Think snow — try winter cabin camping (2014)
Winter walloped many of us with a blast of ice and snow last week, catching everyone by surprise. We can’t complain — some of our eastern Oregon parks are most peaceful when blanketed in snow. Consider a midweek visit for even more solitude.
Take Emigrant Springs, located near the summit of the Blue Mountains that was once a pioneer stop along the Oregon Trail. The campground’s six heated cabins (No. 1 allows pets) are cozy and dry so that you can stay toasty warm while you take in views of the bucolic winter wonderland outside. The one-room cabins sleep five on a futon couch and bunk bed, and they are just a short snow-booted stroll to a hot shower. A little secret: No. 5 is our favorite with its privacy and proximity to the restroom.
After preparing a hot breakfast in the cabin’s outdoor propane stove and oven, strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and hit 20 miles of trails. “You can literally punch right out of the cabin loop and enjoy 10-20 miles of rolling hills through mature mixed conifer forest,” says Park Manager Clay Courtright. The park also boasts two popular sledding hills and a new one opening later this winter. Additional cross-country skiing trails, tubing hills and snowmobile parks are nearby.
Further east on the Oregon Trail, the two cabins at Farewell Bend will stay open this winter. Late fall and early winter they draw hunters and birders (each fall, migrating birds stop at Brownlee Reservoir en route south and again in early spring when they return north). The cabins are also a relaxing place to disconnect and curl up with a good book.
Cabin camping in the winter begs for a good book. We recommend The Jump-Off Creek by Portland author Molly Gloss, about a widowed homesteader struggling to settle in the rugged Blue Mountains in the 1890s. The descriptions of a brutal eastern Oregon winter will feel very real.
In Central Oregon, enjoy deluxe cabins with private bathrooms at Prineville Reservoir (we like the reservoir views from cabins No. 1 and 2; No. 5 is pet friendly). The Cove Palisades also has cabins, but they’re closed through February 2015 for utility upgrades.
LaPine’s five deluxe and five rustic cabins are a popular jump-off point for winter sports. On site, explore by foot (or possibly snowshoe) the 10 miles of trails that wind along the Deschutes River and through forests of ponderosa and lodgepole pine. You’ll see bald eagles, osprey, deer, elk and maybe even a coyote.
Cabins at state parks are popular on holidays and weekends, so be sure to book in advance here. With winter rates of $40-$44 for a rustic cabin and $64-$67 for a deluxe cabin, this seasonal adventure is a steal.