The Ultimate Guide to Camping and Outdoor Adventure in Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley
New and exciting outdoor ventures you can enjoy this season
What does the perfect summer day look like to you? Does it involve paddling a quiet river while ospreys and eagles soar overhead, climbing a tree for old times' sake, or noshing on s’mores and sleeping under the starry night sky?
Whatever that dreamy summer day looks like, chances are good you can have it in Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley. Our region boasts waterways and mountain lakes, open meadows and thick forests, and hundreds (if not thousands) of campsites for making the most of every second outdoors.
We’ve rounded up the best of it all, from the wide range of campgrounds around Salem to the new and exciting outdoor ventures you can enjoy this season. We’ve also included a few tips for staying safe, wherever you go. So, as you make your summer plans, here’s our ultimate guide to camping and outdoor adventure in the Salem region.
Memorable Campgrounds and Overnight Options
One of the best things about outdoor adventure around Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley is spending a night under the stars—and you have no shortage of places to pitch a tent or park your RV this summer. Here are a few favorite campgrounds around the area.
Silver Falls State Park campground: Oregon State Parks manages a popular campground at Silver Falls State Park, complete with more than 80 tent and RV sites, as well as 14 well-appointed cabins (seven of which are pet-friendly). The lush campground offers flush restrooms, hot showers, and easy access to the park’s many attractions.
Smith Creek Village: Also at Silver Falls State Park, you’ll find Smith Creek Village—a quiet collection of cabins and cottages near the southern edge of the park. Some of the vintage stays date back to the 1930s and boast a modern influence with smart TVs, kitchenettes, comfortable beds, an on-site café, and other thoughtful amenities. Two-night minimum stays may be required in summer, but you’ll find plenty to keep you busy around the park.
Champoeg State Heritage Area: The campground at Champoeg State Heritage Area sits near where Oregon's first provisional government was formed in 1843—and hosts more than 80 tent and RV sites, six yurts, and six cabins. The campground sits at the eastern edge of the park, not far from the shores of the Willamette River, but offers easy access to Champoeg’s disc golf course, hiking and biking paths, and other attractions.
Bicycle Boater Campground in Independence: Are you riding the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway this summer—or planning another fun bikepacking adventure elsewhere in the region? If your travels bring you through Independence, consider a stop at the community's Bicycle Boater Campground. The quiet green space sits along the Willamette River (and just one block from downtown Independence) and offers a variety of amenities for dedicated cyclists and paddlers—including showers, a bike repair station, drinking water, and Wi-Fi.
Detroit Lake State Recreation Area: Heading to Detroit Lake this summer? There are few better places to spend the night than the campground at Detroit Lake State Recreation Area. In all, nearly 300 tent and RV sites sit along the forested shore of Detroit Lake in the West Cascades—complete with horseshoe pits, a basketball court, a volleyball area, playground, two boat ramps, and a fishing dock. Hot showers and flush toilets are available, as well.
Phoenix RV Park: Near the northern edge of Salem, not far from where the city begins to give way to lush farmland, the family-owned Phoenix RV Park offers a relaxing stay with a suite of modern amenities. Highlights include 107 full-hookup sites, pull-through and back-in spots, Wi-Fi, cable television, on-site laundromats, bath and shower facilities, and more.
Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort: The pet-friendly Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort sits at the northern edge of the Salem area and offers a wide range of amenities to go along with its more than 125 full-hookup sites. Your stay includes wired or wireless internet access, an on-site clubhouse (complete with a full kitchen, exercise room, and video games), a seasonal pool, an on-site laundromat, and more.
Premier RV Resort: Just west of Salem, across the Willamette River and surrounded by farmland, sits Premier RV Resort. The peaceful, tree-lined resort boasts nearly 200 full-hookup sites, along with three yurts, a smattering of tent sites, laundry services, an off-leash dog area, a playground, and other fun offerings.
Camp Dakota: The popular campground and adventure park sits in the heart of the West Cascades—and offers a variety of thrilling outdoor adventures. If you're staying the night, Camp Dakota hosts yurts, RV and tent sites, glamping tents, and other fun accommodations. During the day, you and your crew can enjoy the surrounding forests through zip line rides, paintball games, a high ropes challenge course, an 18-hole disc golf course, and more.
Outdoor Experiences to Complement Your Camping Adventures
In recent years, several new offerings have launched to help visitors enjoy the many outdoor opportunities around Salem and the mid-Willamette Valley—from kayak rentals to guided tree climbing. So here are a few fun ideas if you’re looking for a new summer experience.
Wildlife-Watching at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge: The Ankeny Hill Nature Center opened on the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year—and adds to the experience of visiting the forested floodplain and watching for all kinds of wildlife. In addition to the nature center, new opportunities include an outdoor-inspired play area, interpretive panels, several miles of walking trails, and more. You never know when you’ll spy Townsend’s warblers, snowy egrets, or other species that call the refuge home.
Independence Kayak Rentals: The Willamette River flows slowly through the Salem area, making it an easy, scenic half-day or full-day paddling destination. Hit the water with Independence Kayak Rentals, which launched in 2021 and offers sit-on-top rentals, all the necessary gear, and (for an added fee) optional drop-off and pick-up services for an easier one-way outing. (Just keep in mind the drop-off and pick-up options apply to kayaks, not people, so you’ll want to have a second vehicle to complete the shuttle.) Waterfowl sightings are common along the way, and scenic vistas comprise forests and farmland.
Tree Climbing at Silver Falls: Kids of all ages will love the new Tree Climbing at Silver Falls attraction, now open at Silver Falls State Park. The tree-climbing service opened in 2021 and offers lessons, as well as the chance to (safely) scale Douglas fir trees that are more than 200 feet tall; choose among introductory climbs, scenic sunset outings, multi-day classes, and even camps geared toward little ones.
Know Before You Go
You’ll want to keep a few things in mind for staying safe and enjoying the outdoors around Salem this summer. Here are several tips to help you make the most of your outdoor experiences.
Take Care Out There: First things first: Take Care Out There by preparing before you head out, remaining respectful while you're outdoors, and connecting with the people and places wherever you wind up. Doing a little legwork beforehand, remaining thoughtful and mindful of your surroundings while you're on the road, and immersing yourself in the landscapes and cultures of the mid-Willamette Valley can go a long way toward a memorable experience.
Stay safe and have fun on the water: PFDs and life jackets are not required for adults—but are strongly encouraged as long as you're on the water; life jackets are
required, meanwhile, for children 12 and younger. And if you're launching your own craft, be sure you have an Oregon State Marine Board Waterway Access Permit
($7 for a seven-day pass, $17 for an annual pass, $30 for a two-year pass); the permit helps prevent invasive species and supports paddling access efforts across the state.
Carry the Ten Essentials: Hiking, backpacking, or camping this summer? Pack along the Ten Essentials to stay safe and prepared for wildlife encounters, inclement weather, and other hazards; the list includes appropriate footwear, a map and compass, extra food, plenty of water, and more.
2301 Wintel Rd.
Jefferson, Oregon 97352 (503) 588-2701
ANKENY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE2301 Wintel Rd.
Jefferson, Oregon 97352
7679 Champoeg Rd. NE
Saint Paul, Oregon 97137 (503) 678-1251
CHAMPOEG STATE HERITAGE AREA7679 Champoeg Rd. NE
Saint Paul, Oregon 97137
44000 N Santiam HWY SE
Detroit, Oregon 97342 (503) 854-3766
DETROIT LAKE STATE RECREATION AREA44000 N Santiam HWY SE
Detroit, Oregon 97342
4751 Astoria St. NE
Salem, Oregon 97305 (503) 463-6641
HEE HEE ILLAHEE RV RESORT4751 Astoria St. NE
Salem, Oregon 97305
50 C St.
Independence, Oregon 97351 (503) 583-4266
INDEPENDENCE BIKER/BOATER CAMPGROUND50 C St.
Independence, Oregon 97351
4700 Salem-Dallas HWY 22
Salem, Oregon 97304 (503) 364-7714
PREMIER RV RESORT4700 Salem-Dallas HWY 22
Salem, Oregon 97304
20024 Silver Falls HWY SE
Sublimity, Oregon 97385 (503) 873-8681
SILVER FALLS STATE PARK20024 Silver Falls HWY SE
Sublimity, Oregon 97385