Weekend Warrior Trip: 2-Day Metolius River Camping

If you have trouble sleeping these days like me, power through your work week and book a camp ground along the wild Metolius River. Better than any white-noise machine, the roaring rapids of these crystal-clear waters will sooth you to sleep like a sweet lullaby.

Recently, I have been super stressed and my anxiety high, so after work one day I jumped onto Recreation.gov and searched for upcoming available campgrounds for a weekend away. Like many destinations, available campgrounds in the Pacific Northwest are tough to come-by. Who knew that RVing and tent camping would be all the rage thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after a brief browse, I found a single no-amenities, no-water campsite, at the last campground, along a long dirt road in what looked like the smack middle of the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Without much thought or research, I clicked book.

To my surprise, that random camp site (Candle Creek Campground to be exact) turned out to be located along the beautiful, Metolius River.

Now I’ve been all over Oregon – including multiple trips south, north, east, and west of this little pocket, but never along it’s wild banks or the forests surrounding. And to my joy, it was just the perfect destination to wash away my worries and get some peaceful sleep – even if only for 48 hours.

Below are a few highlights of the area, from my weekend away:

Trail run the Metolius River Trail

A trip to the Metolius River area isn’t complete until you walk, run, or hike a portion of the Metolius River Trail. Meandering through classic Oregon wilderness, the out-and-back trail starts at the river’s beginning – a mossy hillside spring. The trail continues downstream as the river picks up speed and turns into rushing rapids lined with old-growth Ponderosa pine, cedars, and Douglas fir. Passing campgrounds and the Wizard Falls Fish hatchery, you can access the trail at multiple road crossings. Look for delicate wildflowers along the way and look out for active fly fisherman along the waters’ edge.

I’m training for my second attempt at the Grand Traverse, an ultramarathon, in September, so I enjoyed an early morning 8-mile run along the trail’s flowy path.

Splash at Round Lake

With stunning views of Three Finger Jack, Round Lake offers a quite spot to kick-back and relax on the water. While not far away from Highway 20 as the crow flies, the long-dirt road there seems to keep the crowds at a distance. Cast a rod, paddle around on a stand-up paddle board, or just splash along the shore.

We enjoyed soaking in the amazing views of the mountain while our pups played fetch in the cool waters. The only other people around included one fisherman out on the water and a group of dispersal campers up the road a short-way.

Revie swimming after a stick in Round Lake

Visit a Fire Look Out Tower

While new technology may have made many fire lookout towers obsolete, there are still two near the Metolius River area that you can visit. Hike to the top of Black Butte, an ancient stratovolcano, or visit the iconic Green Ridge Fire Lookout. This region has gotten lucky in the last few years with several wildfires skirting the area – maybe these towers still hold a little fire-protection power over of this wonderous river basin!

We ran out of time to include one of these hikes in our two-day trip; but it is definitely on the list for our next visit.

Hike into Jefferson Park

Mt. Jefferson, the second highest peak in Oregon, sits just to the east of the Metolius River. Hop onto a trail from one of the many access points off of the well-maintained forest service roads from nearby campgrounds. While you aren’t guaranteed a great view of the mountain, as it is still far off, explore the changing flora as the landscape transitions from lush forests to alpine and lava-lined flows.

On our first morning, we wandered along the Jefferson Lake trail for several miles to stretch our legs. With a small pup in tow, we didn’t make it all the way to the alpine lake, but the diverse landscape along the way was rejuvenating to explore nonetheless.

Wander around Sisters, Oregon

The quaint town of Sisters is the nearest town to the Metolius River area. Spend a half-day walking around downtown, grab a cup of coffee and marionberry scone from Sister’s Coffee Company or grab a bite to eat and a beer at Eurosports’ Food Cart Garden.

We stopped here on how way in an out of the Metolius River area. It was crowded with bicyclists but after instant camping coffee, a strong cold brew was just what we needed before hitting the road home.

A little bit of Nothing!

Honestly the best part about this corner of Oregon is the piece and quite. Spend a few hours just hanging around camp, lounge in a hammock with a good book, just watch the rapids flow by or curl up with a sleepy puppy!

I think we wore out our 5-month only Australian Shepherd puppy!

Places to stay:

  • National Forest Campgrounds
  • Resorts and cabin rental in Camp Sherman
  • Hotels in Sisters, Oregon

Published by Kelsey Ivey

An avid traveler and hiker, Kelsey is a freelance writer and professional explorer.

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