Last Updated: September 13, 2020
This was our second time camping at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria. Last year, we went when our little one was 18 months old – his first yurt camping experience. And the year before we took him cabin camping at another Oregon State Park – Stub Stewart. So to make things progressively harder on ourselves, this is our summer of tent camping with a toddler! First up was our Mt Hood Hipcamp trip, next was Fort Stevens camping.
Fort Stevens is one of Oregon’s largest campgrounds. So many loops, so many RVs, but also so much acreage. We decided to book just one night to feel it out. We were a little skeptical of how busy and crowded it would be. I’m definitely digging the one night camping trip with toddlers. Yes, it takes a while to get packed up. But you really can pack in the fun with toddlers. They’re so busy. And you get a day on either side of your one night of mediocre or bad sleep. So it’s been a win-win for all of us. We still get the feel of a weekend at home, some adventure, and some sleep. And Sunday afternoon to Monday afternoon is good time for camping in the days of COVID.
When we showed up at the park on Sunday, it was crowded. The beach parking at the Peter Iredale, the parking lot at Coffenbury lake and the loops. We found a parking spot at the beach and played in the sand for a little bit. It was ridiculously windy and overcast, so we decided to go check out our camping spot a little early. We had pre-registered, so we knew our spot and waited to drop our paper off at the ranger station until evening time around 7pm.
When we pulled up to our site, it was definitely one of those moments where your expectations were a little higher and you almost just want to keep driving and go home. haha Especially after last weekend of camping on Mt Hood at a secluded hipcamp spot, I knew this weekend would be more of a wildcard.
The site was pretty tiny and geared more for an RV. To have enough space for two tents, we pulled the picnic table onto the parking strip and set up one tent on it as well until we were done with our campfire that night. After we got things all set up we were feeling a little less cranky and we decided to go check out the lake. We ended up driving to the lake. Since Fort Stevens is so large, it’s a great place to take bikes. And I forgot our kiddos Strider bike! But then I was pretty excited that we drove because after playing in the sand for a little bit it started to get a bit sunnier. I decided to take my new Oru Kayak Inlet on its maiden voyage.
Kayaking at Fort Stevens State Park: Coffenbury Lake
One of the fun surprises from our first visit to Fort Stevens last summer was finding Coffenbury Lake. We originally thought we were just camping near the ocean and would play at the beach. Coffenbury Lake is a fresh water lake right next to the ocean. It’s pretty popular for fishing, kayaking, swimming and general water play. But if you go mid-week, or early/late in the day it’s not as crowded.
This trip was my first time using the Oru Kayak. It felt a bit ridiculous to pull it out of the car and start setting up on the grass. All eyes on you! I had set it up once at home while watching the video. This time I was able to do it from memory, just a bit slow. So I took the kayak out to see if it would float. :) It feels like you’ve built a paper airplane origami and decide to take it flying. Good news friends, my foldable kayak floats! So then I took our toddler out, and he loved it too.
I love that we can fit this kayak and all our camping gear inside our CRV. Packing a car to use max space is kind of one of my super powers. :P And after our first camping trip this season, I realized if we had a smaller cooler for shorter adventures it would really help with packing. So I got a 28 quart cooler that is about half the size as our larger one and fits right behind the driver seat. So the kayak fits in the back of the car, with a camping box and then all the soft stuff packed in wherever there’s space.
After some kayaking and lake play, we were all in much better moods and headed back to camp for dinner. This time we had hotdogs, buns, and macaroni salad (it’s a no-mayo Nostrana recipe from the Run Fast cookbook). We followed up dinner with making a campfire and s’mores. And hey, I actually remembered the chocolate this time.
Camping Day Two:
This second night of camping was a little rougher than our trip last week to Mt Hood. It was my turn to have my own tent, and the boys were going to be in the bigger tent together. But our little guy woke up at 3am crying. I think he might have been cold, so I switch and snuggled him back to sleep in the big sleeping bag. After this trip, I decided to find him some fleece PJs that have a hood. At not quite three years old, and still sleeping in a crib at home, he’s kind of on the move in the tent and crawls out from under the blankets.
Thankfully, we didn’t have a 4:30am dawn patrol wakeup like last weekend. I think we made it until almost 7am. Then I bribed him with snacks to try to keep him quiet since we had camping neighbors. Instead he loudly talked about snacks and that it was morning and he was ready to go! I guess maybe another benefit of being in the RV loop with a tent is that you’re not going to bother other campers as much with your kiddo or baby noise if they have another layer of sound proofing since they’re inside? Maybe that’s a strategy for people who are afraid to camp with their babies or toddlers if you’re afraid they will cry and bother people. lol
It seemed that our loop was still quiet, so we made our coffee and our toddler his standard travel oatmeal and headed to the beach. It was quiet and beautifully foggy. We were almost the only ones there. And our toddler got right to work playing in the sand. Isn’t it amazing how at this age they plop down almost anywhere and are instantly engrossed in some project. I’m loving it!
We finally made our way back to camp and cooked up some breakfast tacos. Sans-bacon this time since we had hotdogs for dinner last night. Then we did a little bit of packing prep, before heading to the lake for the rest of the morning until we had to check out at 1pm.
We did a bunch more kayaking and water play. The sun came out and it was a gorgeous day! Since it was a Monday, it was just us and then a few other small groups spread out around the lake and shore. Just the way I like it!
Overall we had a great one-nighter at Fort Stevens! I’m glad we weren’t planning to stay two nights, as our site and loop felt a bit crowded, and loud. This is kind of expected for car camping at an Oregon State Park in peak summer. But it was more crowded than usual, and since the sites are so close together, it felt different than other years of state park campgrounds. I’m looking forward to our next camping trip to be at a little smaller and less-trafficked campground.
Fort Stevens State Park Camping Info
Driving Time from Portland: About two hours with no traffic, 15 minutes past Astoria, OR
Price: $30-46/night ($22 tent site rate or $38 full hookup rate, with $8 reservation fee). Yurts and cabins are more, but currently closed until at least September 2020.
Best Loop at Fort Stevens State Park: Loop K (cabins and tents), Yurt Village, and Loop L are closest to the beach and lake access trails of the South Loops. Loop H & I are closest for all the North Loops. Make sure to look at the Fort Stevens camping map when choosing a site. The sites at the back of each loop are going to be more private, as you won’t have the road right behind you. The loops are also very spread out, but being closer to the trail access points makes it easier for walking, biking or driving to the beach or lake.
Have you been camping at Fort Stevens?