Vanlife Trip In Oregon

Like many of us, who have scrolled endlessly through social media seeing those incredible sprinter van builds, perched high over some scenic overlook, we too shared that jealous. Which is why, we’ve twice now rented camper vans from The first time, we rented a van for a trip to San Diego in November. But now with Covid canceling all our plans for spring and summer trips, we had to switch up our destination and decided to stay local and explore Oregon via a road trip! To make it even more exciting, we rented a built-out Ram ProMaster Van to live out of on the entire trip. 2,000 miles later, we can officially say Oregon is an incredible place.

Unlike most of our big road trips, we were able to convince our friends Tyler and Jesse, with their dog Sierra, to join us in their van on the trip. The plan was to head out from Park City, UT on a Saturday morning, drive to Bend, OR, then head West to the Coast and explore a few beach towns, before heading north to the banks of the Columbia River and stay a few days in Hood River. It sure was a lot of driving, but every minute in the van was worth it.


Starting off in, what we didn’t realize at the time, our favorite stop on the trip. Though the population of Bend is substantially more than Park City, around 100,000, it still felt like a real mountain town. We camped just out of town in the Deschutes National Forest, where we were able to ride incredible mountain bike trails right from camp. The soft, loamy dirt felt like my bike tires were made from Velcro, compared to the dry, loose dirt we are all used to in Utah. 

After riding, we headed into town to wander around and start checking off breweries from our list. One after another, put down some of the most delicious beverages. Best part, everywhere we went was dog friendly, so our four legged pups could join in our brewery hopping adventure. 

Of course, we barely touched the surface of this town. We didn’t get up to Mt. Bachelor because it’s still closed and it was snowing. And next time, we’ll have to bring our boards and kayaks to check out the standing wave right in the center of town!  It seemed like there was so much to do here, and I can’t wait to get back there.

Deschutes National Forest

For as long as I can remember, the only thing I thought of when I pictured Oregon in my mind was the lush, rainy, moss covered forest of the Pacific Northwest. And as much as I hate rain on a vacation, I almost hoped we’d get some as we drove through the dense national forest on our way from Bend to the coast. Well, it did not disappoint, not one bit. We constantly stopped on the side of the road to take photos, over and over agin. And thankfully we did, because they turned out incredibly.

Beverly Beach & Manzanita

For a few days of our trip, we spent camped right on the beach along Oregon’s pristine coastline. First stop, Beverly Beach, where we camped right next to Highway 101 in Beverly Beach State park. For a paying campground, it didn’t get much better than this. We were within a few yards of the beach access where we spent the night and morning wandering up and down the beach. Much different than the coast I’m used to in New Jersey, this stretch of sand was shockingly desolate with large mountains looming overhead.

Unfortunately, this was also where our friends Tyler and Jesse ran into some car trouble with their van. The following morning, they couldn’t get it to start. They ended up having to get it towed to the next closest town with a reasonable shop where they had to spend the night. We feared the worst. We were hundreds of miles from Utah and what if their van kicked the bucket. Luckily, that shop was able to overnight the part they needed, and had them back on the road by the following afternoon! Crisis averted and the trip could continue.

After Beverly Beach, we headed north on Highway 101 to the tiny beach town of Manzanita, which was tucked right under the towering Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain. For two days we camped in Nehalem Bay State Park which had us tucked right against the dunes right next to the beach. This beach town was easily our favorite. One that really still felt like a tiny town, full of locals. Each night, we’d ride our bikes into town to get some dinner and then catch the sunset on the beach. During the day, we hit the beach, which was shockingly colder than expected. And at night, we all headed to the beach for a campfire within earshot of the crashing waves. I hadn’t done this since I was a kid on family vacations to North Carolina, so it was quite a bit nostalgic for me!

Hood River

Just a short drive east from Portland, is the mountain & river town called Hood River. A booming metropolis, it is not, but a one light town that we all could see ourselves actually living in. This is a place, is out of a Red Bull watersports video. The central part of town is the waterfront park. This is pretty much the only place we hung out the entire time we spent in Hood River. Here, you can spend all day watching kiteboarders and windsurfers ripping around on the vast Columbia River. Back and forth, the riders glided across the flowing water. If we had more time there, I would’ve loved to take lesson and try one of those kites out. But for us, we just spent the time hanging out in on the beaches and using the SUP board in the water.

Hood River, which also does not have an open alcohol container law, similar to New Orleans, is just another reason why this town is awesome. The beer was awesome, the breweries are plentiful, and even the pizza was incredible (coming from a guy who was born & raised in New Jersey).

For two nights, we were able to park the Van overnight (and slept in it), on N 2nd Street by Ferment Brewing. This side of the street allows parking more than 3hrs after 6PM. Each night, there were a dozen other vans and trucks also lining the street. Every morning, we moved to another spot or over to the biking area. We never got hassled or had anything said to us, so I’d definitely recommend staying there.

The mountain biking here, located in Post Canyon Canyon, is gnarly. Some of the tackiest riding I’ve ever done. It felt like my tires were velcro, sticking to the Oregon dirt. I will say this, you better enjoy climbing when you ride here because it’s straight up, followed by epic downs. I rode two days here, and barely scratched the surface. There were jumps, techy, and absolute carpet smooth runs.

Like nearly all of our trips, we really can’t wait to go back. Oregon was such an incredible, diverse, dog-friendly place. Where there was so much do do and see, as well as eat and drink. Don’t change Oregon, or at least not until we get to visit again!

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