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Getting out there: The top nature sites around

Sites, activities available for all ages -


Whether pitching a tent or hooking up a recreational vehicle, many people love to camp during the summer months. Neighbored by both the Mount Hood National Forest and the Clackamas River, Estacada has no shortage of campgrounds nearby. Here are a few well-known favorites and hidden gems so you can spend a night or two in the great outdoors this summer and fall.

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Ray Shelnutt teaches his daughters Sarena and Sophia the basics of fishing at Small Fry Lake in Promontory Park.

Promontory Park (40600 Highway 224)

Recently open again after a two-year closure, Promontory Park is the ideal campground for campers and river rats of all ages.

Neighboring the Clackamas River, the campground and marina offer 46 sites. Some are equipped for tents and RVs, and others have yurts (a cross between a cabin and a tent) or cabins. The cabins and yurts were a part of the remodel while the campground was closed.

Additional updates during the remodel included new docks, an expanded boat launch area, a new kayak and canoe launch area and a renovated store and restaurant.

Lindsay Smith of Portland General Electric, the campground’s operator, believes the location is good for families.

“It’s a really family-oriented place,” said Smith. “You don’t need to worry about people being rowdy, and it’s fairly close to town.”

The campground features a variety of recreational activities, including fishing for kids. Small Fry Lake is stocked with trout and dedicated to kids 17 and younger learning how to fish.

Additionally, the marina features multiple opportunities to play on the Clackamas River.

Kayak, paddle board and whitewater rental, tours and instruction are available through Clackamas River Outfitters, and boats are available for rental through the marina store.

The campground at Promontory Park is open May to September.

Smith recommends campers make reservations for weekend campsites at least one month in advance. It’s easier to get a spot during the weekdays, particularly Monday to Wednesday.

Reservations are available online the first Monday of the year at www.portlandgeneral.com.

Timothy Lake (60 miles from Estacada on NF-4280)

Spanning 1,500-acres and offering seven campgrounds with a total of 200 campsites, Timothy Lake is a great opportunity to engage with the sights of the Mount Hood National Forest.

Campsites along Timothy Lake are equipped for tents and RVs. All are surrounded by the greenery of the forest, and many are situated along the shores of the lake.

The campground is operated by PGE through a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

“The sites are spread out from one another, so you really get the wilderness experience,” Smith said. “It’s a good place for families.”

Playing in the lake is a popular pastime at this location, and typical activities include swimming, canoeing and windsurfing. Fishing is another popular activity, and the lake is home to kokanee, eastern brook, rainbow trout and crawdads.

Visitors also enjoy hiking and biking on the 13-mile loop surrounding the lake.

Though 20 percent of campsites are reserved for walk-is, Smith recommends making reservations at Timothy Lake at least six months in advance.

The cost for a single-family campsite is $20 per night, and the campground is open May through September.

To reserve a site at one of the campgrounds at Timothy Lake, call 877-444-6777.

Lake Harriet (30 miles from Estacada on NF-4630)

With just 10 campsites, Lake Harriet gives visitors the opportunity for solitude and reflection in nature.

The campground is in a wooded canyon in the Mount Hood National Forest near a 22-acre lake. Like Timothy Lake, the campground is operated by PGE through a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

“(Lake Harriet is) really a chance to disconnect and enjoy the sounds of nature, and focus on why you’re there,” Smith said.

The location has 10 sites for tent and RV camping surrounding the lake.

Fishing is a popular activity at this location. The 22-acre lake is home to brown trout, rainbow trout and cutthroat trout.

The campground at Lake Harriet is open from May to September, and sites are $16 per night. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov/camping/lake-harriet.

Ripplebrook Campground (25 miles from Estacada on Highway 224)

Nature enthusiasts will enjoy pitching their tents at Ripplebrook Campground.

Operated by the U.S. Forest Service, Ripplebrook is one of several ideal locations for campers who wish to have a rural experience in the Mount Hood National Forest.

The location along the Clackamas River provides several opportunities for recreation. Also, the Riverside National Recreation Trail, a popular spot among hikers and mountain bikers, is located nearby.

The campground has 14 sites, many along the Clackamas River. The sites are ideal for tents or smaller RVs, though no utility hookups are available.

Additionally, the Ripplebrook Camp Store is located less than a mile away, at 60971 S.W. Highway 224. The store sells camping and fishing supplies and souvenirs.

Reservations at Ripplebrook Campground can be made by calling Reserve America at 1-877-444-6777 or through www.reserveamerica.com. The campground is open May to October, and reservations should be made at least two days in advance.

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Some campsites at Sunstrip Campground are located along the Clackamas River.

Sunstrip Campground (18 miles from Estacada on Highway 224)

Campers on the hunt for a more primitive outdoor experience will appreciate Sunstrip Campground.

Operated by the U.S. Forest service, the location offers eight tent-only campsites in a wooded area of the Mount Hood National Forest. The Clackamas River runs along the campground, and four of the sites are located along the waterfront.

The area offers several opportunities to connect with the great outdoors. Campsites are nestled in the greenery of the forest, easily allowing visitors to connect with the great outdoors, and drinking water is not available at the campground.

Sunstrip campground is open April to September, and the cost for a site is $20 per night. Reservations can be made by calling Reserve America at 1-877-444-6777 or through www.reserveamerica.com. Reservations should be made at least two days in advance.

Metzler Park (24526 S. Metzler Park Road)

Metzler Park is a forested haven for families looking to spend time in nature.

“It’s a nice place to come and relax, and be able to let the kids loose,” said park ranger Victor Harshman.

The campground, which has 75 sites for tents and RVs, features a variety of family activities, including biking, swimming, catch and release fishing, volleyball, basketball and a weekly movie night.

Additionally, the location’s camp hosts ensure that everyone who stays at Metzler Park feels at home.

The park features 90 acres of developed forest and 460 acres of land total. Two and a half miles of established hiking trails and more than one mile of Clear Creek allow participants to connect with nature.

“There’s a real rural feeling,” said Leroy Gibson, one of the park’s camp hosts. “It’s like you’re stepping back in time.”

Reservations at Metzler Park can be made online at www.reservations.clackamas.us. The campground is open May to September.

“It’s pretty easy to get a spot on weekdays, but you really should make reservations in advance to get a weekend spot,” Gibson advised.

Tent sites are $21 per night, and sites with water and electrical hookups are $26 per night.

Milo McIver Park (24101 S. Entrance Road)

The forested campsites at Milo McIver State Park are a great opportunity for family camping.

“We really cater toward family camping, especially because of our diversity of recreational activities,” said Guy Rodrigue, park manager at Milo McIver.

Campers at the park can enjoy hiking, biking, disc golf and a variety of opportunities for recreation on the Clackamas River. Swimming and fishing are popular, particularly with the facility’s ADA accessible dock. Additionally, the park offers kayak tours of the lake weekly.

Motorboats and stand-up paddling are popular at Estacada Lake, though anyone interested should plan to bring their own gear and boats.

Rodrigue noted that he often refers visitors who wish to rent paddleboards or kayaks to Clackamas River Outfitters’ location at Timber Park, located several miles from Milo McIver Park.

Camp hosts will welcome campers to Milo McIver’s 44 sites with electricity and water that are available to campers in tents or RVs and nine sites specifically for tents. For larger gatherings, there are three overnight group facilities.

Rodrigue recommends making reservations nine months in advance, particularly for those who wish to secure a campsite for the weekend. Unlike other locations, no sites are held for walk-ins.

Tent sites are $18 per night, and RV sites are $24 per night. The campground is open May to April.

Reservations can be made online at www.reserveamerica.com or by calling 1-800-452-5687.