Category Archives: Lakes

Waldo Lake- Kayak (Summer 2019)

Directions: From the town of Oakridge take OR-58 East and follow it for a little over 23 miles where you will see a sign for Waldo Lake. Take a left here and follow this road for 9 miles to the Shadow Bay Campground entrance, follow the signs for the boat ramp.

We chose to put in at the Shadow Bay dock because it was closest to where we were camping. There are multiple places around the (very large) lake that you can put your kayak in. Each area offers something different which is great.

Waldo Lake is one of Oregon’s largest natural lakes and it’s pretty high in elevation (you’re at 5,414 feet).

     

We had pretty windy conditions while we were here and it made the water very choppy. We were bouncing around so much that our poor dog got motion sickness. Luckily the Shadow Bay area has a few islands you can get out and relax on as well as little inlets that were much calmer. The lake is huge and we mostly stuck around the half that was closest to us but that was more than enough to explore. The lake is known for how clear it is and that you can see way down, sadly it was way too windy for us to see really deep. It was definitely very clear when you were out of the wind or along the shore.

The lake is beautiful and massive. If you come all the way out here definitely plan on spending quite a while on the lake- there’s just so much to see.

     

Distance: There’s 10 square miles of water surface

Elevation: —

Pet Friendly: Yes if your dog likes kayaking

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: At the campgrounds

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Summer through Fall

Popular: Very

Warnings: Always wear your lifejacket.

Coldwater Lake (Summer 2019)

Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 49. Go right and drive for about 43 miles on 504E. You will come to a junction go right for Coldwater Lake and drive for about 2 miles until you come to two parking areas, park in the one on the right, not the boat ramp area.

Take the trail behind the informational sign that goes down to the lake and a boardwalk path. You’ll get a good view of the lake and Mt. St. Helens. Head back up this trail to the parking lot and go to the parking area with the boat ramp. There is a trail here just left of the boat ramp that you need to get on.

     

From here you will stay on this trail as it follows along the lake. You will get up above it for a while and get nice views. Eventually you head downhill again and come to a beach access area. The junction for the beach is by a shed that is actually a composting toilet. If you make this the stopping point your round trip total will be around 2.5 miles.

     

Continuing on the trail rollercoasters and it’s more of the same, views of the lake and surrounding area. We went about a mile past the beach and turned around due to the high heat. Head back out the way you came in.

The trail is very overgrown and dusty and the mosquitoes were thick. I think we’ll come back and kayak the lake, it will probably be more enjoyable.

     

Distance: Depends on how far down the lake you go. We did 3.5 miles (easy).

Elevation: This also depends on how far you go. We had about 350 feet of elevation gain (easy).

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at both parking areas

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Spring through late fall

Popular: No

Warnings: There were posted warnings of recent cougar sightings.

Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge- Morgan Lake (Spring 2019)

Directions: Take I-5 south to exit 260A. Take Salem Parkway for about 5 miles and take a right onto Marion Street. Cross over the Willamette River and drive for a little over 9 miles on Highway 22, take exit 16 and soon stay left for McMinnville. Take a left at the junction for 99W and drive for 3 miles to Smithfield Road. Continue on this gravel road for about 2.5 miles to a parking area on the left.

Head out on the gravel path that quickly takes a left and goes up a small hill. At the top of this hill you will get a good view of Morgan Lake and the two hills that make up Baskett Butte. Keep going on the gravel trail that dips down and back up to a grassy field. The trail is pretty much nonexistent here so just follow along near the lake.

   

   

Eventually you will see the trail again when you get towards the end of the lake. Continue on a bit farther until you reach a trail junction, this is the end of this hike so head back out the way you came in. This junction has tie trails that lead to other parts of the refuge if you want to extend your hike.

   

The lake was pretty empty, we did see a few mallards and shovelers but that was it. The fields had a ton of geese and there were plenty of birds in the trees and bushes. Definitely bring your binoculars!

   

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 45 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Morgan Lake is open April 1-September 30

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Frog Lake- Snowshoe (Winter 2019)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 east past Government Camp, keep left at the junction with Hwy 35, staying on 26. Follow Hwy 26 for about another 5 miles where the Frog Lake Sno-Park will be on your left.

From the large parking area get onto the trail which is actually the road you would drive down to the lake on in the summer. Follow this wide path for .3 miles until you come to a signed junction (if it’s not covered in snow), go right here where it heads downhill.

   

The trail quickly levels out and you will follow this trail a short distance to a split, go left here and follow it around to the edge of the lake. It was frozen again with feet of snow on top of the ice. We walked out onto the lake and made a loop around it. When you are done exploring head back out the way you came in.

   

This area is very popular with snowmobiles so keep that in mind, they come up on you quick and are quite noisy and stinky. Even getting here early we still saw a few at the lake and quite a few heading in on our way out. This isn’t a snowshoe that offers much peace and quiet but it is still pretty. Always be cautious when walking on a frozen lake as well.

   

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 200 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Sno*Park Pass required

Seasons: Winter

Popular: Very

Warnings: Watch for snowmobiles and be careful when walking on the lake if it’s frozen.

Mirror Lake- Snowshoe (Winter 2019)

Directions: Take Highway 26 to Skibowl West where you will take an immediate right into the parking area once off the highway.

We hadn’t been to Mirror Lake in almost 5 years, mostly due to how crowded and crazy this hike gets, and we had definitely never snowshoed it. This hike recently got a much needed new trailhead with a larger parking area. It’s off to the right of Skibowl and has parking for roughly 50 vehicles. A couple weeks ago we decided to wake up early to beat the crowds to experience Mirror Lake in the snow!

From the parking area head past the bathroom and get on the trail. You will head down a few switchbacks and then come to the first of ten new bridges. After crossing all of the bridges you will start to gain more elevation. We’ve heard that there are new poles in place in certain areas to keep people from trail cutting. Everything was covered in feet of snow so we don’t know where this is but we hope it’s true- this poor trail was quite abused.

      

You will continue snowshoeing uphill and cross a small rock slide area, past this you will reach the long switchbacks that take you up to a trail junction. Go right on a narrow trail that heads down the the edge of the lake. You can go all the way around the lake and it will take you back to the junction where you head back out the way you came in. Obviously you don’t get the mirror effect with a frozen and snow covered lake but it was still pretty. Clouds had moved in and it was snowing for most of the trip, making views of the mountain pretty nonexistent.

      

Even getting here early didn’t really make much of a difference crowd wise. Just know that this place is very popular year round no matter what day of the week it is- pack your patience!

      

Distance: 4.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most- some may find the elevation to be a bit much.

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: SnoPark Pass required

Seasons: Depends on how the snow season is going. Check with the nearest ranger station for snow pack levels.

Popular: Very

Warnings: None

Gillette Lake (Autumn 2018)

Directions: Take I-84 to Exit 44. Cross Bridge of the Gods ($2 toll). Take a left onto Highway 14 and follow it for a little over a mile. The trailhead is near Bonneville Dam on your right.

This hike starts out by climbing briefly and then it flattens out as you hike along a ridge before heading downhill again to an intersection. Go left here and continue on as the trail rollercoasters through a partially clearcut area and comes to an access road.

      

Cross the road and pick up the trail as you head down into a more wooded area for a while. Next, you’ll pop out into a large clearcut area and can see large powerlines ahead. As you hike through the clearcut you will head to the top of a hill and come to another access road. Cross this road and you will see Gillette Lake below. Depending on how the weather is (sunny, cloudy, etc) the lake will either be bright green or a darker green/blue. It was pretty cloudy and very windy so we were seeing the dark colors.

      

Follow the trail downhill and reenter the woods, take the side trail to the left where you can get right down to the lake.

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 5.8 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: There are seasonal vault toilets at the trailhead.

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Warnings: None

 

Enid Lake (Autumn 2018)

Directions: Take Highway 26 to Government Camp Loop Road. Drive up the road a little over a quarter mile until you see the Thunderhead Trailhead on your left. The trailhead sign is back in the trees and can be hard to see depending on the season.

This is the Crosstown area and has a lot of intersecting trails, it can be a bit confusing even though the intersections are marked.

From the trailhead there will be an immediate intersection (a fork) go left on a narrow somewhat overgrown trail. Follow this trail that soon opens up to a wide dirt and rock path. You will follow this trail for a while until the next intersection, stay right and continue on.

      

This is a popular mountain bike trail and you have little to no warning that a bike is coming up on you. We would recommend walking as close to the side of the trail as possible and be on the lookout the whole time. Next, you will come to a third intersection where you will see a footbridge, go left here, not over the bridge and continue on. The whole area looks basically the same but it’s very pretty. You do hear highway noise for most of the hike which is a bummer.

      

You’ll soon come to a T-junction and you will see a sign to your right marked ‘Enid Lake Loop’- do NOT go this way. Go left and follow the trail a bit until you come to an unmarked side trail off to the right. This side trail will dump you out right at Enid Lake. If you head off to the right you will get a view of the top of Mt. Hood. Head back out the way you came in.

      

October is a great month to visit this lake with all the fall colors and mild weather.

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 200 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Summer- fall for hiking. This is also a great snowshoe trail

Popular: No

Warnings: Fast moving mountain bikers.

Wahtum Lake & Chinidere Mountain (Summer 2018)

Directions: Take I-84 to Hood River and get onto Highway 35. Continue on Highway 35 and follow signs for Dee, you will cross the Hood River and turn left. Follow the signs for Wahtum Lake. Take road 13 for 4 miles and then a right onto Road 1310 for about 6 miles to the trailhead and parking area.

This is yet another trail that has recently reopened after the Eagle Creek Fire. We were very excited to get back here as it’s one of our favorite hikes.

From the trailhead go down the 258 wood steps that are uneven and falling apart and head right on the Pacific Crest Trail (you can get right to the edge of the lake at the base of the stairs). The trail heads around the lake but you lose sight of it fairly quickly. As you follow the trail you will gradually gain elevation but it’s nothing too hard. It starts out in a fairly thick wooded area and you will cross over small streams (no bridges just literally stepping over them).

      

About halfway in you will enter a more thinned out wooded area and the trail will widen. Continue following the PCT until you reach the marked Chinidere Mountain Trail on your right. This trail heads uphill steeply on uneven switchbacks for a half mile, watch for the side trail that takes you out to a nice viewpoint (it’s a few switchbacks in). When the trail opens up and you start walking on shale rock you are almost there. There were a good amount of downed trees right before the shale area, we went over a few and had to go out and around some.

      

You end at the top of Chinidere Mountain with Mt. Hood straight in front of you! The top has a 360 degree view of five mountains: Hood, St. Helens, Adams, Rainier, and Jefferson! We also got a good view of the burn area from the Eagle Creek Fire which was interesting to see. Walking down to the far end you will see Wahtum Lake below and get a feel of how far you’ve hiked!

      

There were lots of wildflowers and butterflies at the top and blooming beargrass on the switchbacks. With all the rocks there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the amazing views. It was great to be back enjoying one of our favorite hikes and one of the best views in Oregon. It was sad to see all of the fire damage but there’s still plenty of green to be seen which was encouraging.

      

Head back down the Chinidere trail and hike back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 4.4 miles (easy)

Elevation: 1,150 (you lose elevation getting down to the lake so it’s not as rough as it seems. The trail around the lake is easy, the Chinidere trail is hard but short)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most. The Chinidere trail may be a bit rough for younger kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Vault toilet at the parking area.

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Late spring through fall

Popular: Yes on weekends

Warnings: The top of Chinidere is very exposed so keep an eye on small children and dogs.

Trillium Lake (Summer 2018)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 past Government Camp, a few miles later you will see signs for Trillium Lake. Take the marked exit and follow the road for about two miles to the parking area.

Previous visits to Trillium Lake had been late October and a snowshoe in January. We didn’t see many people both times….this visit was so different. The parking lot was jammed fully by 9:30 and there was a ton of people on the trail and in the lake itself. Sadly I don’t think we will ever visit this lake again during the nicer weather months.

From the boat ramp we went left or clockwise around the lake. This side of the lake offers the best views of Mt. Hood but it’s also the most crowded area. People literally had blankets laid out on the actual trail and there was garbage everywhere. It was so disappointing to see. This is a beautiful lake and it was being treated like a garbage can. We strongly urge people to follow the Leave No Trace principles!

      

As you continue on around the lake some of the crowds start to thin. The trail switches between dirt and boardwalk and is lined with skunk cabbage. We saw an old beaver lodge and some blooming lily pads as well.

      

Once you’ve made it around to the other side of the lake you’ll pass an amphitheater and start getting views of Mt. Hood again. There are campsites on this side of the lake so it does become more crowded again. Not much farther past the campsites you’ll reach the boat ramp again completing the loop. For the most part the trail stays right next to the lake except in a few short areas. The trail is flat, well maintained, and easy to follow.

      

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 15 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 day use fee.

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: None

Little Crater Lake To Timothy Lake (Spring 2018)

Directions: Take Highway 26 past Government Camp and Frog Lake to Skyline Road. Follow Skyline Road to Abbott Road (there are signs for Little Crater Lake). Take Abbott Road to the Little Crater Lake Campground. Drive through the campground to the end where there is a small parking area at the trailhead.

From the parking area get onto the narrow paved path that cuts through a meadow. Follow this a short distance and you’ll briefly enter and wooded area and come to Little Crater Lake. The lake is more the size of a pond but it’s color is amazing, it’s best viewed with the sun shining on it so you can really see the color.

      

      

Continue on the boardwalk trail through a marshy area full of skunk cabbage before going back into a wooded area. Pass through a horse fence and come the a trail junction. Go left here and follow the wide flat trail for a while until you come to a second intersection. Go left again and follow the boardwalk to a bridge over Little Crater Creek.

      

      

This bridge takes you to a trail that follows along the creek for a while until you come to the arm of Timothy Lake. It’s a pretty green color and fairly narrow compared to the actual lake. The trail continues to follow the arm of the lake and gradually rollercoasters but nothing too steep. You will pass a few campsites as you come to Timothy Lake. Keep following the trail and you will see a few side trails that take you down to the edge of the lake, any one of these make a good place to hangout and have lunch before heading back. Head back out the way you came in.

      

      

Distance: 4.5 Miles (easy)

Elevation: 200 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Late spring through fall

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None