So you want to go camping, huh? There’s a lot to consider before you just wander into the woods by yourself, but just living in Portland is a great start. The Northwest is beautiful and offers many different landscapes for your outdoor excursion. Portland is a reasonable distance from the beach, the forest, rivers and lakes, mountains and caves. Really, anything you want to do, you can probably do it not far from Portland.
Before you leave, you’re probably going to need gear. The Portland State Outdoor Program offers rental equipment to students for ridiculously cheap. They have gear for camping, backpacking, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, rafting and kayaking, among other things, and they are seriously inexpensive. You can rent a three-season tent for four days for only $10. If you want a large cooler, that will only cost $8 for four days. Additional days only cost a couple of extra dollars depending on the item. A whitewater kayak with all the things you’ll need will only cost you $30 for four days. I’m telling you, if you want to go outside and don’t have the right equipment, don’t feel intimidated or feel like you’ll need to buy all new gear. The Outdoor Program has you covered.
The Outdoor Program also hosts a variety of trips almost every weekend throughout the term. This term they’ve already been on hiking trips, rafting trips, weekend camping trips at the coast, and backpacking trips through the forest. And the term isn’t over! There’s a Clackamas River rafting trip on May 16 and an intro to backpacking weekend trip to Crater Lake on May 23–26. If you prefer to relax on your weekends or are feeling the pre-finals stress, there’s a class on June 6 called SUP’n for Stress Release, where they take you to a river so you can float on stand up paddleboards while enjoying the sun and the open water.
These guided trips are great for beginners or those who are unfamiliar with the offerings of the Northwest. According to their website, “The majority of our trips are designed to be beginner friendly and appropriate for people with little to no experience.”
You will be joined by other PSU students on these outdoor adventures, so you’ll never be left to fend for yourself in the middle of the woods. Most trips cost between $30 and $75, although some longer trips can be up to $250. If you ask me, that’s a steal of a deal considering all the gear is included and experienced guides lead you through to make sure you’re safe.
If you’re feeling bold, however, and want to strike out into the great Northwest on your own, it’s not difficult to do. The beach is just a couple hours drive to the west. Some beaches will allow you to camp on them.
Or you can head out toward Mt. Hood, which is only a few hours from Portland. You can go get lost, but hopefully not too lost, among the forests and trails of Mt. Hood.
The Columbia River Gorge is also a beautiful and scenic drive. It forms the border between Washington and Oregon. Large cliffs and waterfalls form one side of the road while the Columbia River forms the other side. There are areas to camp along the Gorge, but if you only have a few hours, it’s nice to just head out on a drive for the day to take in the sights. You can stop at the waterfalls along the way to stretch your legs and enjoy their beauty. Multnomah Falls is definitely the biggest waterfall, but it’s also crowded with tourists on nice days (I mean, it even has a gift shop). Go on an adventure and find some smaller waterfalls that are less busy.
If you like a dry climate more than the damp forest, you can head out to Eastern Oregon, which, while much more flat, offers its own kind of beauty. Rolling plains make up the landscape with snowy mountains on the horizon.
You could find a campground to stay in while you’re out having your adventure, but that’s so boring. Who needs toilets! You’re a fearless PSU student, right? Isn’t that what those giant marketing posters keep telling us? So go out there and be fearless. Find a secluded spot in the forest, go on long walks on the beach, or take in the plains of Eastern Oregon! The state is your oyster!