Oregon campers may face more snow than usual

PORTLAND — After 28 years running Lost Lake Resort at Mount Hood, Barbara Hillmick takes a 4-foot snowdrift lingering at the start of the camping season pretty much in stride.

"We've been able to dig out the lodge, cabins and some of the campsites," said Hillmick, part-owner of the woodsy resort 25 miles southwest of Hood River. "We're open for business. Sailboats and canoes have been out on the lake the few days when the sun was out.

With Memorial Day weekend at hand, Northwesterners by the thousands traditionally head out for the season's first long weekend of camping, hiking and fishing.

Wet and cool weather seems to have gone on forever this spring, leaving snow piled high in its wake — as much as 12 feet at 5,300 feet on Mount Hood. Precipitation on the mountain has been about 14 percent higher than normal since Oct. 1, but the reality is that area camping opportunities will pretty much be the same as usual for late May.

Camping on the Oregon coast is wide open. All of Oregon's state park campgrounds are also open, except for the small one at Hilgard Junction, where its 18 primitive sites are still affected by recent high water on the Grande Ronde River.

Most campgrounds in the Mount Hood National Forest are open, except for the usual suspects — those 4,000 feet and above. Camps at Timothy Lake are open, as are those up East Lolo Pass Road following the roads washout in January.

Mount Hood forest crews are working right up to Friday to open campsites at Clear Lake, Clackamas Lake and elsewhere. The day-use area is open at Trillium Lake, the postcard setting just south of Mount Hood, but the campground is snowed in.

Campgrounds in the Gifford Pinchot and Willamette national forests, which also see high use by Portland-area campers, are in the same shape: campgrounds below 3,500 feet are snow-free, the higher ones aren't.

The Deschutes National Forest has many of Oregon's highest campgrounds, but the forests primary concessionaire reports that 51 of its 79 campgrounds will be open.

Snow still blocks the highest part of the Cascades Lakes Highway west of Bend, between Mount Bachelor and Elk Lake, as well as everything beyond Paulina Lake Lodge at Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument near La Pine.

"It has snowed, like, every day up here," said lodge owner Karen Brown, noting that the cabins and restaurant will be open but not the campground. "It snowed yesterday. Today is beautiful. We'll see what tomorrow brings."

Some higher roads won't be drivable until June (Hells Canyon and Elkhorn byways, Crater Lakes Rim Drive), or July (Steens Mountain, McKenzie Pass).

Central Oregon's McKenzie Pass Highway, which was named to the National Register of Historic Places in February, won't be welcoming motorists anytime soon.

The Oregon Department of Transportation recently sent a crew to the 5,325-foot high pass, where a swirling vortex left the highways yellow stripe exposed, right next to a 30-foot drift blocking the road.

Serious campers long ago made Memorial Day weekend reservations and have their spots locked in. Procrastinators will have to decide whether to risk finding a first-come site, or stay home. The National Weather Service's weekend forecast is for below-average temperatures, showers and snow in the mountains.

Share This Story