What better way to celebrate Father’s Day than a family camping trip? That was my thought when I booked a campsite at Stub Stewart Park, an Oregon state park less than 45 minutes west of Portland.
As soon as I committed us, though, I had flashbacks to the last time we went camping. (I wrote about my sleepless nights in the tent for PDX Parents’ Happy Campers, a guide to family camping in the Northwest.)
This trip—made slightly more complicated by the addition of a second kid who, btw, wakes every few hours even in the controlled, sound-machined environment of home—didn’t disappoint in the Lack of Sleep Department. But the memories we made camping as a family of four at Stub Stewart more than made up for the dark circles under my eyes.
If you’re looking for kid-friendly camping spots near Portland, here’s the lowdown on family camping at Stub Stewart State Park.
Clean, beautifully maintained campgrounds
We haven’t camped a lot since having kids, but before that, I spent many summers sleeping in a tent (or under the stars). Keep that in mind when I say that L.L. Stub Stewart State Park is the best-maintained camp I’ve ever stayed in.
Bathrooms were cleaned every day. Park hosts kept camp sites raked, leveled and free of litter. Plenty of maps and brochures were posted at the welcome center as well as periodically on the trail. The fire pits had built-in grills and looked as if they’d been emptied very recently.
That said, the camp sites had very little privacy. From our spot in the drive-up camp sites (different than the hike-in sites), we could see every other tent in the gathering. We weren’t camping in the woods like I’m used to—it was more of an open area with leveled spots for tents.
But for our first camping trip as a family of four—plus the friends who joined us—it worked. What’s more, Kiwi loved watching the big kids play in the central common area, and Peeper made fast friends with other campers. Plus it was easy to keep an eye on roving little ones in the campground.
Plenty for families to do
Although Kiwi had a terrible time sleeping, I found a bright side: There was no way my baby would nap in the tent, so whenever she got tired and cranky, I strapped her into the carrier and set off on a hike. She’d fall asleep after a few minutes, and I hiked as long as she snoozed.
I ended up hiking a lot of the trails at Stub Stewart, and I was impressed.
The trails were impeccably maintained, and the signage was fantastic. At every trail intersection, signs labeled not only the name of the trail (which was also clearly marked on the maps) but also the distance to other parts of the park.
I hiked through forest and hilltops and fields of foxgloves. The Stub Stewart trails also connect to the paved Banks-Vernonia State Trail, 21 miles of mixed use trail. I saw plenty of bikers making use of the path, which was created when a railway there was dismantled.
Stub Stewart also has an off-leash dog park at the Hilltop Day Use area. The rest of the park isn’t good for off-leash dogs (especially because the state park is open to horses), so having a space for your four-legged family to run free is even better.
Tip: On a clear day, the view from the Hilltop Day Use area is gorgeous, with a vista of forest-covered hills and a big sky. Take a family photo!
Disc golfing, too
We played disc golf both days we stayed at Stub Stewart State Park, and you should definitely give it a try if your family visits, too. The course isn’t particularly friendly for beginners—it winds through pretty dense forest (watch out for that tree!), and you need a spotter to watch where discs end up on some holes (unless you don’t mind losing them down an embankment or in a deep cluster of ferns).
That said, the disc golf course is beautiful—and fun, of course. On Sunday we had quite the parade: three sets of parents, six kids, three dogs and two strollers. Everyone had a great time. The dads played a full round, the moms talked and wrangled kids, and the littles chased bugs, searched for robin eggs and raced down the trails. (They also threw more than a few discs, prompting the grown-ups to chase the rollers down the hill!)
A great place for beginner family camping
Experienced campers might not love the manicured aspects of Stub Stewart State Park. But for folks new to pitching tents with kids (like us, and most of the other families we met there), family camping at Stub Stewart State Park was a great choice that was also close to Portland.
Do you have a favorite family-friendly camping spot?