Category Archives: Lakes

Oregon’s 7 Wonders

Travel Oregon came up with Oregon’s 7 Wonders and we’ve slowly been checking them out over the past few years. They’re spread out all over Oregon which is great because it really gives you a chance to see a lot of the state.

This August we finally checked off the last wonder and here’s what we thought of them…

The Columbia River Gorge:

We’ve visited this wonder so many times we’ve lost count, starting when we were both kids, and have very fond memories of this area. It’s a little bitter sweet due to the recent wildfire that ravaged the area but this area is so large that there is still places to visit, and we can’t wait until the trails reopen and we get to see this beautiful place again. We know it will take a lot of time, but the Gorge will come back stronger than ever.

Waterfalls, views, and wildflowers…a Gorge trail will take you somewhere amazing!

      

      

Some of our favorite Gorge hikes are Fairy Falls, Larch Mountain, and Wahclella Falls. If you’re Looking for a good lunch spot check out The Ranch for a good burger in Hood River.

The Oregon Coast:

This is another wonder that we’ve visited countless times. Some of our favorite cities are Newport, Pacific City, and Lincoln City. Oregonians know that the coast really is an all season place. A perfect summer day is amazing but a nice winter storm is fun too! Tide pools and lighthouses are some of our favorite things to check out at the coast along with all the great hiking.

      

      

Some great hikes in the area University Falls, Cape Falcon, and Drift Creek Falls. If you’re looking for some good food check out Pacific Oyster in Bay City.

Smith Rock:

We’ve been to Smith Rock three times and it’s amazing. The hikes are great and you can’t really go wrong with any trail you pick. Our personal favorite is Misery Ridge, it may be a bit difficult but it’s well worth the extra energy spent. With the Snake River Gorge winding through the large tuff and basalt rock formations it’s easy to see why this area made the list.

      

      

Make sure to stop by Juniper Junction (Rockhard) for some tasty huckleberry ice cream.

The Painted Hills:

Probably the most unique place on the list with all of the bright colored hills. There’s so much to see here you’ll need to plan for most of the day to really explore this place. There are trails that take you up hills to allow you views of the whole area. Off to one side you’ll see large hills with yellow, red and purple paintbrush type strokes on them, and then if you look another direction you’ll see smaller hills that are deep red or bright yellow-gold. Make sure to check out the trails that go around the smaller hills, it’s really amazing to see the texture and colors up close.

      

      

For more info on the trails click here.

Crater Lake:

Crater Lake is a Caldera Lake that’s very large and very blue. You can drive around the whole crater rim and there are many trails around the caldera. After spending time at some of the many viewpoints and getting a good look at the lake and wizard island make sure to make some time to explore the trails. A few of our favorites are Plaikni Falls and The Pinnacles.

      

      

While you’re in the area make sure to check out Toketee Falls.

The Wallowas:

Way out in eastern Oregon are the Wallowa Mountains, near the town of Joseph. They call it the Swiss Alps of Oregon and we can definitely see why. The best and easiest way to see the Wallowa Mountains are to take the tramway up to the top of Mt. Howard. Wallowa Lake is also a big attraction in this area, the lake is huge and it offers great views of the mountains as well. There are a ton of beautiful barns in the area, stop at the visitor center in Joseph for a map of where you can find them all.

      

      

We recommend the famous mountain berry shake at the Eagle Cap Chalet and a burger from the Glacier Grill.

Mt. Hood:

Of course the Mt. Hood area would make this list- it’s amazing! The mountain itself is beautiful as are the lakes and waterfalls that surround it. This area can’t be beat when it comes to winter activities too- ski, snowboard, snowshoe…you can seriously do it all.

      

      

Some of our favorite hikes in this area Bald Mountain, Umbrella Falls, Zigzag Canyon, and snowshoeing at White River West.

 

Oregon’s 7 Wonders are truly amazing and they really show off how great this state is, we’ll be back to visit them all again and again!

How many of the wonders have you seen? We’d love to hear what your favorite wonder is!

Crater Lake (Autumn)

Crater Lake sits in a caldera that was formed over 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama collapsed following a major eruption. It is the deepest lake in the United States and is only fed by rain and snow, it’s considered to be the cleanest large body of water in the world. The water itself is an amazing shade of blue, 1,943 feet deep, and 6 miles wide.

      

Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902 and is 183,000 acres. You can drive all the way around the rim (33 miles) and there are over 30 scenic pullouts along the way. Some of the best viewpoints are Watchman Overlook and Cloudcap Overlook. Be sure to stop by Videa Falls, it can be seen from a pullout on the main road.

      

We did two hikes while we were here, The Pinnacles and Plaikni Falls. Both are very nice hikes and between them you get to experience the old growth forest, a pinnacle valley, and see some interesting formations left behind from the volcano. Click the links to see a more in depth post about each hike.

      

It actually snowed part of the time we were here. It was interesting because it was only snowing in certain areas and partly sunny in others. It really made us want to come back in the winter and snowshoe!

Make sure you check out the visitor centers and drive by the historic lodge.

      

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Crater Lake, there’s so much to do here that you really need to plan a whole day or more if you want to do a decent amount of exploring all the trails.

There is a $15 entrance fee, dogs are allowed in certain areas, and it’s very family friendly.

If you have more time, check out Toketee Falls about 25 miles past the North entrance.

Timothy Lake- West Side (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 about 40 miles past the town of Sandy to Skyline Road. Turn right onto Skyline Road and follow it for a little over 8 miles to a junction with FR 57. Turn right and drive for about 3.5 miles where you will cross over the dam. Turn right and a short distance later come to an intersection. Go right into the parking area.

We did this hike on a day with VERY thick wildfire smoke. We couldn’t see Mt. Hood at all which was a bummer but this was still a nice hike.

Head off on Timothy Lake Trail #528 that’s lined with trees, beargrass, and rhododendron bushes. You’re hiking right next to campsites nearly the whole time. We were here very early so most people were still sleeping so it was quiet. I’d imagine it could get pretty noisy and busy during peak camping season.

      

The trail is flat almost the whole time, it switches from being wide to a bit narrow. It’s mostly dirt and rock, it’s been dry so we kicked up a lot of dust while we were here. Our legs were pretty filthy 😆. You’ll be near the lake the whole time and there are many side trails that take you right to the edge of the lake. You’ll cross a couple footbridges and mostly just wind through a very pretty lakeside trail.

      

About 3 miles in you’ll come to where the lake narrows. The water color was a pretty green here and there are some places to stop and rest if needed. We decided this was a nice place to stop to make an out and back trip of 6 miles. If you go to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail you will have a roughly 7 mile hike. So head back out the way you came in.

      

This isn’t the most exciting hike and you don’t get a super quiet nature feel with walking by about 12+ different campsites. Still, the lake and trail are very pretty. We’re definitely coming back but probably in fall when people aren’t camping much. Make sure to walk by the dam, it’s pretty interesting!

Distance: 6 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 60 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Spring through fall

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Wallowa Lake- Kayak (Summer)

Directions: From the town of Joseph take Main St. south where the road curves and turns into Wallowa Lake Hwy. About 6 miles later you’ll enter the Wallowa Lake area follow the road off to the right and enter the parking area for the lake.

There is a dock on the south end of the lake where the marina is and that’s where we put our kayak in. You get the best views of the Wallowa Mountains on this end as well.

Wallowa Lake is pretty huge and you can see just how big it is while you’re driving on the Wallowa Lake Highway, you follow right along it for miles. We saw every type of boat and recreational water sport while we were there. Speed boats, pontoons, jet skis, kayaks, canoes stand up paddle boards, inflatable donuts…you name it, we probably saw it! It doesn’t necessarily feel crowded because the lake is so big, but you will always be within earshot of someone and the speed boats tend to rip around the lake so you’ll be bouncing around quite a bit.

      

While we were on the lake we saw a few bald eagles, osprey, and quite a few common mergansers. There were a few deer out in the grass as well. 

If you paddle about to the center of the lake there are some small square floating docks, some with benches, that you can get out and relax on.

The whole lake and surrounding area is quite scenic, we had a great time while we were out on the water.

Distance: Depends on how far/where you’re going. It’s an easy paddle.

Elevation: —

Pet Friendly: Sure if you’re dogs like being out on the water.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: None

Disappearing Lake (Kayak)

Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Go right onto Highway 14 and after a little over 14.5 miles take a left onto Cook Underwood Rd. Follow this road for about 5 miles and take a left onto Willard Road. Willard Road turns into Oklahoma Road, follow it a short distance until you see a sign for Forest Road 66. Take a left onto FR 66 and follow it for over 12.5 miles (the last couple miles of this road is gravel) until you come to two lakes. Disappearing Lake is on the left, South Prairie Lake is on the right.

We did this kayak last year and we liked it so much we have decided to do it every memorial day weekend. To learn more about this interesting lake (that’s only around for short time each year) see our first post here.

This year the water level was much higher from all the rain and snow we got. We even ran into snow on the forest road that the lake is next to. With the water level being higher we were able to explore more of the lake this time. There are a few side areas that you can squeeze your kayak through to get farther back into the trees.

      

The lake is almost split in two by a row of trees. The first part is pretty open and has a few small areas that you can easily get into with your kayak. We saw a snake hanging on to a tree out in the water which was quite interesting.

      

The back part of the lake is full of trees that you can kayak in between. In our opinion this is the best part of the lake. It’s really interesting and almost looks like a bayou. The trees are very tall and covered in vines and moss. There are dead trees that have fallen all throughout the lake as well. Back in this part is where we got to explore more of the side branches of the lake. In some places the water level was extremely low and we had to really squeeze our kayak through debris and low hanging branches. But once you got back into the side parts the pools deepened.

      

This lake is really calm which makes for an easy paddle. Make sure you plan enough time to really explore this area, there is a lot to see here. Just a few steps across the road from Disappearing Lake is South Prairie Lake. It would be a nice lake to paddle around in as well if you have the time.

It’s hard to predict when to visit this lake. It depends so much on what type of weather we had throughout winter. Plus how hot or mild spring starts out. We’ve found that memorial day weekend has been nice both years but we did prefer the higher water level so we may have to go earlier in May if we have a drier winter. Also, make sure you come back and visit this place after it drains, the meadow is beautiful! Check it out here.

Distance: —

Elevation:—

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes if your animal enjoys hanging out on the kayak with you 🙂

Good For: All ages. This lake would be great for beginners!

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: There is a very small season for this lake usually mid May through early June.

Popular: No

Overall: Very unique area, we’ll be back for years to come.

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Spring)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area get on the trail as it follows along a large open field with branches of Steigerwald Lake running through it. There were many different birds out in the grass and shrubs and some water birds in the stream. You will soon enter an area with more trees and a stream off to your right. When you get to the split, go left through the seasonal door (open May through September) and follow the trail as it goes along the field and enters a wooded area. There are lots of birds in this area as well.

      

      

You will round a corner and leave the refuge and get on the Columbia River Dike Trail. There are a lot of Purple Martin houses here and they are all flying around which is great. Go right on the trail and follow it a short distance where you will take a side trail and get back into the refuge. You’ll pass a tall interpretive sign and cross a bridge over Redtail Lake, here we saw a Cinnamon Teal, Mallards, and Canada Geese in the water. In the trees and grass lining the water we saw Red-Wing Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and a Common Yellowthroat. After crossing the bridge you’ll enter and wooded area, we saw many birds here including an Osprey and Wilson’s Warblers.

      

      

      

There is another bridge that you cross and you’re back at the seasonal door. Go left and follow the trail back out the way you came in.

We were previously here in mid summer and it was nice but very hot. Spring is a great time, birds are nesting and very active, and the weather is great.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: None

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends

Overall: Spring is a great time to visit this wildlife refuge

Frog Lake (Snowshoe)

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.

It’s amazing that we are still snowshoeing in mid-March, with lots of snow too! This winter has been great!

From the parking area get on the trail, which is actually the road when there is no snow. It’s very wide and evenly graded, lined with tall snow covered trees. This area is very popular with snowmobilers, so you will be hearing and seeing them often. We just tried to stay to the side of the trail since they come up on you fast, easier then trying to quickly get out of the way so you don’t get hit. This trail is also used by x-country skiers.

      

      

You will soon come to a junction to your right, this takes you to the lake. It starts out downhill briefly then evens out the rest of the way. You will start to see the lake off to your left through the trees, keep following this trail until it splits. Go left and downhill until you reach the lake and what is normally the parking lot during the summer months. If the lake isn’t frozen over yet we hear that there is a trail around the lake, there was so much snow that we couldn’t see any trail at all. But, the lake was completely frozen with a large snowpack on top of the ice so we went out onto the lake and looped around that way. This is another area you really want to watch out for the snowmobilers, they were crisscrossing all over the lake at a very high rate of speed. It’s also good to make sure you are certain that the lake is frozen over before going out onto it.

      

On a clear day you will have a great view of the mountain at the lake. It had gotten really cloudy and started snowing by the time we got to the lake which was a bummer! After you finish the loop head back out the way you came in.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation: 200 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Yes a snow-park pass is required

Seasons: Anytime there is snow 🙂

Popular: Very

Overall: This is a very pretty area but the snowmobiles do take away from how great this place is. They are very loud and smell like exhaust pretty bad. Might be best to try this place early on a weekday.

Best Of 2016

We did a lot of great hikes in 2016, here are some of our favorites and our overall top hike of the year.

  • Willamette Valley:

Henline Falls– This is a short hike but it takes you to an amazing waterfall. Catch it at the right time of day and you might just see a rainbow at the base as well!

  • Columbia River Gorge:

Columbia Hills State Park– Great area to see wildflowers with amazing views of the Gorge.

  • Washington:

Lewis River Falls– So many pretty waterfalls in such a short distance. Definitely a must see.

  • Coast:

The Thumb– This was probably the most unique hike we did this year.

  • Central Oregon:

Smith Rock (Misery Ridge)– The views are amazing at the top and you get a very up close view of Monkey Face!

  • Mt. Hood:

Wind Lake– You get to ride a chairlift up to the top of Ski Bowl and then hike to a somewhat hidden lake. And the whole time you have great views of Mt. Hood and Government Camp. 

  • Portland:

Powell Butte- This is a great hike in the city. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Hood.

  • Southern Oregon:

Plaikni Falls– This hike was inside Crater Lake National Park, it’s very pretty, especially in autumn with all the beautiful colors.

  • Kayak:

Disappearing Lake– This was such a treat! It’s a lake that’s only around for about a month out of the whole year.

Overall Best of 2016:

Bald Mountain– The hike up bald mountain is beautiful and lined with beargrass. Once at the top you round a corner and come to one of the best views of Mt. Hood we’ve ever seen. Do this hike!

What were some of your favorite hikes in 2016? Any you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?

 

Enid Lake (Snowshoe)

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.

From the trailhead you start on Skiway Trail and soon fork left onto Maggie’s Trail. Stay on Maggie’s Trail and pass Lucy’s Trail. Next you will come to the Crosstown Trail, go left staying on the Crosstown Trail. Most of this area you will be heading downhill through lovely snow covered trees. We noticed a lot of rabbit tracks through here which was great.

      

Continuing on you will cross a small bridge and come to a sign that says Enid Lake. It’s pointing right, do NOT go right, go left and follow this trail a short distance where there will be a side trail off to your right. This short trail takes you right out to snow covered Enid Lake, on a clear day you’ll be able to see Mt. Hood peeking out behind the trees.

      

You can follow a trail around the small lake and head back out the way you came in.

      

This whole area has a fair amount of cross-country skiers and they can come flying around corners pretty quickly. Just be aware of that while you’re out on the trails.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation: 200 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: $6 snow-park permit

Seasons: Late fall through winter

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is a very pretty snowshoe. There are a lot of intersecting trails which can be confusing if you don’t have a map.

Trillium Lake (Snowshoe)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 past Government Camp, a few miles later you will see signs for Trillium Lake. Take the marked exit where you will see the large Sno-Park.

From the parking area head past the snow gate and start heading downhill. You will be snowshoeing for 2 miles down the access road that takes you to Trillium Lake. This part of the snowshoe is pretty much a roller coaster, you will lose and gain elevation a few times. The path is pretty well worn with snowshoe and cross country skiing tracks. It’s mainly just a nice snowy treelined path that takes you to the lake. You will see signs along the way keep following them down the road and past the campground entrance. Take the next right after the campground which will take you down to the lake.

      

It’s two miles from the parking area to the lake so if that’s enough (four miles round trip) you can hangout at the lake and head back the way you came. If you want to go farther head around the lake clockwise and go back out the way you came in, for a total of 6 miles.

It was pretty cloudy and sleeting most of the time we were here so we didn’t get the nice view of the mountain. It was still a great snowshoe though. This place starts getting pretty busy around 11am, getting here early would probably be best. The last hill on the way out is a big one as well, lots of people were struggling. Keep that in mind when you decide between the 4 and 6 mile options.

Distance: 4 or 6 miles

Elevation: We don’t know the exact elevation. There are definitely a few decent hills on the road heading in. Not much elevation at all going around the lake.

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most ages- may not be best for young kids or older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Sno-Park permit

Seasons: Anytime there is enough snow 🙂

Popular: Very

Overall: Great snowshoe area, even better if you hit a day without clouds!