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There are spots for RV camping inside Crater Lake National Park, but those spots need to be reserved well in advance and often fill up quickly, like most national parks these days. So if you’re planning a trip to Crater Lake soon, it helps to know a few locations for free camping near Crater Lake.
Crater Lake National Park is an iconic location in southern Oregon. It’s home to the deepest lake in North America at 1,943 feet, but there’s also a ton of hiking, biking, and exploring to do on the rim around the caldera, especially in the summer. But you’ll need a good campsite to come back to after a day of adventuring in the park.
The Dyrt Pro Membership makes it easy to find free campsites near Crater Lake. All you have to do is pull up Map Layers and you’ll see park boundaries in green and dispersed camping areas in purple:
Table of Contents
Dispersed Camping Near Crater Lake – North
To make things a bit easier, these free camping spots are separated into campsites on the north, south, and west sides of Crater Lake National Park, respectively. That’ll help you choose the best campgrounds based on your trip itinerary.
Mount Thielsen Wilderness
About 3.8 miles from the park’s north entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 43.09919, -122.07643
This dispersed camping area covers nearly 55,000 acres, which means there’s plenty of room for you and your fellow campers to spread out. Elevations range from 5,000 to 9,182 feet, so plan for cool nights throughout most of the camping season.
You should get decent cell service here, especially if you don’t pull far off OR-138. But that may vary depending on how far you wander away from the highway. The dirt road that provides access to this campsite is navigable for most vehicles, but be aware that early-season rains and snowmelt can create muddy conditions.
Snow is still a possibility through most of the spring, but once it melts the forest road is accessible to camper vans, truck campers, and even larger rigs. There are plenty of sites to choose from at this location and the access doesn’t require serious off-roading during the height of the summer.
Whether you explore it on foot or take your vehicle up the forest road, be sure to check out nearby Summit Rock. It’s a mountain vantage point that sticks up out of the otherwise lush forest in the Crater Lake area.
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NF-70 Dispersed Camping near Crater Lake National Park
About 10 miles from the park’s north entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 43.0722212, -121.9514206
This free camping area is also right off the road (OR-138) near the park’s northern edge. There are a number of full-timers that use this site during the warmer months of the year, but there’s plenty of space for those looking for a one-night stop.
Users report good cell service for Verizon and AT&T users but service for other providers is unknown. The highway isn’t far and there are a number of OHV trails to explore on foot, or with an ATV or dirt bike if you want to go across the highway to check out Summit Rock.
And, yes, the forest road is usually in good enough condition to accommodate larger RVs like toy haulers for much of the year. Spring can be the diciest time to visit, as melting snows can make the forest road a little soft.
If you go in the fall, don’t be surprised if there aren’t many other campers around. But during high season, there are plenty of spaces to choose from along this first road, so you shouldn’t have to search for long. You might even find a community of travelers to share stories and tips on fun things to do in the area.
About 16.6 miles from the park’s north entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 43.0560009, -122.32800028
Located in the Rogue River-Siskiyous National Forest, the Hamaker dispersed camping area is a quiet site nestled in an old-growth forest. There are roughly 7-10 campsites here, but the forest road and campsite conditions vary depending on the time of year.
There were restrooms and water on-site, but those amenities have been removed. Still the site is close to the Rogue River if you need water and it offers easy access to a number of interesting hiking trails.
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North Crater Lake Sno Park
About 1.5 miles from the park’s north entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 43.08960779626804, -122.10045950747808
During the winter, this area serves as a parking lot for visitors and locals looking to play in the snow. In the summer, there are two campsites with picnic tables, fire pits, and a pit toilet. There’s no access to drinking water here.
For those road trips that are headed to visit Crater Lake National Park, but can’t quite get there before dark, this is a perfect site to camp overnight before heading into the park.
Free Campsites Near Crater Lake – South
If you’re heading up to Crater Lake National Park from Klamath Falls, we’ve got you covered with a few free camping options you can utilize before you enter the national park.
Annie Creek Sno Park
About 10.8 miles from the park’s south entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 42.7611622, -122.0588234
At first, the Annie Creek Sno park just looks like a parking lot. During the summer, there might be a few folks parked right off the highway, which is where you’ll have access to pit toilets, a warming station with an indoor picnic table, and several fire pits.
But if you continue down the dirt road, there are plenty more free sites that offer a more secluded camping feel than the lot up top. You don’t have to search miles down the road either. Just below the lot, you’ll find some of the best sites right on Annie Creek.
When I discovered this dispersed camping area in the fall, the forest road was well-maintained and easy to navigate. There were hardly any other campers that seemed willing to continue down the forest road, so I had plenty of room to myself.
The warming hut in the parking lot is a nice touch, as the overnight temps in early October were quite brisk. To my understanding, this site is free from May 1st through October 31st.
About 43.7 miles from the park’s south entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 42.42996029, -122.0613024
If you’re traveling by car or RV north from Klamath Falls, Odessa Campground sits on public lands along the shore of Upper Klamath Lake. Camping on a lake is always a nice touch, and sometimes we must go a little out of our way to find these locations.
The sites are well-spaced here and include fire pits. There is also a vault toilet on-site, but it closes during the winter. In fact, camping here is usually only a possibility from mid-spring through mid-fall, depending on snowfall and forest road conditions.
If you come during the summer, however, you’ll find secluded sites and a primitive boat ramp for launching canoes and kayaks. Be sure to consult some of the camping reviews on The Dyrt for the most accurate directions, as Google Maps can try to take you through the Odessa Ranch private property.
Click here to get a free 30-day trial of The Dyrt Pro, which gives you Map Layers for dispersed camping.
Dry Camping Near Crater Lake National Park – West
For those heading to the park from the Medford area, you can enjoy easy access to these free campsites off Highway 62.
USFS Rogue River Dispersed Campsite
About 26.2 miles from the park’s south entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 42.83044492265611, -122.5007141693149
This free camping area is managed by the US Forest Service and sits on the western edge of the Rogue River. Access is relatively easy off OR-62 via NF-64. There’s also a River Bridge Camp along the way, but the free camp is across the bridge and a few more miles up the forest road.
According to camping reviews, the road is a mix of gravel, potholes, and washboard. So be prepared for slow going on your trip after you cross the river bridge. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to search far up that road, as there are multiple sites along the road starting after the bridge crossing.
Some sites may even accommodate multiple vehicles. So if your van life community is growing, this could be a great spot for a meetup!
Union Creek Trail USFS Dispersed Campsite
About 14.4 miles from the park’s south entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 42.9257, -122.3923
The final dispersed camping area on our list is also managed by the US Forest Service. It’s accessed via forest road 610 to the right off OR-62, not long after the highway splits and 62 heads west while OR-230 continues north. If you reach Thousand Springs Sno Park, you’ve passed the entrance to this site.
Depending on the season you visit, you shouldn’t have to search long for a place to park. There are several camping options along the road, including a few spots with enough room for a larger RV at the start of the road.
As you continue on, the road gets narrower and the sites get more compact, which begs the need for a truck camper or camper van. If you continue all the way up the road, it ends at the Union Creek Trailhead, where there are a few flat sites with stone fire pits.
Know that cell service is extremely limited, if existent at all, in this area. However, you can continue up to the Crater Lake Visitor Center to connect to WiFi if you need to work or make calls.
Thousand Springs Sno Park
About 10.6 miles from the park’s south entrance station.
GPS Coordinates: 42.91315377479141, -122.32453470058834
This is another parking lot that allows overnight camping during certain times of the year. If you plan to visit the park from the south, it’s also a good location to stage your camper and get an early start to explore the park in the morning.
It’s free to camp here from May 1st through October 31st. Site amenities include vault toilets and a warming hut with a wood stove. There is no access to potable water at this location.
Other Campgrounds near Crater Lake National Park
If you decide you do want to stay in a campground with a few more amenities on your trip, check out these RV parks and resorts within a reasonable driving distance of Crater Lake National Park:
- Diamond Lake Resort and RV Park: About 20 minutes from the park’s north entrance station. Check it out!
- Mazama Campground: Located just inside the south entrance to Crater Lake National Park. Learn more.
- Crater Lake Resort: Located about 30 minutes from the Steel Visitor Center in Crater Lake National Park. Explore availability.
Tips for Dispersed Camping on Public Lands near Crater Lake National Park
Before you set off to find your spot for free camping near Crater Lake, keep these tips in mind to make the most of your Oregon camping experience:
- Avoid ‘the knock’: Car camping and sleeping overnight in vehicles are prohibited outside of developed campgrounds in the park. Avoid getting ‘the knock’ by a park ranger by using these dispersed campsites.
- Be bear aware. Black and brown bears are common in these forests. Lock food and other perishables inside your vehicle or a bear-proof container at night.
- Stock up on fuel. There aren’t a ton of gas station choices in this area, which means those that do exist charge more. Bring an extra five-gallon container to be prepared just in case.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Don’t expect forest service officials to come around these sites and pick up after you. If you bring it in, take your trash and dispose of it properly.
- Be mindful of others. Some of these free sites aren’t much more than a large open parking lot. Respect your fellow campers when it comes to generator use and other noisy activities, especially after dusk and before dawn.
- Practice fire safety. Check local fire restrictions before and during your visit. Make sure you’re in compliance with these restrictions and, if fires are prohibited, don’t start one!
Check out our blog post and podcast to learn more about reducing your environmental footprint!
Although the Dyrt camping app does have a free version, it’s limited to WiFi and cell access. Considering how often campers go off the grid, an app that requires connectivity doesn’t do much good most of the time.
So, getting The Dyrt Pro Membership can save someone from a lot of potential headaches. The app shows all nearby camping sites in the country and tips and suggestions from other app users who have been on-site.
Sign up for a free 30-day trial first. One of the best gift ideas!
Conclusion on Free Camping Near Crater Lake
Summer is the high season in the park, so having these dispersed camping options in your back pocket increases your odds of finding a comfortable place to stay. Then, get up and enjoy all the amenities that Crater Lake National Park has to offer…with the extra money in your pocket that comes with free camping!