.

Please make sure to pick up your trash (and properly dispose of human waste!). Almost all public lands have a major trash problem nowadays, but Elk River seems particularly bad.

Pro Tips:

Black bears are common here. So, practice good bear awareness. The first mile or two of dispersed campsites are high above the river on steep cliffs. Drive in a few miles for campsites right on the river with safer river access and the best swimming holes. 

What I Like:

  • Beautiful River Views
  • Great Swimming Holes
  • Quick Drive to Oregon Coast
  • Several Free Developed Campgrounds
  • Quiet, Serene, Shady Forest

What I Dislike:

  • Lots of Trash
  • Something of a Local Party Spot

Who Elk River Road is Best for:

Elk River Road is perfect for those looking for free camping on the southern Oregon Coast. Depending on where you set up camp, it takes just 30 minutes to 45 minutes to drive to Port Orford. This area is best suited for tent, van, and vehicle camping. Small RVs and trailers should be fine, but plan to stick to the free developed campgrounds or the roadside pullouts.

How Long Can You Stay:

You can dispersed camp in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest for up to 14 days at a time.

For More Info:

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

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

Wildhorse Meadow

Location: Near Gold Beach

It’s a bit of a stretch to say that Wildhorse Meadow is on the Oregon Coast. But that doesn’t mean this free campground isn’t worth a visit if you’re looking for free camping near Gold Beach.

Although it’s less than 25 miles from the coast, the drive into this campground consists of navigating narrow, winding, and hilly Forest Service roads. Depending on road conditions, you’re looking at driving for a little over an hour from Gold Beach.

The trade-off is privacy. Wildhorse Meadow Dispersed Camping doesn’t get much traffic, even during the summer months. Of course, the campground’s limited campsites (just three total) also helps keep things peaceful.

In addition to the free campground (managed by Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest), the surrounding area is chock full of dispersed campsites. Make the trek and you’ll be greeted with scenic views, a peaceful forested setting, and very dark night skies – perfect for stargazing.

Because of the unpaved (and often rough) access road, Wildhorse Meadow is best suited for vehicle or tent campers. It’s possible for small RVs and trailers to make the drive, although it’s not recommended, especially in the winter months when the road is often impassable by all but the most off-road capable vehicles.

Pro Tips:

Don’t limit your search for a campsite solely to Wildhorse Meadow. In addition to dispersed camping, there are several other free primitive campgrounds in surrounding Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. These include Elko Dispersed Camping, Grassy Flats Dispersed Campsites, and Tucker Flat.

What I Like:

  • Lightly Used
  • Peaceful and Private
  • Nearby Scenic Viewpoints
  • Very Dark Night Skies
  • Close to Gold Beach

What I Don’t Like:

  • Rough Access Roads
  • Roads Impassable in Winter

Who Wildhorse Meadow is Best for:

I recommend RVs and trailers, even small ones, avoid this area. Wildhorse Meadow is best for van, vehicle, and tent camping. Neither 4WD or high-clearance is required to access this dispersed camping area in the summer, although the road is often very rough and blocked by downed trees in the winter. 

How Long Can You Stay:

You can dispersed camp in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest for up to 14 days at a time.

For More Info:

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

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

Smith River Falls Campground

Location: 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.

Pro Tips:

Smith River Falls Campground is an awesome Oregon Coast free campground – but know that there’s a ton of additional camping nearby. In addition to countless dispersed campsites just off Smith River Road, take the time to check out nearby Vincent Creek Campground and Fawn Creek Campground, both free BLM campgrounds.

What I Like:

  • Close to River
  • Plenty of Shade
  • Relatively Private Sites
  • One Mile to Smith River Falls
  • Camp Hosts in Summer

What I Don’t Like:

  • No Cell Service
  • Busy on Summer Holidays/Weekends

Who Smith River Falls Campground is Best for:

Smith River Falls Campground is perfect for families. Easy access to Smith River plus the short drive to Smith River Falls just one mile away makes it a perfect summertime swimming destination. Only stay here if you don’t mind a social campground environment – all ten sites are usually full. For more privacy, look at nearby dispersed campsites instead.

How Long Can You Stay:

You can camp at Smith River Falls Campground for up to 14 days.

More Info:

Smith River Falls Campground is part of the Bureau of Land Management.

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

Mount Hebo

Location: Near Hebo

The area near Mount Hebo is home to some of the best free dispersed camping on the Oregon Coast.

Located roughly midway between Lincoln City and Tillamook just off Highway 101, Mount Hebo is part of the Siuslaw National Forest which boasts numerous dispersed camping opportunities.

My favorite campsites are those located just off of Forest Road 14 (Mount Hebo Road) and various side roads on your way up to the Mount Hebo View Point. From the view point, you can see the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.

The unpaved road is somewhat rough (mostly just potholed), although just about any passenger vehicle can make the drive in dry weather conditions. I advise against taking RVs and trailers here (except for very small tear-drop style trailers) because of the narrow roads, lack of turn-around spots, and smallish campsites.

The nearby South Lake Dispersed Area is also worth a look, especially if you prefer a lakeside campsite. It’s home to great fishing. Non-motorized boats are also allowed.

Pro Tips:

The Mount Hebo area is open for dispersed camping year-round, but the access roads, including Hebo Lake Road, can be all but impassable in the winter, even with 4WD. If fishing is your thing, South Lake is probably your best bet (the lake is stocked annually), although I personally prefer the pull-outs along Mount Hebo Road (I’m not usually fishing).

What I Like:

  • Very Secluded
  • Beautiful Views from View Point
  • Lots of Campsites to Choose from
  • Convenient to Highway 101
  • Good Fishing Nearby

What I Don’t Like:

  • Hard to Find a Level Spot
  • Gets Very Busy on Summer Weekends

Who the Mount Hebo Area is Best for:

Dispersed camping near Mount Hebo is great for anyone in a passenger vehicle. Although you don’t need 4WD or high-clearance to navigate the road, one or the other is certainly helpful if the road is muddy. Very small trailers are okay here, but look elsewhere if you have a big rig. The best campsites (such as those nearest the lake) get noisy and crowded on the weekends, but there’s plenty of room to spread out and find something quiet if you look around.

How Long Can You Stay:

You can dispersed camp in Siuslaw National Forest for up to 14 days.

More Info:

Mount Hebo is part of Siuslaw National Forest.

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

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. 

Our how-to guide to finding free campsites will help you find even more great overnight camping options for your Oregon Coast trip.

Blue Heron French Cheese

Update: Harvest Hosts Members Only

Blue Heron French Cheese used to be one of my favorite places for free camping on the Oregon Coast.

Up until 2018 or 2019 (I’m not certain exactly when the changes were made), this small family-owned store in Tillamook offered free parking lot camping for RVs, trailers, and vans.

Unfortunately, Blue Heron French Cheese now requires a Harvest Hosts membership ($99 per year for the basic plan as of 2022).

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 it’s not really the best bet for most other campers.

Blue Heron French Cheese is conveniently located just outside of Tillamook. Camping is allowed in the back parking lot and in the adjacent field. Although it’s near the highway, 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.

Occasionally, Blue Heron French Cheese does let non-Harvest Hosts members stay for a single night – but definitely don’t count on it.

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.

I’m not very well-versed with casino camping on the Oregon Coast. Next time I make the drive, I plan to look more closely into this type of free camping and will update this post accordingly.

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. Most 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

Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast 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 vitally important to treat our public lands with the utmost respect so they remain open and available to all.

Most importantly, pack out all of your trash (including food waste), properly dispose of human waste (I like to use the Luggable Loo, but the cat hole method also works well), respect any closed areas, and don’t overstay stay limits.

Double check the dispersed camping rules for the specific area you plan to visit. For example, Tillamook State Forest has different dispersed camping rules than Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

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.

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 for dispersed camping, is now day-use only.

But, even though free beach camping is likely out of the picture (unless you choose to brave a highway pull-out or find a very secluded stretch of beach to pitch a tent), there are still several free campsites to choose from that are located 30 to 45 minutes from the coast.

If you have any more questions on how to find dispersed campsites near the Oregon Coast, please shoot me a line:

Related Post: Best Apps for Dispersed Camping