Oregon life hack: Don’t leave the region from June to August. Our summers—full of non-humid sunny weather, perfect rivers, and impeccably cool, shady forests—are the reason to live here.
Oregon summers are also perfect for exploration, and while I love camping, one should not have to spend every adventure sleeping on the ground (ants and spiders and backaches, amirite?). While there are plenty of hotels willing to take your money, it’s even better to search out some great in-between spots, like yurts or treehouses. Not only are they usually cheaper (all the choices below are around $100 a night or less!) but also infinitely cooler than your usual four walls and a roof.
Here are five options on a few unique and affordable places to spend a summer night in the Pacific Northwest, ranging from an easy overnighter to a long, weekend-worthy jaunt.
Yurting at Cape Lookout!
About an hour and a half out of downtown Portland, the 13 yurts at Cape Lookout do tend to book up fast. But schedule ahead (or aim for a weeknight), and you can plan on spending a few days soaking up cool coastal air from inside a yurt.
I’m a huge fan of these yurts, which have tables, bunk beds with plastic mattresses (the bottom bunk fits two grown-ups easily), heat, and even a couch that folds out into more sleeping room—for $47 a night. Just bring your own bedding and cooking supplies. Outside are your own front porch, a grill, and a picnic table.
The nearby hike to Cape Lookout is about five miles of moderate terrain, with a payoff at the end involving an endless view of the blue Pacific and probably even some gray whales frolicking in the surf and some shit. You’re also a stone’s throw from where they make Jacobsen sea salt and the Nevør Shellfish Farm. Buy a dozen of large oysters on the cheap, throw them over some open flames, and toss a few salt flakes on them for a super good night. 13000 Whiskey Creek Rd, Tillamook, OR, oregonstateparks.org
Soak up Crystal Crane Hot Springs!
Oh Christ am I excited to go here this summer. I’ve been eyeing this healing hot springs resort outside of Burns for a couple of years, and finally got it together to reserve a few nights this July.
Crystal Crane has a 101-degree HOT SPRING POND that’s seven feet deep in the middle, with little quaint cabins right on the water for $67 a night!! It’s western themed and it’s so damn cute!! SQUEEEEE!!! But I’ll be staying in the teepee, which has a queen-size bed, bedding and towels for two, and its own private hot spring-fueled tub inside! For $110 a night!
True, Burns is a haul, but it’s right on the edge of the Steens Mountain wilderness, some of the most remote and breathtaking land in Oregon. You can hike around the glacier-cut gorges, drive to overlooks, and just maybe not see another human for a little while. Sounds good to me. 59315 Hwy 78, Burns, OR, cranehotsprings.com
Vintage trailer at the Sou’wester!
Everyone I know who has stayed at the Sou’wester, located near Long Beach, Washington, is obsessed. It’s self-described as a “hodgepodge” of accommodations, including a lodge, campsites and cabins, but the vintage trailers are the reason to go.
A baby-sized 1953 Boles Aero trailer—resplendent in its tin exterior and packed with tiny artwork on the inside—runs $103 a night, while a few dollars more includes options like the turquoise and white wonder that is the 1953 Zelmar Cruiser, with a full kitchen, sitting area, full-sized bed and maximum kitsch.
There’s a trailer for art; there’s a trailer full of cool vintage clothes and finds; there’s a trailer for meditation. There’s a sauna for all guests, and some rusty bikes you can borrow for free to pedal the nearby paved Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail, which leads to the lighthouse at Cape Disappointment. There’s also North Jetty Brewing less than a half mile away when you get back from your ride thirsty. If ya don’t know, now ya know. 3728 J Place, Seaview, WA, souwesterlodge.com
Teepee at Clyde Holliday State Park!
Clyde Holliday State Park rests right on the John Day River, and if you reserve one of the two teepees for $46 a night, you can roll out of your bed and right onto a lawn chair with your feet in the water and cottonwood trees overhead. With a concrete floor, heaters if you need them, and vinyl-covered sleeping pads for eight, this is the right way to summer.
Drive a bit west and you’ll have easy access to the John Day Fossil Beds and Painted Hills, and then spend the next day in John Day, tooling around old-school antique shops and exploring the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, which is a legit awesome look into what was at one time the second-largest population of Chinese immigrants on the West Coast. Then go back to your teepee, grill some hotdogs, and play some cribbage. US 26, Mt Vernon, OR, oregonstateparks.org
Sleep in a tree in Cave Junction!
Cave Junction is about as far as you can get from Portland and remain in the state of Oregon, and that’s grand. Just south of this town of 2,000, Treehouses.com offers “treesort” rooms that are fully up in the branches—anywhere from 12 to 47 feet above the ground.
The treesort has “activitrees” (their pun, not mine!) like zip-lining, but I’d use the place as a jumping off point to explore the Redwoods, Ashland, and Rogue River. Throw down with a group of four and get the “Magistree,” a full-on palace in the sky accessible by climbing three flights of stairs, crossing two suspension bridges and then climbing one more flight. It’s $330 a night, but split between everyone, that’s just $82.50 a person—not a lot of trees to spend for those kind of digs. 300 Page Creek Rd., Cave Junction, OR, treehouses.com