Car camping is among the greatest of American summertime traditions.
For a vacation that's easy on the pocketbook — while offering creative options for family fun and the ability to lay your sleeping bag in the heart of heart-stopping beauty — you can't beat it.
From high mountain lakes to the Pacific Coast to glorious Mount Shasta, the Rogue Valley is within easy reach of both amenity-laden resorts and rustic resting places.
"People come up here for the tranquility," says Linda Eurto, camp host at Aspen Point Campground, one of two campgrounds in the Lake of the Woods Recreation Area. "Almost everyone is quiet and easygoing."
This is the second summer that the Eurtos have escaped the Sacramento, Calif., heat to help campers enjoy the mountain air and afternoon breezes at Aspen Point, 44 miles east of Medford off Highway 140. The campground has 58 sites, including walk-in waterside tenting, and a pet-friendly day-use area. Follow the trails from Aspen Point to Lake of the Woods Resort, which sports a marina, excellent restaurant and handy camp store. It's an ideal setting for boaters, swimmers, hikers and those just wanting to kick back and relax. For reservations go to www.reserveamerica.gov or call 877-444-6777.
For something more rustic, consider North Fork Campground, situated off Forest Road 37, a narrow highway that runs through lava fields and wilderness between Dead Indian Memorial Road and Highway 140. This undomesticated, nine-site campground is poised on a bluff wrapped by the north fork of Little Butte Creek. Get there early in the day and you might be lucky enough to nab site No. 7, with stellar views of the creek and the canyon below. Well water and vault toilets comprise the amenities, and sites are first come/first served. Don't miss the Fish Lake trailhead across the road, which offers an easy, spectacular hike, meandering through old-growth forest, past beaver dams and pine-shadowed waterways.
For more info about camping in the Cascades, call The Rogue River National Forest office at 541-858-2200, or visit www.fs.fed.us/r6/rogue-siskiyou.
If you want to get out of Oregon to make your trip seem like more of a getaway, the majestic beauty of Mount Shasta is less than a half-tank of gas away.
Many American Indians regard the glacier-capped gem as the center of creation. So if you're inclined toward spiritual rejuvenation, aim your car south on Interstate 5 and visit Panther Meadow campground, 12.5 miles up the mountain. The 10 walk-in sites provide fire rings, picnic benches and little else, save the opportunity to completely unwind and sink into the healing medicine of this mystical and sacred territory. Sites are free with no reservations available. Bring water, firewood and hiking boots. Call the Shasta Ranger Station at 1-530-771-0400 for more information about the Shasta-Trinity Wilderness.
If it's lakeside camping you seek, the whole family will find things to do at "Lake Sis," just outside Mount Shasta City, Calif. The 200-acre Lake Siskiyou Resort and Campground is directly across the valley from Mount Shasta, but worlds away.
With 300 wooded campsites, RV hook-ups and cabins, Lake Siskiyou offers a range of options. Picnic on a wide, white-sand beach where the kids can swim, rent paddle-boats, fish or hike. At night, grab a pizza from the Lake Sis Grill, or catch the Friday night PG movie at the outdoor Bijou Theater. For more info go to www.reynoldsresorts.com.
Too hot inland? Look for Panther Flat campground on Highway 199, 20 minutes from the Oregon Coast. The simple and beautiful spot offers 39 forest and meadow-laden sites with picnic tables and fire pits. Spend your days hiking quiet trails and swimming in the unearthly green waters of the Smith River. Reserve at www.recreation.gov or call 1-707-457-3131.
If you crave sky-scraping trees and fern grottos, choose Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, just before Highway 199 meets the sea. Set up your tent next to a gi-normous redwood in this natural cathedral. Picnic tables, fire pits with grills and bear-proof food lockers are provided in each of 86 sites. Bathrooms have hot showers. Swim or kayak off the beaches of the Smith River. Hike interpretive nature trails. Then jet into either Brookings or Crescent City, only 20 minutes away, for Thai food and beach combing. Reservations are recommended at www.reserveamerica.gov.