mdi-tent Reserve

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Near The Dalles, Oregon, United States

mdi-tent Reserve

Cottonwood Canyon State Park is rugged and vast, from the vertical cliffs carved by the John Day River to deep side canyons and arid, rocky grasslands that extend for miles in all directions. The park’s 8,000-plus acres are open for exploring, stargazing and contemplating the elemental forces that carved this unique landscape.

The iconic John Day River is a long, remote, natural river system, with 252 free-flowing miles. The lower John Day River offers one of the best spring and fall wild steelhead runs in Northeast Oregon. Anglers also come for catfish and smallmouth bass. J.S. Burres, across the river, is a popular boat launch for rafts, kayaks, canoes and drift boats.

The park is also open to hunting outside the developed area. It is the responsibility of the hunter to stay current on regulations. Check the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website for information.

Visitors may see Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, white-tailed jackrabbit, big horn sheep, and all manner of smaller mammals. Both migratory and resident bird populations are a treat, especially for raptor lovers. The rocky landscape also invites reptiles, including at least six species of lizards, western rattlesnakes and various nonvenomous snakes. April and May put on a show of wildflowers.

Year-round Camping

The Lone Tree Campground sits near the John Day River and features 21 primitive campsites for tents or self-contained RVs. Campsites are first-come, first-served. Other campground features include:

  • Hiker/biker camp
  • 4 rustic cabins (2 pet-friendly), available by reservation only.
  • 1 primitive group site for tents or self-contained RVs (first-come, first-served)
  • Potable water
  • Vault toilets & flush toilets
  • Showers

Backcountry Camping

Backcountry camping is allowed on a hike-in basis—no dispersed vehicle camping is permitted. This includes the BLM land surrounding the park and Starvation Lane, which are managed by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Those looking to backpack may park at any trailhead, and must hike a minimum 1 mile before setting up camp. Please be sure to contact park staff with any questions relating to your trip.

Hiking 

The Pinnacles Trail and the Lost Corral Trail, each 4.3 miles one way, follow either side of the John Day River downstream. The Lost Corral Trail, leaving from JS Burres, is open to both hikers, bikers and equestrians. The Pinnacles Trail, leaving from the end of the campground, is open to bikers and hikers.

Upstream, the Hard Stone Trail is open to foot traffic only. Or, you can strike out on your own along old, unmaintained ranching roads that lead into the back country. The J.S. Burres day-use area is a popular boat launch for rafts, kayaks, canoes and drift boats.

Know Before You Go

Campfires are typically prohibited during the summer months. 

Cottonwood Canyon is remote, rugged and deliberately undeveloped. A few basic steps can help you stay safe.

  • Have a plan for your day, and tell somebody about it. There is no cell phone coverage anywhere in the park.
  • Carry plenty of water—20 ounces per person, per hour for hiking in hot sun is recommended. Potable water is available only at the developed day-use area and in the campground.
  • Rattlesnakes and cougars live here. Leave the snakes alone; they will not bite unless threatened. To avoid cougars, always hike in groups and make noise to announce your presence. Report any cougar sightings to park staff.
  • Ticks are most active in spring and early summer and live in long grass and brush. The best defenses are vigilance and avoidance.
mdi-white-balance-sunny Open for day use Year Round
COVID-19 may affect dates
mdi-tent Open for camping Year Round
COVID-19 may affect dates
mdi-cellphone Call for reservations: 800-452-5687
Call for info: 800-551-6949
Call park: (541) 739-2322
Current Conditions Directions Feedback

Amenities & Features

Questions

mdi-help-circle-outline General

Is there cell phone coverage?

No. There is no cell phone coverage at the park, including the campground, day-use area and river trails. Do not rely on cell phones for emergency communications.

I want to spend the day exploring. What do I need to know?

Check the information station for latest information about wildlife, river conditions, fire danger and more. If you’re hiking alone, consider stopping at the Visitor Station to record your planned returned time. We’re not monitoring your trip, or launching a search if you don’t return by your stated time. Take plenty of water and dress for the weather. Vault toilets are available only in developed day-use areas. Also consider carrying a hat, first-aid kit, large bandanna, knife, flashlight and matches. And, always wear solid hiking boots or shoes. For more information see our "What to Do at Cottonwood" page.

mdi-help-circle-outline About Camping

Can I bring an RV?

No problem if the RV is self-contained. Cottonwood does not have sewer hook-ups; electric hook-ups or individual water hook-ups.


Potable water is centrally located in the camp loop but is not available individual at each site. Tanks can be filled in the day use parking area.


There is no sewer dump and the closest dump station is 30 minutes away.

Can I make a reservation?

Campsites at Cottonwood Canyon are available on a first come-first served basis. Cabins are available for reservation through reserveamerica.com. Other reservable facilities are available through the park office. For full details of our facilities, see our Camping & Reservations page.

Are there flush restrooms and showers?

Yes. Cottonwood has 2 vault toilets in the campground area without running water. Flush restrooms and shower facilities are available in the cabin area.

mdi-help-circle-outline What's Allowed

Can I have a campfire?

Campfires are allowed in the campground at campsite fire rings. Campfires are typically banned from early summer to late fall, June 1 to Sept. 30. For up to date fire restriction information, please refer to the park alert banner, or visit cottonwoodcanyon.org

Is fishing allowed in the John Day River?

Yes, fishing is allowed per regulations set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Is hunting allowed in the park?

Hunting is open outside the developed areas of the park per regulations set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Visitors may see hunters and their harvests during the late summer through mid-winter depending on the hunting seasons. Hunting areas begin approx. 1 mile from developed areas. Open areas are posted.

Is trapping allowed in the park?

No.

I have a boat with a motor. Can I use it at Cottonwood?

The John Day River is closed to motorized watercraft year-round between Clarno and Cottonwood Bridge and is closed seasonally from May 1 to September 30  between Cottonwood Bridge and Tumwater Falls. The river is closed to personal watercraft (jet skis) year-round upstream of Tumwater Falls.

mdi-help-circle-outline Animals

Do rattlesnakes live here?

Yes, but leave them alone; they won’t bite unless threatened. Look for more information at the park and trail heads. If you’re bitten by any kind of snake, get to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.

Are those little spider-like things ticks?

More than likely, they’re ticks. Most active in spring and early summer, they find their way to you in long grass and brush. Although not poisonous, ticks can spread diseases. Avoiding Ticks

For more questions, review our statewide FAQ

History

For more information about Cottonwood Canyon State Park, visit our blog at: https://cottonwoodcanyon.org

Brochures and Maps

mdi-file-pdf-box Cottonwood campground map mdi-file-pdf-box Cottonwood Canyon park info, campground and trail guide

Photos & Video

Some parks are open for day-use and camping, with reduced services. Check the Park Status Map and FAQ for details. Campfire restrictions may be in place.