Category Archives: Lakes

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge- Carty Lake Hike (Spring 2018)

Directions: Take I-5 north to exit 14. Go left at the intersection after getting off the freeway. Follow the road for about 3 miles through downtown Ridgefield. Go right at an intersection with Main St and drive for about a mile until you see a sign for the Carty Unit of the Refuge. Follow the gravel road to the parking area.

From the parking area cross the bridge over the railroad tracks and follow the ramp down to the gravel trail. Follow the trail past the plankhouse and take a left at the trail junction.

      

      

The trail goes past duck lake and winds around as you go over a small footbridge. You’ll enter a treelined area and in the spring you can see a lot of birds in this area. We lucked out and briefly saw a Virginia Rail. Keep following the trail and you’ll see Carty Lake off to your left.

      

      

The trail continues and heads left, with the lake off to your left as well. The trail goes all the way to the end of the lake. Head back out the way you came in.

      

      

Since you already paid the entrance fee make sure you head to the ‘S’ Unit of the refuge a few miles away. You can take the driving tour where there is a LOT of wildlife to see.

      

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 60 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No dogs are not allowed in the preserve

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: $3 per car

Seasons: Carty Lake is open May-Sept

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Warnings: None

Lower Twin Lake- Snowshoe

Directions: Take Highway 26 to the junction with Highway 35 stay left and continue on 26 for another 5 miles until you reach the Frog Lake Sno-Park on the left. The trailhead is to your left near the bathroom.

Get on the trail that goes past a picnic table and immediately comes to a junction. Go right and follow the trail as it starts out mostly level. We haven’t had the best snowpack this year and the first part of the trail had maybe 6 inches of snow. It was pretty crunchy and icy in parts and the snowshoes helped with traction but weren’t 100% necessary in the beginning. Hiking boots with some sort of traction on them (micro spikes, Yak Tracks, etc) and hiking poles would’ve been fine while carrying your snowshoes.

      

Soon the trail switches back and you start gaining elevation. The higher we went the deeper the snow got and soon snowshoes were required. It snowed off and on for most of our hike which was great, it allowed snow to stack up on the trees which is always pretty. The trail is easy to follow and it’s a popular area so there wasn’t any need to break trail.

      

At the junction for Twin Lakes go right and you’ll soon reach the summit marker (4,320 feet) and then start to head downhill towards the lake. The snow was pretty deep and was nice and fluffy which made for a nice snowshoe down to the lake. Once the trail starts to level out again it’s pretty much pick a path that doesn’t get you wet. There is a creek that runs through this area and it wasn’t quite frozen over yet. We easily picked our way around it and did eventually have to cross it, but it was easy to jump over in our snowshoes.

      

You’ll come to another junction, head right and downhill again where you will end at Lower Twin Lake. It was covered in snow and very beautiful. We were immediately greeted by Gray Jays and if you’ve ever encountered these birds you know they are quite friendly. Be prepared to be pestered even more if you decide to eat your lunch anywhere near the lake.

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 5 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 700 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most- the trail is easy to follow and the distance and elevation are fairly easy.

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Sno-Park Pass required

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes especially the weekends

Warnings: None

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-5 north to exit 14. Go left at the intersection after getting off the freeway. Follow the road for about 3 miles through downtown Ridgefield. Go right at an intersection with Main St and drive for about a mile until you see a sign for the Carty Unit of the Refuge. Follow the gravel road to the parking area.

      

Take the path that follows the bridge over the train tracks and curves down into the refuge. Following the path as it passes a plank house you can take a left a follow the trail that takes you by Duck Lake and winds back in to where you’ll come to a seasonal closure.

      

      

Back at the plank house stay straight/right and follow the trail until you see a side trail with a hiker marker on your right. Take this path through the trees and eventually come to Boot Lake. You can’t walk around the lake so keep following the main trail as you gain a bit of elevation and get a look down into the marshy wetland area. Loop back around and down where you will be back on the main trail that takes you back past the plank house to your car.

      

      

We saw many geese, trumpeter swans, robins, flickers, hawks, and scrub jays.

      

Since you’ve already paid the refuge entrance fee you should drive out of the Carty Unit and head for the ‘S’ Unit section of the Refuge. This is an auto tour from Oct- Apr and we really enjoyed it. We were able to see great blue herons, nutria, deer, hawks, a kestrel, and many small birds.

Make sure to pick up a brochure at the pay station/trailhead at the Carty Unit. It has maps of the whole refuge and lots of great information.

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 80 feet (easy)

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

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $3 per car

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

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.