Everyone's definition of camping is different. For some, it means towing their full-amenity travel trailer to the RV park with full hookups, playground, and swimming pool. On the other extreme, camping means parking the car (or locking the bike) and heading as far into the Three Sisters Wilderness as possible.
For most, somewhere in between is the sweet spot, and Central Oregon, of course, offers a wide array of choices for those seeking an outdoors-based overnight experience.
Tumalo State Park
Tumalo State Park offers a pleasant camping experience close to Bend with more than 50 tent sites; some with full hookups. For those with no gear, seven yurts are available as well, along with a hiker/biker camp area. One of the park's most attractive features is the solar showers and flush toilets. Across the street, access to the Deschutes River for swimming or hiking the northern end of the River Trail, along with picnic tables and restrooms, rounds out the experience.
A number of sites along the shore of Devils Lake are first-come, first-serve and free, although a Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at the Devils Lake trailhead lot. Camping is restricted to the 10 designated sites, but they are well spaced and, if you ignore the sound of traffic along the road, give campers a feeling of remoteness. Easy access to trails, including Mirror Lake are nearby. It's a popular corner of the Cascades Highway and gets quite busy in-season.
If your group is up for a bit of a hike, the Green Lakes Trail is a relatively easy 4-mile walk along an established path to the lakes. Dispersed camping is not allowed, but there are 28 marked sites that dot the perimeter of the lakes. Camping is free, but a recreation pass is required to park at the trailhead, and hikers are required to fill out a free wilderness permit at the trailhead. As with Devils Lake, this is one of the most popular trails for hiking with families and is very busy on summer weekends.
The Pacific Crest Trail
Dispersed camping requires campers to understand, and adhere to, the concept of Leave No Trace, obey any fire restrictions, and know how to handle human waste. The ability to carry sufficient water or be prepared to filter from streams is mandatory. If you do not know what the 10 essentials are, you should probably stick with established campgrounds.
The Pacific Crest Trail winds for 40 miles through the Three Sisters Wilderness with an easy access point via the Mirror Lake trail.