There simply is no better way to escape from the heat of summer than heading for the mountains, especially when the destination is in a northern range like the Cascades. When the towering peaks are still covered with snow in August and glaciers can be seen, then you will definitely be in the right place to find some cool refreshing relief. In fact, if Mt Hood is the chosen spot on the map, then you may want to pack some winter sports gear because this towering volcanic peak actually has the longest ski season in the nation. Hiking in the deep alpine forests, viewing wildlife in meadows and doing a family toboggan run can actually be done in one day when the conditions are right, so boredom is practically unheard of in the Mt Hood National Forest!
The Mt Hood National Forest certainly is an appealing place to be during the summer season and there are many camping options to choose from when making vacation plans. Old fashioned primitive dispersed camping along the many deep forest roads is mostly what the seasonal hunters do, while the casual tourists tend to prefer developed campgrounds that offer safety in numbers. No matter where you go in the Mt Hood National Forest, it will be guaranteed to be a deep woods experience, which also presents dangers that must not be overlooked. Bears and mountain lions call this region home, while the volcanic terrain presents risks as well. People go missing without a trace in these deep forests and it is easy to become hopelessly lost when straying off trail. For this reason it is best to be aware of the surroundings, especially when hiking into the back country.
Safety in numbers is comforting for some people and this is where the Mt Hood National Forest developed campgrounds enter the picture. Just knowing that others will be around does help to ease tensions, especially during late summer when the bears are on a feeding frenzy. Knowing that the rangers are within easy reach is comforting too, since not everybody in the deep woods qualifies as an upstanding character. The developed campgrounds offer some peace of mind and security, which are the basics that the casual tourists desire when spending time in a wilderness area. A visitor will not be completely on their own in a developed campground, which is good for those who are new to the camping game.
One of the very best developed campgrounds at Mt Hood most definitely is the Clear Lake Campground. This lakeside campground is just a few miles away from the community of Government Camp, so stocking up is easy to do. A couple of winter sports areas are also located nearby and there is a scenic overlook down the road that offers unobstructed views of the majestic Mt Hood volcanic peak. There are hiking trails everywhere in this deep alpine conifer forest, while summer season water sports activities await right next door at Clear Lake, which has a deceptively long shoreline. Small craft boating, paddle boarding and wind surfing are the main aquatic activities, while walking the shoreline will present endless wildlife viewing opportunities. Birding is also excellent at Clear Lake and hours upon hours can be spent watching the resident ospreys sky dive for an easy fish dinner.
The Clear Lake Campground offers a relaxing lakeside shady deep woods experience that spells relief from the extreme heat of summer. Each campsite has a picnic table, chargrill pit and drinking water is available. Pit toilets round out the facilities and the pads can accommodate 30 foot vehicles. This campground is in the Mount Hood National Forest reservation system and booking a campsite well ahead of time is highly recommended during the summer season.
On the downside, there are only about 28 campsites available, but there is an overflow area. The fees are a bit steep by standards too, which goes with the convenient location. Dispersed camping options can be found along the White River a few miles away, if paying over $20 per night does not fit in with the budget. Another item to keep in mind is Clear Lake happens to be a man made irrigation reservoir and the lake water starts to drain off in July. As can be seen in the photos, by late August this shallow lake will be nearly dry, so if water sports are in the plan, it will be better to arrive early summer.
If doing some fishing, alpine hiking and exploring the points of interest around one of the tallest easy to recognize volcanic peaks in the world sounds like a dream come true, then the Clear Lake Campground should be considered for the travel plans. Conveniences can be found nearby, which are nearly always a necessity for casual campers that do not set out to conquer the wild. This is a busy little campground with a high turnover ratio and making reservations will guarantee a spot in this alpine forest paradise. Be sure to pack a good cameras, because the local ospreys most definitely are the stars of the show!
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