10 Spectacular Places to Camp in the Summer


Umatilla National Forest, Ore.

If you were a kid during the 1990s, you may be familiar with the Oregon Trail computer game, an educational program that let millions of players forge their way through the historic trail. Complete with opportunities to hunt, purchase supplies and name characters after your friends, Oregon Trail helped millions of kids learn what it felt like to be on a wagon train heading west.

If you haven't been able to leave those river-fording days behind, Umatilla National Forest, a protected region spanning 1.4 million acres (566,560 hectares) in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington, might be the most nostalgic camping trip you've ever taken. In the mid-1800s, hundreds of settlers traveled through Umatilla National Forest on their way out west; in the earlier parts of the century, Lewis and Clark even spent some time exploring the region [source: Powell]. Today, the forest is protected under the multiple-use principle, which dictates that it be dedicated to "the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time" [source: Pister].

When you visit Umatilla National Forest, it's not hard to imagine what some of those uses might be: It boasts more than 715 miles (1,151 kilometers) of biking and hiking trails; rivers offering swimming, kayaking and rafting; and a lake spanning 145 acres (59 hectares) give visitors quite a variety of summer activities to choose from. Those seeking quieter pursuits can enjoy picking berries or observing osprey, elk and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep -- sure to offer some good photo ops.

With 1.4 million acres (566,560 hectares) to work with, there's a campsite in Umatilla National Forest to meet every level of camping experience. However, it's worth noting that most of these campgrounds have been developed to interfere as little as possible with the surrounding environment, which means you may have a harder time finding sites with amenities like hot water and flush toilets than you would elsewhere [source: USDA Forest Service].