Ahhh, sweet sweet summertime. Arguably the best time of the year in Oregon, it is also the most ideal time to go camping. While fall, winter, and spring camping aren’t uncommon in the Beaver state, many of the most popular campgrounds are closed or inaccessible during the off-season due to various weather-related hazards (Deschutes National Forest, I’m talking about you.) When I set out to pick my summer camping spot, I knew I had a lot of awesome places to choose from. Did I want to hike in? Water access? Scorching hot weather, or a bearable breeze? Hiking trails? On-site showers?! There are so many factors that could have played into where I chose to go. One thing I knew for sure was that I needed warm weather and easy access to water. After throwing together an Oregon Camping Guide earlier this year, I had a few spots on my mind.
The popular Lost Lake and adjacent Lost Lake Resort is located 3,146’ up Lost Lake Rd in the Mount Hood National Forest about 25 miles northwest of Hood River, Oregon. Surrounded by Lost Lake Campground and Resort campsites, walk-in sites, RV Sites, Cabins, and Yurts, this is one of the largest and busiest campgrounds in the state of Oregon. I remember reading about this spot when doing research for my camping guide and I could easily understand why it is so popular – photos of Mount Hood views, and glimmering blue water was what made me feel drawn to this spot in the first place. But, with a staggering 148 campsites, it sounded a little big for my liking. Ultimately, my friends and I decided to check out the other Lost Lake in the Deschutes National Forest and decided on it as our group camping spot for Summer 2019.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I gave you specs on the Lost Lake located in the Mount Hood National Forest if we ultimately decided to go to the “other” Lost Lake. Well, that’s because I’m a bad communicator (or my friends don’t listen) and the first half of our group mistakenly went to the Lost Lake Campground and Resort near Hood River – hooray for miscommunication! With the two Lost Lakes being so far apart, we had no choice but to meet our friends and give the massive campground a shot.
Like most campgrounds in Oregon, Lost Lake was completely booked and only had “first come, first serve” sites available. Now, this is just about as stressful as it sounds. You show up, navigate your way around the skinny one-way roads and *hope* you see someone leaving and pop up your tent before the next guy can beat you to it. With a group of 11 people, finding a group spot or two smaller spots near each other posed potential issues for us. Upon arrival, we found that the only two group spots in the campground were taken for the entire weekend – a huge bummer. Luckily, we ended up snagging one spot at the beginning of F-Loop, and another spot towards the end. Not ideal, but it was our best (possibly only) shot at securing any kind of spot for a long weekend in August.
Once we finally secured our spots and marked our territory by popping up a couple of tents, we made the long journey (the F-Loop is so far you have to drive) to the Lost Lake Store to pay our site and car fees, as well as check out their full selection of water rentals. Upon arriving you can see tons of people on stand up paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats, and innertubes gliding across the glistening lake. The well-stocked store boasted cute Lost Lake memorabilia as well as a small restaurant area complete with beer, wine, and cider. Ready to pay, I was surprised that the two campsites cost us $100 each for 3 nights in addition to $15 per car, per day. Although it seemed a little steep, we cut our losses and shelled out a total of $335 for our 3-day excursion. With bundles of wood costing $8 a pop, and the excessive amounts of White Claws and other snacks we bought at the store, I would say we spent upwards of $700. If you’re looking for an affordable campground, this probably isn’t the place for you.
Our first night it was approximately -150 degrees (not really, but you get the picture) and we all froze our butts off considering we packed for 100+ degree weather in Central Oregon. While it didn’t rain, we were all forced to double up on sweatpants and sweatshirts while we huddled around our expensive fire. The first night of sleeping was only slightly miserable, but not nearly as miserable as we all felt when we woke up to gray skies and a chilly breeze. Despite the lakes shore only being 15-20 feet away from our campsite, we were forced to skip water activities for the day and opted in for the Lost Lake hike instead. Accessible from anywhere along the lakes shore, or more commonly from the store lot, the hike wraps all the way around the lake totaling about 3-miles long. It was pretty, but we were cold and I was (am) feeling bitter about the lack of sun and warmth.
After another night of chattering teeth and doubled up sweats and sweatshirts, we finally awoke to some sun. As soon as the temperature rose above 70-degrees we slapped on our swimsuits and set out to float on the lake. A few of our friends opted out of floating and instead rented a row boat to fish from. They met us somewhere in the middle of the lake and we tied our innertube island to the back of the boat and relaxed as they drug us around Lost Lake. Mount Hood views and some crazy wildlife activity (think Eagle attacking Osprey for a fish over and over again) made for the perfect day on the water. As I tanned my skin and sipped on my white claw, my previous weather-related woes slowly melted away.
Overall, Lost Lake Campground and Resort is a pretty solid spot for those looking to enjoy some not-so-old-fashioned camping fun. It’s got some great amenities for those that down want to *completely* rough it (on-site showers, potable water,) and a cabin/yurt resort or RV hookups for those that don’t want to pitch a tent. I would recommend this particular campground to those with families, or kids in their group as there is tons of other kids in the area and great hiking, biking, walking and playing opportunities. It does get crowded, and campsites are close together, so this campground is not ideal for those looking for any kind of privacy or peace and quiet. Overall my friends and I enjoyed our time at Lost Lake Campground and Resort despite our travel mishaps and weather related-sorrows, and while it may be a few years before I head back to this particular spot, I would suggest checking out for yourself. But first, do yourself a favor and check the weather – no one likes getting mild hypothermia.