Campers looking for that nearby scenic adventure should head to the Blues

US Forest Service teaches how to properly start and put out a campfire

Brian McCloud, a fire prevention technician for the US Forest Service, explains how to properly start and put out a campfire.
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Brian McCloud, a fire prevention technician for the US Forest Service, explains how to properly start and put out a campfire.

The summer is getting on. Whether you are looking to have some quality time outdoors with the family or seeking peace and solitude sleeping next to the soothing sounds of a rushing brook, it’s time to go camping.

The Blue Mountains have numerous options for you to explore.

There are over 1.4 million acres in the Umatilla National Forest offering trails of all lengths and difficulty for hikers and backpackers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, skiers and snowshoers, and off-road enthusiasts.

There are valleys that stretch from the deserts through old-growth forests to majestic ridgelines and mountaintops with expansive views across the high-desert plateaus and into the wilderness areas.

There are small campgrounds that offer solitude and peaceful quiet, all the way to large campgrounds with services, RV hookups and space for large groups. The higher you stay, the cooler it will be, especially at night.

All National Forest sites are first come, first served and allow pets on leash. Campfires are usually allowed unless they are restricted due to fire danger.

From the Tri-Cities, all these are within a two- to three-hour drive.

Some are best accessed along Highway 244 southeast of Walla Walla. Others are accessible from Dayton. Pick a location and then search for the best direction online.

ORV trail maintenance
Off-road vehicles in the Umatilla National Forest. Courtesy Washington Recreation and Conservation Funding Board

Each of these campgrounds offer a varying number of sites for tents, vans, trailers and RVs. In some cases, there are limits on how many sites can accommodate large RVs and large groups.

So check it out before you head out. Many of the sites close by Oct. 15 due to winter snow.

Before you go, check out the reports at the Umatilla National Forest https://www.fs.usda.gov/umatilla/ or call the Forest Supervisor’s Office at 541-278-3716 and ask to be connected to the correct Ranger District for the most current information.

The campgrounds

Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area Campground Open year-round, the location is very near the Old Oregon Trail. Located at 3,811 feet, it offers 18 full hook-up sites with sewer, electricity and water, 32 tent sites with water nearby, picnic tables, fire rings, flush toilets, hot showers, a seven-site horse camp, six rustic log cabins, one duplex cabin and a group tent area.

Woodward Campground — At 4,876 feet in an Engelmann spruce and conifer forest with several creeks nearby and access to the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness Area. Has 15 tent sites, no hookups, restrooms.

Jubilee Lake Campground is the largest and most popular campground in the Umatilla National Forest. Courtesy USFS

Jubilee Lake Campground — At 4,724 feet it offers high-elevation camping, cool, clean water, and even has a cave to explore nearby. Has 53 campsites, restrooms, trash pickup, drinking water, $17 per night – first come, first served. Closes Oct 15.

Target Meadows Campground — This area was used by the Army as an encampment from the 1880s to 1906. Located at 4,800 feet. Has 18 campsites, no hookups, restrooms and drinking water.

Umatilla Forks Campground — Near the confluence of the North Fork and the South Fork of the Umatilla rivers, is very popular with fisherman. Has 12 campsites, no hookups, restrooms, trash pickup and drinking water

Godman Creek Campground — At 5,725 feet, this site is very close to the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area, by way of the West Butte Trail. Only eight sites, no hookups, restrooms and drinking water.

North Fork John Day Campground — Located at 5,187 feet, the campground is right along the North Fork of the John Day River. In the fall you can watch the returning steelhead and salmon spawning. Has 21 campsites, no hookups, restrooms, but no potable drinking water, unless you filter your own.

Bear Wallow Creek Campground — At 3,889 feet, it offers a ¼-mile-long interpretive trail with 12 educational signs describing the life cycle of the steelhead salmon. Has eight sites rest rooms, no hookups, no potable water. Closes October 15.

Gold Dredge Campground — At 3,775 feet along the North Fork of the John Day River, the campground has eight sites, restrooms, no hookups and no potable water.

From the Tepee trailhead in the Blue Mountains you can look down the Butte Creek drainage all the way to Oregon. Craig Hill Staff file

Teal Spring Campground — At 5,670 feet, this campground offers wonderful views of the Tucannon River. It has seven sites, restrooms, no hookups and no potable water.

Misery Spring Campground — At 6,148 feet, this site has trail access to Mt. Misery and offers remarkable views into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area.

Tucannon Campground — At 2,655ft, this beautiful campground is very popular year-round. It also tends to get very crowded in the fall during the fishing season. Has 18 sites, restrooms, no hookups and no potable water.

And there’s many more. This is just a sampling of the campgrounds available on the Umatilla National Forest. There are also numerous private sites that offer RV hookups, tent sites and cabins.

Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club www.imacnw.org . He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.