Getaway guide: The little campground in the woods

MOUNT HOOD, Ore. - Sometimes you need to get away - far enough away that your cell phone doesn't work, the stresses in your life fade and you can find peace - but not so far away that it'll cost you a small fortune to get there.

Such a place exists about 75 miles from Portland. It's where you'll find a crystal clear lake surrounded by a lush, green meadow. And it's where you'll find the tranquility you need to recharge your batteries.

Clackamas Lake (a small, three-acre lake located in the Mount Hood National Forest) may not be quite as popular as nearby Timothy Lake. But it's the perfect spot if you're hoping to escape the heavier crowds, as this reporter learned this past weekend.

The setting is serene, the campground on the lake is fairly private and the crisp mountain air is a refreshing change from the smells of the city. And without cell service and the distraction that always being connected brings, you can truly focus on what matters - turning off the world for a bit, enjoying the beauty of the Mount Hood wilderness and spending some quality time with those you love.

KATU Travel & Outdoors Reporter Shannon L. Cheesman (left) and her husband Scott Cheesman (right) spend some time by the campfire at Clackamas Lake Campground.

Of course, if after a day or so you find yourself plenty calm and relaxed and ready for a little fun, there is plenty to do on Mount Hood - everything from summertime skiing/snowboarding at Timberline to taking out a kayak or canoe on Timothy, Trillium or Frog lakes to catching some trout.

KATU Travel & Outdoors Reporter Shannon L. Cheesman holds up one of the trout she caught at Mount Hood's Frog Lake over the weekend.


Getting There

  • From Sandy, travel east on Highway 26 for approximately 40 miles to Skyline Road, Road 42.
  • Turn right onto Skyline Road and travel south for 10 miles until you see the sign for Clackamas Lake.
  • Turn left and then take another left about a 1/4 mile in to enter the campground.
  • There is a wooden walkway that leads straight to the lake - it's to the right of campsite 26, just off a small day-use parking area.

Overnight Stay

  • The campsites (tents, RVs, equestrian sites) are $20 a night, except on holidays and holiday weekends when the rate goes up to $22 a night. Extra vehicles (more than one) are $8 a night.
  • You can reserve a site by calling toll free 1-877-444-6777 (TDD 1-877-833-6777) or booking one online.
  • The nearest place to get supplies is in Government Camp, which is 20 miles away. It's also about the nearest place you can expect to get some cell service.
  • Keep in mind that Clackamas Lake Campground is a dry camp (there are no hookups for water, sewer or electricity). If you're staying in a tent, you might hear the hum of a generator or two if there are RVers camping nearby.
Clackamas Lake Campground. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman,


  • Anglers will find cutthroat, brook, rainbow or German brown trout in the lake. There are also other lakes nearby to try if the fish aren't biting there - Timothy Lake is three miles away, Frog Lake is 14 miles away and Trillium Lake is 20 miles away.
  • The water is very shallow and only non-motorized boats (like kayaks, canoes or inflatable rafts) are allowed. You can rent kayaks, etc. from Mt. Hood Adventure.
  • Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders can hop on the 2.2-mile Miller Trail, which connects to the Pacific Crest Trail (a 2,650-mile trail that stretches from Canada to Mexico). There are also a number of other trails in the area.
  • Just before you reach the campground entrance, you'll see a bunch of historic structures and cabins to the right. They were built in the early 1900s to house Forest Service workers. There is a visitor center there. If it's closed, you can just park and take a look around.
  • Little Crater Lake, a small but deep lake with water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom, is also not far away. The lake is located on the back side of Little Crater Lake Campground. A short walk across a meadow will take you there.
Little Crater Lake on Mount Hood. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman

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