Boondocking Along the South Oregon Coast

fionapistolLast month I wrote about the great boondocking stretch of beach south of Yachats, OR – now I'll tell you about a similar and equally spectacular section of the Pacific Coast Highway that's just as boondocker-friendly. We have spent weeks at a time here the last three years, watching the ocean and enjoying the cool summer weather.

Ginny Evans dropped by to help us with the heavy workload - I think everyone but me is taking a nap.

Ginny Evans dropped by to help us with the heavy workload – I think everyone but me is taking a nap.

I call it Pistol River, but nobody's ever heard of that, which is to be expected because there's really very little in the way of towns and other development on this part of the coast – just the way we like it. The only town of any size is Gold Beach, at the mouth of the Rogue River. Where I boondock is south of town between Gold Beach and Pistol River State Park. There are a dozen or more pullouts overlooking the ocean and the huge offshore rocks that characterize this section of the coast.

Our night spot - settled in and waiting for it to get dark enough to see the phosphorescent waves.

Our night spot – settled in and waiting for it to get dark enough to see the phosphorescent waves.

It's all public land, and Oregon state law allows you to park (not camp) in any pullout not otherwise marked for twelve hours at a time, as long as you aren't in a state park. We usually spend the night at the northernmost pullout or down by the mouth of Pistol River just north of the park, and our days at different spots in between.  Smaller pullouts are better – you get less traffic from the day trip people swooping in, jumping out, taking a photo, and zooming off again.   Those people make me nervous – we're used to a slower pace of recreation.

The stretch of Oregon coast from Pistol River to Gold Beach

The stretch of Oregon coast from Pistol River to Gold Beach has these huge chert seastacks, formed at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean out of radiolarian skeletons, and scraped off the Juan de Fuca Plate as it dives beneath the North American Plate.

When you run low on groceries or fresh water, just drive up to Gold Beach. There are two grocery stores, half a dozen gas stations, two with propane, fresh water at the Visitor's Center on the south end of town, and a free dump at the beach end of 5th Place in the middle of town. The local merchants are glad to get your business- they're a small town trying to make a living, not a bunch of chain stores. The employees bought the grocery store from the owner when he wanted to close it, and they're keeping it running, so when they say, “thanks for coming in”, they really mean it. Get provisioned up and head back to the beach for a few more days.

seastacks

The house on the hill at far upper right is as close to the ocean as the rich folks can own property. Thank you, Oregon Land Trust.

Life takes on a slow, easy pace here as you whale watch, walk the beach, and drift off to sleep watching the phosphorescent surf that sometimes appears here in late summer.   Deer come out of the forest at dusk to get their salt from the ocean – it's strange to see deer on the beach, but there they are.  There are sea otters, all kinds of seabirds, and blackberries and wild strawberries growing in profusion all along the shoreline.   You can tell this place doesn't get too many visitors.

Deer on the beach, by dawn's early light.

Deer on the beach, by dawn's early light. Blurry photo, wonderfully vivid memory.





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We first stayed here two years ago, heading south down the coast after Labor Day, and the weather was cooling rapidly so we headed down into California after a week or so. Last year we spent the entire summer on the Pacific Coast Highway, and hit this stretch both coming and going – we probably spent most of a month here all together. This year we're hanging out here and up by Yachats for just about all of late July and August, so we'll get plenty of time in.  There's just no hurry as you savor the end of summer up here in the north, knowing you can prolong it by heading south when the weather cools off.

There are

49 comments

  1. Laura H Postema

    Wow! What a beautiful spot. Thanks for sharing the details with us. My list keeps getting longer and longer. Continued safe travels.

  2. Stu

    Okay time to get my priorities in place and head that way, be there in about five years, just takes me a little time to get the wife’s priorities in sync with mine.

  3. Love love love Pistol River-we used to hang out there all the time when we lived in Grants Pass and of course Yachats is one of my favorite beachtowns !

  4. Sherry Hooker

    Campskunk, I’ve never been to the west coast, but you sure make it sound tempting. Thanks for an interesting read.

  5. This is a great article!! My partner and I are in the process of looking for an RV and we definitely want to take advantage of awesome boondocking opportunities!! Thanks!! =)

  6. Worth reading, like his previous post about boondocking on the Oregon coast..which came in very handy, after attending the Roadtrek gathering at Silver Falls State Park last September, hanging out on the Oregon coast at some of the sweet locations shared by Campskunk in the articles. Lingering along the coast around Pistol River is idyllic, serene and picturesque. Happy our paths have crossed. Thank you!

  7. Pat Mesic

    I have travelled this route many times. I will try the places you mentioned next time I am down that way. Love trying new boondocking places.

  8. Ralphie Or Ralfie

    Can u do campfires like this and what are the laws on having a few beers while in the vehicle chilling out.

  9. Jean Vallieres

    Top ten reasons to stop in Quebec city ”Canada” and speak with me about Roadtrek products and visiting our Province in your futur Roadtrek!

  10. we drove 101 last summer and EVERYWHERE we found no overnight parking or camping signs. We spent two nights in Fred Meyer parking lots (after asking permission) and three nights in Casino parking lots (they have good food), but all in all it was a disappointing trip (scenery was beautiful though). Give me BLM boondocking anytime.

  11. Jean Sullivan

    We drove the highway along the Pacific Ocean Rt 101 and stayed overnight (motel stay then, but would love to camp that area) at Gold Beach in southern Oregon. Great beach sand to walk on, level and packed. The location is a few miles north of the Redwood Forest in northern California – a MUST to travel through. My favorite place among 10 other favorite places is Monterey – beautiful there. The coastline highway from Northern most point in Washington through Southern California is a wonderful trip.

  12. Lynne Cooke-Byer

    Wishing I could afford one of these, so I could appease my gypsy soul. Now that I have the time, don’t have the $. (Sigh)

    • campskunk

      well, that’s the thing about fulltiming – if you can afford rent or a mortgage and utilities and property taxes, you can afford a Roadtrek. it’s just that you can’t afford both the sticks and bricks house AND the RV. i can’t. i went with the Roadtrek, and i think i made the right decision 😉