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Caving in Central Oregon

entrance to a cave

Central Oregon is home to many geological and volcanic wonders but none are as interesting as the caves left behind from ancient lava flows thousands of years ago.  Access to a large cave system is located just a short drive outside of Bend and can provide a full days worth of fun and adventure.

The caves located off of Old China Hat Road are not for the un-adventurous.  When you arrive you will not find a ranger station or interpretive center.  Instead, you will most likely find yourself alone in the high desert with maybe one or two other cars parked at a trail head or cave entrance.  Due to vandalism over the years these caves have been unmarked and are difficult to find at times, however with enough looking you, too, can find these wonders.

Suggested Reading

central oregon caves bookWe recommend checking out the book Central Oregon caves before heading out to explore these caves for yourself. It is an excellent pamphlet style book published in 1987 before the government came in and started regulating the caves so it offers all sorts of detail that is very hard to find on the internet now-days.

Finding The Caves

The following caves are located near Bend in Central Oregon:

  • Boyd Cave
  • Arnold Ice Cave
  • Skeleton Cave (By Permit only)
  • Wind Cave (Permanently Closed)
  • South Ice Cave
  • Charcoal Cave
  • Hidden Forest Cave

Most of these caves are located off of China Hat Road just south of Bend.  To get there from Bend take Highway 97 South and exit at Knott Road (exit #143).  Upon exiting make a left, head east towards China Hat Road (also called Arnold Ice Cave Road or Highway 18). Coming from La Pine or Sunriver you will want to take  Highway 97 North and exit at Knott Road as well.

Boyd Cave

Drive on China Hat Road for about 15-20 minutes before you reach the first Cave, Boyd cave.  Boyd Cave is the most popular and easily accessible of the caves in the area however lack of signage makes it tricky to find. A quick tip: the turn off point for Boyd Cave is right before China Hat Road turns to gravel. You will take a left and drive down a beat up old dirt road for less than a quarter mile until you reach a turn around and small parking area.

Skeleton Cave

After Boyd Cave you can drive up China Hat Road a few mile further to Skeleton Cave.  When China Hat Road turns to dirt you will want to start looking for the Skeleton Cave turnoff on your left marked as Road 1819.  Due to vandalism, Skeleton Cave access is limited to those with a permit.  If you would like a permit you would need to apply directly with the Deschutes National Forest.  Alternatively you can book a guided tour through Wanderlust Tour Company in Bend.  You can drive up to the entrance of Skeleton cave which usually has a close gate.  Just park at the gate and hike into the cave.  One half of the cave is closed off but you can still explore the other side without a problem .

Wind Cave

Next comes Wind Cave.  Wind Cave is under a permanent closure due to the bats that live there.  You can go to the entrance but you will not be getting past the giant jail-like bars at the front of it.

inside a cave

Boyd Cave Crawl Space

Arnold Ice Cave

Arnold Ice Cave is the cave that the road is named after so you’d think that it would be easy to find however due to vandalism the government has removed the signs to this cave making it tough to locate.  The road to Arnold Ice cave is located just after the road to Wind Cave on the right hand side.  Look for Swamp Well Road just after Forest Road 1820.  The cave is a short distance off the main road and impossible to miss.  Arnold Ice Cave has a neat history and story to it so be sure to read more about it here.

What to Bring when Caving

If you plan on going into any of these caves you need to be sure to be properly equipped.  It is recommended to bring at least 3 sources of light and always go with a buddy.  Gloves are a good idea and extra layers of clothes can help you keep warm where the temperature sits at a steady 40 degrees.  It is also a good idea to tell someone where you are going and when they should expect you back in the event you don’t return.  These caves are rather remote and depending on when you visit them it could be days until someone finds your abandoned car.

Flashlights we Like

Some of our favorite flashlights are made by a company called Coast that is located in Portland, Oregon.  Coast makes high quality, incredibly bright and fortunately affordable flashlights, headlamps and lanterns.  Their lights typically boast a high lumen output and are super durable. 
One of our favorite handheld lights made by Coast is the Coast HP7.  The HP7 is a small and compact light with a huge output of 250 lumens.  It has two firing modes: the first being super bright and the second is slightly less bright.  If you find yourself heading into a cave in central Oregon we definitely recommend the HP7 as a reliable light source.

Headlamps are essential gear for caving and there are many option available to choose from. Headlamps are nice when caving because they keep your hands free for scrambling and make the overall experience much easier.   Coast also makes several headlamps and the options range in the level of Lumen output.  For a mid-level and affordable headlamp we recommend the Coast HL7.  The HL7 has a 196 Lumen output and similar to the HP7 has two different power settings for high light and low light.  It operates on 3 AAA batteries and is an ideal headlamp solution for the caving enthusiast.

More Reading

For more information on these caves check out the following resource and videos:

Arnold Ice Cave:

Mt. Hood Recreation Newsletter – June 2012

Below is a newsletter sent out by CLM Services (California Land Management Services):


A new season of camping has started. We had a great Memorial Day weekend; people were out enjoying themselves and enjoying the nice weather. All the campgrounds on the Clackamas River were open. Kayakers were out in the river, bicyclists were out riding and hikers were out enjoying the many trails Mt Hood National Forest has to offer! The snow is melting fast on the Hwy 26, Trillium Lake campground and Frog Lake campground will be open by June 8th, 2012.

Many of our camphosts from last season have returned, while some have moved on to other forests. Many of our hosts are locals of the Mt. Hood area. While some are full time RVer’s and home is wherever they park their rig.

All our camphosts go through background checks every year. They then go through training at the beginning of the season. This year we did our two day in class training at the Beat Western in Sandy. We had guest speakers from the forest service and speakers from our own company. Then the hosts get two days of training out in the campgrounds. We make sure everyone is ready to make your stay enjoyable.

This year we have expanded the merchandise in the Ripplebrook Store. We added picnic tables outside of the store for your enjoyment. What we are really excited about is the Wi-Fi now available from the Ripplebrook Store. Many of our campers have already taken advantage of it. Many people with smart phones have been able to download an app that lets them make phone calls. Others have used their smart phones to access the internet.

Over at the Clackamas Museum we have expanded on items for sale. We have walking sticks, camping equipment, food items ranging from a can of beans to marshmallows, chocolate and Graham Crackers. We also have bottle water and firewood, and what is a Museum without books and maps. Don’t worry; we still have a museum for you to see, with our knowledgeable staff that can help you with information on the area or the history of The Clackamas Historic Ranger Station.

Lost Creek Campground has two Yomes for rent. Yomes are similar to a Yurt but not quite the same. It’s kind of a combination Yurt and large tent, with two futon bunk beds in each one. Remember if you rent one bring your own bedding and no pets or smoking in side. Plans are to put three Yomes up in Trillium this summer.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon

The book, 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington, 3rd Edition, is an excellent guide for those who are looking to find hike in the area. This is an essential book to have with you when you are camping or exploring Oregon has it has hikes for the entire northwest area of the state. As the title states, this book will guide you on 100 different hikes ranging from easy to very difficult.100-hikes-in-northwest-oregon

The book does a good job of splitting up the area geographically into the following: Portland, Southwest Washington, Columbia Gorge, Mount Hood – West, Mount Hood – East and the Clackamas Foothills. Each hike is given a rating of easy, moderate or hard and quickly lets you know if it is good for kids, open year round and backpacking friendly. In addition, there is a nice map in the front of the book to provide a quick glance of hikes that may be nearby.

Many of the hikes in this book are on trails that have multiple approaches and the book nicely outlines the different ways you could do the same hike. For example, an easy hike will be explained and then on the same trail a longer more difficult loop may be possible as well. The author provides great detail in how to locate the trail-heads and offers tips on scenic features to look out for.

Overall this is an excellent guide book for hikes in Oregon and should be a part of every northwest outdoor enthusiast’s library.

5 Things to Do at Olallie Lake

Olallie Lake in Oregon

Olallie Lake in OregonOlallie Lake is a popular destination for many outdoor enthusiasts and it is a place with a multitude of things to do.  Here is a short list of 5 things you can do while visiting Olallie Lake.

1) Boating.  Whether you are new to boating or are an experienced veteran, Olallie Lake is a great place get out on the water and enjoy the amazing scenery.  No motor boats are allowed on Olallie Lake and you will mostly find paddlers including kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and row boats.  If you do not have  a boat they can be rented at the lake store starting at $8 an hour and up to $30 for the day.  Weekly rates are also available if you want to stay awhile.  For current rates visit the Olallie Lake Resort boat rental page.

2) Camping. Olallie Lake is a very popular camping destination and campgrounds on the lake tend to fill up fast during the peak summer months.  The most popular as well as scenic campground is Peninsula Campground which is home to 35 campsites, many of which have lake shore views.  Camp Ten is another campground on Olallie Lake and it has 10 Campsites.  Paul Dennis Campground is another option with 17 sites available.  None of the campgrounds at Olallie Lake have drinking water so it is recommended you bring your own.  If you find that all the sites are full there is plenty of make-shift off road camping available in the area.

3) Fishing.  Olallie Lake is a very popular fishing destination and you can often find the shores lined the anglers galore.  The lake is stocked and with the availability of boat rentals it really increases the popularity.  Bait is for sale at the Lake Store and don’t forget to come with License.

4) Hiking. Olallie Lake sits at the foot of Mt. Jefferson and is towered over by Olallie Butte.  The Pacific Crest Trail makes a pit stop near the Lake Store which makes it easy for hikers to jump on the trail for a nice day excursion.  Hiking in the area ranges from moderate to difficult but there are so many views to take in it makes even the strenuous hikes worth it.  Hiking up Olallie Butte is discouraged as it is on Warm Spring Indian Reservation however it is not illegal.  For details on how to access the trail up Olallie Butte check this Olallie Butte Trail Page.  For a great writeup on a 6 mile hike up the Pacific Crest Trail check out the Double Peaks hike writeup.

5)  Swimming.  Swimming in Olallie Lake is not allowed as they claim it is a drinking source for the Cabins and Camp Store.  This is not much of a deterrent for campers as the campgrounds do not provide drinking water.  Like so many rules, this one does not make much sense to us but we are forced to follow it.  An alternative to Olallie Lake is the nearby Monon Lake just a 2 minute drive or 10 minute hike from Peninsula Campground.  It is a great spot for a quick swim and while the water is chili it is not unbearable – though this may depend on the time of year you are there.  There is also a swimming hole at Head Lake within walking distance west of the Lake Store

Indian Henry Campground Closed – Estacada, Oregon

On July 15th, 201 Mount Hood National Forest officials announced the indefinite closure of one of the most popular campgrounds in the area, Indian Henry Campground.

The closure was announced in response to massive Hemlock trees in the area creating a public safety issue.   The Hemlock tress are very shallow rooted and have been blowing down in the campground.  No injuries have occurred but an assessment of the campground pushed officials to make the decision to close the campground.

There has been no official announcement as to when Indian Henry Campground will re-open but it sounds like it will not be anytime this 2011 camping season.

Indian Henry Campground is host to 91 campsites and is a very popular summer destination due in part to its close proximity to the Portland area and excellent location on the Clackamas river. The early closure will surely push campers further up the river to other campgrounds which should in turn make campground capacities peak.  If you are heading up the Clackamas be sure to have  a back up plan if your desired campground is full this year.



Cape Falcon Hike Oswald West State Park

Oswald West State Park is located between Cannon Beach and Tilamook on the Oregon Coast and features various hikes and outdoor activities including Smugglers Cove Beach. The Cape Falcon hike is a nice, moderate 4+ mile round trip hike that starts from highway 101 and ends at a amazing viewpoint at Cape Falcon.

The hike crosses several small creeks and passes a waterfall while winding through an old growth forest with huge trees and great views. Cape Falcon itself is up on a high cliff and offers excellent views of Smuggler’s Cove and the rest of the Oregon coastal line. This is a great place for a picnic or to just relax and enjoy the view. During the wet season the trail can get very muddy so be sure to wear proper shoes.

On your way back you can take a short detour at the trail junction and head down to Smuggler’s Cove to watch the surfers or check out the tide pools.








For more information on this hike check out the following links:

Mount Hood Recreation Newsletter by CLM Services

Mount Hood

Below is a newseltter sent out by CLM Services (California Land Management Services) in regards to some recent changes in Campground Management on the Clackamas River.  Changes include adding more reservations systems to campgrounds as well as Yurt style camping and new campgrounds.  Additionally, a much needed camp store has been added at the Ripplebrook Ranger Station in Estacada.



The following newsletter was sent out by CLM Services on June 22nd, 2011. For more infromation please visit the California Land Management Services website.


Welcome to the Mount Hood Recreation Newsletter.  We are the new campground operator in the Mount Hood National Forest, operating under a “Special Use Permit” as a partner with the U.S. Forest Service. We are a division of Northwest Land Management and have been managing USFS campgrounds for over thirty years.

We are now managing the campgrounds along the Clackamas River, Trillium Lake, Clear Lake, Still Creek, Clackamas Lake, Joe Graham Horse Camp, Tollgate, Camp Creek, and Rock Creek. We also are managing many smaller campgrounds that are not yet on the reservation system such as: Keeps Mill, Bear Springs, Bonnie Meadows, Bonnie Crossing and many more.

We plan on putting some of these other campgrounds on the reservation system in the future, like Bear Springs. We also plan on adding some group sites at Bear Springs. In addition, we are opening a new campground in July called Spring Drive. This will be a RV full hook-up campground with no bathroom facilities and no tent sites (self-contained RV’s only). Spring Drive is a 13 site campground located by the old Bear Springs Guard Station in Maupin.

In the Barlow Ranger District, we are putting together a group camp area that has “hooch’s” instead of tent camping. This one is Called Camp Cody. This was an old work station that was used by firefighters and occasionally school groups and others who were working on environmental projects. There is a dining hall and community showers. This group area is located by the Rock Creek Reservoir. Camp Cody is still under construction.

In the Clackamas River area we have opened up a camp store at the old Ripplebrook Guard Station. At the store we sell firewood, ice, ice-cream, chips, candy bars, soda, souvenirs, camping supplies and fishing equipment. There’s also a large selection of Mount Hood t-shirts. Please stop by and mention this newsletter and receive a free cup of hot coffee.

We’re also managing the old Clackamas Historic Ranger station. It’s now a museum filled with history of the Mount Hood area. Next door is the Clackamas Lake Historic Cabin available for rent. This historical 1,380 foot, two-story cabin was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933-34. This is a classic example of the Forest Service rustic architectural style of Depression Era administration buildings. Guests can enjoy the cabin’s well-preserved features, including the massive rock chimney, knot free interior paneling, and hand-wrought iron work. The downstairs has a living room, kitchen, dining area, small sunroom, and bathroom with shower and a bedroom. The upstairs has two bedrooms. Guests will need to bring their own bedding. Reservations are taken through or call 1-877-444-6777.

Along the Clackamas River is Indian Henry Campground. The Forest Service has added three “Yomes” to this campground on sites 21A, 23A and 24A. The Yomes will be furnished with bunk beds, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding. This is a great alternative to tent camping, while still enjoying the campground experience. Still Creek Campground will also be getting three Yomes.

Ripplebrook Camp Store

A much needed camp store has been opened at the Ripplebrook Ranger station off of the Clackamas River on highway 224. The camp store carries basic amenities like propane, sunscreen, ice, campstoves, maps, some food, etc.

Ripplebrook Camp Store, 61431 HWY 224, Estacada, OR 97023

Open Friday through Sunday, 9:00am – 5:00pm

Previously campers had to travel back to Estacada for ice and other items. For more information have a look at the Ripplebrook Camp Store Facebook Page.


Welcome to the Muddy Camper!  This is our fist blog post and we are excited to be up and running!  There will be some continuous changes as we dial in the Muddy Camper website but our overall long term goal is to be the number one campground information and reservation website in the Pacific Northwest (starting with Washington and Oregon).

If you are an avid camper and would like to be a contributor to he website please contact us. Enjoy!

Canyon Creek Meadows

Until this weekend I was fully unaware of this little slice of heaven stashed away up on Santiam Pass. I have literally driven by this an un-countable amount of times just miles away on highway 20 without knowing what lay just over the horizon.

View Oregon Outdoors in a larger map

We started out at Jack’s Lake trailhead, which is about 10 miles off of highway 2o just past Suttle Lake, and hiked about 3.5 miles into our camp in Canyon Creek Meadows. After breaking camp we decided to venture out on several smaller “day hikes” while leaving most of our gear in camp. The terrain is super friendly for “bushwacking” and creating your own trail which gives you the chance to truly venture out and explore the area. When facing Three Fingered Jack from the meadow there are two different areas that are accessible. To the right, you can go up a steep, loose rocked face that will eventually land you on the Pacific Crest Trial. The views up here are amazing and worth the short scramble. To the left of Three Fingered Jack you will see a trail that heads up to a nice saddle. Here you will also find amazing views and if you want to continue exploring you can just wandering aimlessly as the massive rock behind helps tremendously with navigation.