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Camping Near Sandy Ridge Trailhead

The question of where to camp near the Sandy Ridge Trailhead has come up a few times and we wanted to provide a list of appropriate areas to spend the night on the cheap near the popular biking trail system. If you are a mountain biking enthusiast you have likely heard of Sandy Ridge Trailhead. It is a network of trails with varying terrian that spans roughly 17 miles and offers riding options for all levels of experience. Sandy Ridge Trailhead is usually open 10 months of the year depending on snow levels and is located about an hour outside of Portland.

Sandy Ridge Weather

Current Webcam at Sandy Ridge

Below is a webcam feed from for the webcam in Brightwood which is next to the Sandy Ridge Trailhead. This should help give you an idea of current conditions at Sandy Ridge.

Campgrounds Near Sandy Ridge

Tollgate Campground

15 Campsites
13 minutes from Sandy Ridge

Tollgate CampgroundTollgate Campground is located just outside the small town of Rhododendron a short 13 minutes from the Sandy Ridge trailhead. The campground is usually open from May through September but its higher elevation makes it subject to late season snowfall. Tollgate is a great spot to camp when visiting Sandy Ridge and is also the endpoint for an epic 15 mile downhill ride from Timberline Lodge (shuttle car recommended). The campground is near highway 26 so road noise is an issue but if you can snag a site near the river it helps drown it out.

More on Tollgate…

Camp Creek Campground

25 Campsites
15 minutes from Sandy Ridge

Camp Creek CampgroundCamp Creek Campground is located about 4 minutes past Tollgate Campground as you head up the hill towards Government Camp and Mt. Hood. It is set back a bit off of Highway 26 which helps reduce the road noise and as its namesake states it is nestled along a nice creek. This campground is subject to snow during the winter months and is usually closed from October through mid May so be sure to check with the Forest service before camping here.

More on Camp Creek…

Trillium Lake Campground

57 Campsites
28 minutes from Sandy Ridge

Trillium Lake Campground Mt. HoodRiding Sandy Ridge during the summer and want that quintessential Oregon experience? Look no further than Trillium Lake. This campground is nestled at the foot of Mt. Hood and offers stunning views of the mountain during sunrise and sunset. Sure, it is about 30 minutes from Sandy Ridge and fairly popular but if you are lucky enough to grab a site here you won’t regret it. If you are staying at Trillium Lake you could even strap on a board or skis and go ride the glacier at Timberline in the morning and Sandy Ridge in the afternoon. Totally epic.

More on Trillium Lake…

McNeil Campground

43 Campsites
20 minutes from Sandy Ridge

Lost Lake Campground Mount HoodMcNeil Campground is another nearby campground that could do the trick when riding at Sandy Ridge. It is located about 20 minutes from the trailhead off of Easy Lolo Pass and is a bit more remote than the other options. Like other campgrounds in the area expect the area to be closed and snow-bound during the winter months and early spring. Bonus points for McNeil: if you are into hiking you should check out Ramona Falls as the trailhead is just a short drive past this campground.

More on McNeil…

Other Camping Options Near Sandy Ridge

If any of the above options don’t work for you or you find yourself in the area during the closed season you could consider staying at the nearby Mt. Hood Village RV Park. They have RV spots, tent camping, small cabins and even yurts available.

If you are into roughing it then you came to the right place. Mt. Hood National Forest is a great place for boondock camping and you can essentially stay the night anywhere you like. Our suggestion: head out Easy Lolo Pass toward McNeil Campground and you will find plenty of spots where you can spend the night. But PLEASE, PLEASE pack out what you pack in. We love our forests but we love them even more when they are clean.

Did we miss a spot?

If you have a spot you like to camp while riding Sandy Ridge let us know in the comments below and we can add it to the list!

40 of the Best Campfire Songs in a Spotify Playlist

Campfire with People and Music

One of our favorite parts of camping is settling down in the evening next to a crackling campfire and cranking some relaxing tunes.  There is alot of debate over the best campfire playlist and of course we have our own opinion on what it should be.

Below you can find a list of our favorite campfire tunes and link to the playlist on Spotify.  If you are a spotify premium member be sure to offline the list so you can play it when you do not have service while camping.

List of our 40+ Favorite Campfire Songs

  • I’m On Fire – Town Mountain
  • Redemption Song – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
  • Old Number Seven – The Devil Makes Three
  • Heart of Gold – Neil Young
  • Southside Of Heaven – Ryan Bingham
  • Carry Me Back To Virginia – Old Crow Medicine Show
  • Free / Into The Mystic (feat. Clare Bowen) – Zac Brown Band
  • Corpus Christi Bay – Robert Earl Keen
  • Ten Feet Tall – The Devil Makes Three
  • Wait So Long – Trampled by Turtles
  • Feelin’ Good Again – Robert Earl Keen
  • God Must Be A Cowboy – Chris LeDoux
  • Santa Fe – Jon Bon Jovi
  • After the Gold Rush – Remastered Version – Neil Young
  • Amarillo By Morning – Chris LeDoux
  • The Armadillo Jackal – Robert Earl Keen
  • Down On The Corner – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Lookin’ Out My Back Door – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Heart of Gold – 2009 Remaster – Neil Young
  • Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
  • Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Chicken Fried – Zac Brown Band
  • The Weight – The Band
  • Strange Feelin’ In The Air – Ryan Bingham
  • Ooh La La – Faces
  • Moondance – Van Morrison
  • Friend of the Devil – 2001 Remaster – Grateful Dead
  • The Sound of Silence – Paul Simon
  • The Promise – Sturgill Simpson
  • Stranger – The Devil Makes Three
  • Into The Mystic – Van Morrison
  • Going Up The Country – Canned Heat
  • Louisiana Saturday Night – Mel McDaniel
  • Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound – Hank Williams, Jr.
  • Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys – Waylon Jennings
  • Turtles All the Way Down – Sturgill Simpson
  • New Virginia Creeper – Old Crow Medicine Show
  • The Plank – The Devil Makes Three
  • The Poet – Ryan Bingham
  • Red Right Hand – 2011 – Remaster – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • Uncloudy Day – Willie Nelson
  • A Little Light – Sturgill Simpson
  • Sunshine – Ryan Bingham
  • If It Hadn’t Been For Love – The Steeldrivers
  • King Of The Road – Re-Recorded In Stereo – Roger Miller
  • In Bloom – Sturgill Simpson

Looking for the Perfect Camping Speaker?

We recommend the UE Megaboom.

Spotify Campfire Playlist

What are your favorite Campfire Songs

Leave your favorite campfire songs in a comment below and we will add it to our playlist.

5 Camping Lights you Should Own

Winter is just around the corner and with it comes shorter days and longer, colder nights.  Daylight savings ends on November 4th and that means those of us brave enough to still be camping have less time to setup camp in the light.  That is… it used to be that way.

Lucky for us technology has come a long way from the days of kerosene lanterns.  We now have an overwhelming amount of choices when it comes to LED camping lights.  Options range from solar powered string lights to individual rechargeable bulbs that can be scattered across your campsite.  Lanterns no longer require stinky, combustible fuel and can now be powered by small battery banks.

In no particular order here are 5 of the coolest LED lighting camping products you can find on Amazon right now.

The Luminoodle – USB Powered LED Rope Light

The Luminoodle LED Rope light is a very cool new USB powered light source that is taking off in popularity.  This is similar to the LED rope lights you see however this is powered via USB.  That means it can plug into a battery bank, USB car charger, a computer port, etc.  The power source is not included but these days most people have a battery bank for boosting the charge on their phones that work great for this.

Because the Luminoodle is a rope light it can be strung across the top of a tent, over tree branches, etc.

Coast 405 Lumen LED Headlamp

The headlamp.  Once you camp with one you cannot camp without.  It frees up your hands, is always there when you need it and shines light wherever you turn.  You can’t deny the necessity of a good camping headlamp and we love pretty much all products by Coast.  Not only is Coast a company based in Portland, Oregon but they make outstanding lights.

This particular deal is a great buy.  You get not one, but two headlamps at an incredibly good price.  Just be careful – 405 lumens of light is enough to put out your camping compadre’s eye.

Streamlight 540 Lumen Rugged Camping Lantern

If you know much about lighting then you have probably heard of Streamlight before.  They are known as one of the best in the industry and make all types of lights for various applications.  The Streamlight 540 is a durable LED camping lantern that runs off 3 D cell batteries and delivers a wopping 540 lumens of light.  It comes with 4 different lighting modes to adjust brightness and even has a red light mode to not interfere with night vision for you stargazers.  When travelling, the lantern compresses into itself to make it easier for transportation and to prevent damage.

With over 2,000 five star reviews you can be confident that this is will be the last lantern you buy for a long, long time.  Check it out on Amazon by clicking below.

LED Battery Powered Camping Bulbs

The FengChi LED Camping bulbs are a new type of lighting device that is starting to grow in popularity as they are sort of a mini-lantern type of light that can be hung around a campground to disperse light rather than have it condensed in one area.  The lights come in a three pack and use 3 AA batteries as a power source.  Each light puts out roughly 150 lumens and because it uses LED technology the batteries will last a long time.

The hooks that come with these lights make it easy to set them up around camp or in a car or tent.

Hausbell T6 2 Pack FLashlight

The Hausbell T6 Flashlight is the perfect compact camping backup/emergency light.  There are times when you are going to forget to pack your main flashlight or when you arrive at the campground only to find your batteries in your primary light are dead.  Won’t you be glad that you packed an emergency light in your glovebox? That is what we think these lights are perfect for.  Not only is the Hausbell T6 a durable, water-resistant bright light but it is at an incredibly affordable price point.  And on top of that, you get two of them!

Got a favorite light we didn’t include in this list?

We would love to hear what lights you think kick butt. Drop us a hint in the comments below.

Sonas Portable Camping Speaker

The never-ending search for the perfect camping speaker may have come to an end.  When it comes to camp speakers there are a lot of boxes that have to be checked.  You want something that is going to be slim and lightweight but still packs some serious sound.  The battery must be sufficient to last during long periods charge-free play.  Rugged, water-resistant design is a must and of course, the speaker should easily connect to a phone via Bluetooth.  The Sonas Sounds Traveler does all of this and at an incredibly affordable price.

The Sonas Sounds Traveler literally fits in the palm of your hand and its dimensions come in at 2.5 inches tall, 2 inches wide and 5 inches long.  This small footprint makes it absolutely ideal for backpacking or hiking as well as car camping and it weighs just 12.8 ounces.

Great… it is small but what about the sound you ask? Let’s just say that if you crank the volume all the way up you will be getting a visit from the camp host.  When you hear the sound that comes out of this little camping speaker you would expect to find something much larger.  The mids and highs are crisp and clear and it handles the lows well considering its size (let’s be honest, this doesn’t come with a subwoofer).

The Sonas Sounds Traveler charges via a USB mini connection which means you can hook it up to your power banks or solar panels for an easy power boost while of the grid.  It can be connected to via Bluetooth or a standard 3.5mm auxiliary port and even has a slot of a micro-SD card – for those of you who have a collection of MP3s you want to play.

Right now you can pick up the Sonas Sounds Traveler for just $39.99 and there is currently a $5.00 coupon offering on Amazon which brings the price down even lower.

Sonas Portable Camping Speaker

Wireless portable bluetooth speaker: Enjoy a High Definition stereo sound with a impressive volume whether you're lounging around the house, or partying, walking, camping, hiking, or biking.
With two 5W speakers, it streams incredible stereo sound with full range output, enable powerful, crisp, bass rich music wherever you go.
Built-In Mic Hands-Free Speakerphone: pick up a call conveniently by this mini speaker anywhere when it is connected to your Smartphone

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Price: $99.99 $39.99

Buy Now

Should I be Worried about Cougars?

On September 11, 2018, a woman name Diana Bober was found dead near the small town of Zigzag, Oregon in the Mt. Hood National Forest.  Initial findings indicated the Diana was killed by a cougar while hiking on a nearby trail.  This is the first ever documented fatal cougar attack in the history of the state of Oregon.

On May 19, 2017, two men were attacked by a cougar near North Bend in the state of Washington while out on a mountain bike ride.  One of the men survived –  the other was killed. This was the first documented fatal cougar attack in Washington since 1924.

In general, cougar attacks are rare.  Statistically, you are much, much, much more likely to get struck by lightning than attacked by a cougar.  But Cougars are scary and news of fatal attacks are headliner stories.  So should you be scared to go and enjoy the outdoors? Short answer: No.  Long Answer: No, not at all.

Cougars are out there.  So are bears, wolves, elk, rattlesnakes, coyotes and the most dangerous of all – humans.  Ya, it is scary to think you could get attacked by a cougar – but it is much more likely that you will die from hypothermia after getting lost in the woods.  If the news of all the hikers that have died after getting lost in Oregon in recent history hasn’t kept you from enjoying the outdoors then neither should the presence of cougars.

That being said, this is a good reminder to start being more aware of your surroundings and carrying devices that can help protect you in the event you do run into trouble.  If you don’t possess or aren’t proficient with a proper calibre firearm then Bear Spray can work great in defending yourself against larger predators.  It is always a good rule of thumb to never hike alone – especially on less frequented trails and wilderness areas.

Here is a good resource to review outlining the dos and don’ts of cougars in Oregon. Living with Cougars

Bear Spray as a Defense Against Cougars

Looking for a good bear spray to use as a defense when hiking or camping? Check out the Frontiersman Bear spray below or click here to view more details.  Note:  Be sure to get the one with the holster for quick access when hiking.  Cause if you can’t get to it when you need it…. what’s the point?

Frontiersman Bear Spray

MAXIMUM STOPPING POWER - Maximum strength (2.0% major capsaicinoids) allowed by EPA and Health Canada - strength guaranteed by SABRE in-house HPLC lab eliminating the 30% failures experienced by other brands (Univ of Utah study)
GREATER PROTECTION AT A SAFE DISTANCE - 30-foot/9 m range (7.9 oz) with large barrier (up to 45 grams per second) for optimal protection. Make sure you include Frontiersman Bear Spray as a standard part of your load out.
MAXIMUM COVERAGE - Rapidly delivers a heavy fog of spray for added defense. Accuracy and efficiency is improved helping you and your party stay safe.

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Price: $24.53

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Mt Hood National Forest Fire Ban

Effective immediately fires are prohibited within Mt. Hood National Forest.  Unlike most fire restrictions this one includes fires within developed campgrounds.  Other restrictions include the following:

  • No campfires, stove fires, charcoal or pellet fires in developed or dispersed campgrounds
  • No smoking
  • No chainsaw usage
  • No motorcycles, ATVs or OHVs on National Forest trail systems
  • No discharging of firearms including target shooting.
  • No driving off Forest Road Systems

The full Public Restrictions brief can be found here:

Siuslaw National Forest Campground Closures

Due to an unusually wet winter, many campgrounds in the Pacific Northwest are having delayed openings as operators find water related damages and hazards. The Siuslaw National Forest is one of those areas with 5 campground closures as of June 22, 2017.  Most of these closures are near the coastal camping areas thanks to swollen rivers encroaching on day use areas and access roads.

The following campgrounds and use areas are currently closed until further notice:

Also be aware that many of the ATV trails and roads in the area are flooded and impassable.  For more details visit the Siuslaw National Forest Alerts and Notices page. 

Cultus Lake Campground Closure

Update 6/16/17: The Forest Service has reversed its decision to close Cultus Lake Campground and it now appears that camping will proceed as normal.

In a move that is causing all sorts of inconveniences for campers and at least one business owner, the Deschutes National Forest has issued an immediate closure order on the Cultus Lake Campground, Day use Area, and Boat Ramp.  Citing dangerous trees, the Forest Service has opted to close the majority of the lakeside resort area to summer campers in a last minute move that is sure to infuriate many whom had long standing vacation plans at the lake.

What is confusing about the whole situation, is that out of nowhere the Forest Service has suddenly identified “460” trees that pose a hazard to public safety.  So between now and last September, 460 trees miraculously became a potential threat to visitors.  And nevermind that fact that they have had over 8 months to create a plan to deal with these problematic trees.

So why not remove the trees? Please see Exhibit A: The Spotted Owl.  No joke, you can’t make this stuff up.  The Spotted Owl might use some of these trees as part of its breeding habitat so the Forest Service states that they must wait until the breeding season is over, which is conveniently at the very end of camping season in September.

Now we are all for protecting wildlife her at Muddy Camper, but this all smells a little fishy to us.  The whole “Spotted Owl” argument is just lazy on the Forest Service’s part.  If they want to close the area for safety concerns, just admit that they screwed up and campers have been camping under dangerous trees for years and they just now realized it.  Admit that they lack the resources to remove these trees and don’t blame it on some breeding season of one of North America’s most elusive creatures.

The whole thing stinks.  Makes you wonder if the owners of Cultus Lake Resort pissed off the wrong person somewhere along the line.  Anyways, the main takeaway is that due to the incompetence on the Deschutes National Forest and a phantom bird, your summer vacation plans at Cultus Lake are now as non-existent as the Spotted Owl.

To keep up with developments on this situation check out the Cultus Lake Resort Facebook Page. 

Here is the official Cultus Lake Page from the Deschutes National Forest Service.

Elk Cove Hike

If you have ever hiked the 40 mile long Timberline Trail that circumnavigates Mt. Hood then you are familiar with the beautiful meadows of Elk Cove on the north side of the mountain.  Elk Cove is tucked away in a remote area of Mt. Hood far from any roads, ski areas or cabins and it is this seclusion that gives it its charm.  There are several ways to get to Elk Cove but for this hike we approached it from the Elk Cove trailhead near Laurence Lake just outside of Parkdale.

Finding the Elk Cove Trailhead

The Elk Cove Trailhead is located just a short drive from the Kinnikinnick  Campground at Laurence Lake, roughly 40 minutes from the town of Hood River.  If you are driving from Portland you can either go over Mt. Hood using HWY 26 to HWY 35 or you can take the quicker route through The Gorge using HWY 84.  When you get to Laurence Lake you will want to enter the Kinnikinnick campground and look for a dirt road the heads off to the left just across from the main parking area.  Follow this road up about 3-5 minutes until you can turn left into an immediate parking area for the trailhead.  As always do not leave valuables in your vehicle and be sure to fill out a wilderness permit at the trailhead kiosk.

Elk Cove Trail Hike

The Elk Cove Trail hike is not a beginner hike.  While it is a moderate hike coming in at roughly 10 miles round trip it has a significant elevation gain and lacks shade for most of the hike due to the recent Dollar Lake fire of 2012.  The hike follows a ridge line for the majority of the time and because of this there is no water access after the trailhead until you are nearly at Elk Cove.

Trail TurnoffStarting from the Elk Cove Trailhead you will immediately cross a footbridge at Pinnacle Creek and then follow an old logging road for about a mile.  The road does a long single switchback and soon runs into a log that has fallen across the road.  At this point you will find the actual trail peeling off to the left and up the ridge.

The trail will soon cross into the burnt forest from the 2012 Dollar Lake fire and stays on the ridge line for about 3 miles.  The climb is long and gradual and in the heat of the day, especially during the summer, it will start to take its toll.  Soon, you will come to an excellent viewpoint call the Coe Overlook that will give you your first good glimpse of Mt. Hood and the canyon below.  Take some photos here and if you can find shade take a short break.

After Coe Overlook you will finally get back into a more wooded area that did not fall victim to the Dollar Lake fire.  The brush gets thick and at points you may have to climb downed trees.  Keep your eyes out here for Huckleberries in late July and August.  Eventually, you will come to your second creek crossing at Cove Creek.  There is no foot bridge here however this crossing is fairly easy.  If you aren’t ready for more water here that is OK as there is more opportunity to fill bottles at Elk Cove.

Keep on hiking up and soon you will start passing small campsites as you near the Timberline Trail.  If you are going to spend the night in Elk Cove you will want to keep heading up the mountain rather than camp at these lower sites.  Keep on hiking until you get to your very first trail junction at the Timberline trail.  Taking a left will take you towards the famous Cloud Cap Inn however to get to Elk Cove you will want to go right.  There are also signs at the trail junction indicating which direction is Elk Cove.

Not far from the junction – maybe 50 yards – you will cross cove creek again and see another campsite on right after crossing the creek.  To really experience Elk Cove keep hiking a short distance past Cove Creek until the trail starts heading up toward the mountain.  You will be greeted with a lush meadow and right before the trail starts to do switchbacks on its journey towards Dollar Lake you will want to follow a footpath that parallels Cove Creek up the meadow.  Soon the path will dissipate and you will find your self in the middle of Elk Cove.

Overnight in Elk Cove

elk-cove-sid-tentIf you are looking to spend the night in Elk Cove it may be easiest to claim one of the campsites you see as you come into the area.  The further up the meadow you travel the more difficult it becomes to find a flat place to pitch a tent.  Keep in mind the terrain here is very sensitive and it would be wise to stick with an area that has already been designated as a campsite.  During the summer months you can expect quite a few other campers here as the Timberline Trail passes right through the area.

Scrambling to Coe Glacier

If you are looking for a side trip from Elk Cove you can make your way up to the foot of Coe Glacier – roughly 1000 vertical ft climb.  There is no trail up here and you can expect a hand over foot scramble across very loose rock.  This is NOT an easy climb and there is quite a bit of exposure.  If you do make it, though, the views of Coe Glaicer are well worth it.


Here is a GPS track of the descent from Coe Glacier to Elk Cove.

Tips and Suggestions

When I did this hike it was on a 90 degree day in August and I had my dog with me.  BAD IDEA.  The lack of shade and water on this hike makes it extremely difficult for our furry four legged little friends.  I actually ended up carrying the dog out as she had completely over-heated and couldn’t continue.  Bring lots of water, sunblock and energy bars for this hike.  A water purifier or tablets is also suggested so you can refill your bottles up on the meadow.

Photos of Elk Cove Hike

Willamete National Forest Campground Fee Increases

The Willamette National Forest is considering fee increases for camping, cabin and day use areas starting in 2017.  The fee increases are long due and the area has not seen an increase in over 8 years. What’s more, there has been a massive surge in outdoor recreation over the last few years which has put an increased strain on our parks systems in Oregon. Anyone who has gone camping during the summer months knows the challenge of finding a vacant campground on a Friday night without reservations. Simple supply and demand suggests the ranger districts and the BLM should raise their rates considerably.

The below graphic shows the proposed rate increases by the Willamette National Forest for specific locations.



Click here to learn more about the Willamette National Forest Fee increases.

The below graphics show the proposed rates increases by the BLM.



Click here to learn more about the BLM fee increases.

What do you think about fee increases?