Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 44 (Cascade Locks) and cross the Bridge of the Gods ($2 toll). Take a right onto Highway 14 for about 6 miles until you see signs for Carson and Wind River Road. Take a left here and head through the town of Carson on Highway 30 for about 6 miles. Take a right onto Old State road and an immediate left onto Panther Creek Road (turns into Road 65). Follow this road for 11 miles until you reach an intersection called “Four Corners.” Take a right onto Road 60 (it’s a maintained gravel road) and follow it for about 8.5 miles. Take a left onto Road 6030 which is marked for East Crater Trail. Follow this road for a little over 4 miles (it will turn into Road 6035) to the trailhead on the left.
Right past the trailhead sign there is a wilderness permit station. Make sure you stop and fill out the paper and attach it to your backpack, so you don’t get fined.
From the trailhead you start out in a very pretty wooded area with bear grass heavily lining the trail. The trail gradually starts heading uphill at first and then more steeply as you make you’re way through the woods. After about a mile and a half the trail will start to level out a bit and you’ll come to the first of three ponds. The mosquitoes are pretty terrible this time of year and from about the first pond you’ll start to really notice them. It only gets worse as you hike further in.
As you keep hiking you’ll pass through meadows and by two more ponds, as well as through clouds of mosquitoes. The trail gets more level as you go and soon you’ll come to Junction Lake. There are a few trails that take you down to the small but pretty lake. The lake is tree lined with a nice open meadow on one side. There is a nice trail that goes all the way around the lake and plenty of places to sit and relax or eat lunch. This is an out and back hike, so head back the way you came.
We really loved this hike, the forest is beautiful with all the bear grass and heather blooming. The meadows and ponds are really pretty and a nice contrast to the wooded areas. BUT, we must warn everyone that this is NOT a great hike during mosquito season, we absolutely wouldn’t recommend going late May through mid July. We weren’t able to relax and enjoy the lake as much as we would’ve liked, due to the mosquitoes being so thick and horrible. One of us left with 25 bites, it was that bad. That being said, we can’t wait to go back in the fall, it really is a lovely place minus the bugs 🙂
Distance: 5.2 miles
Elevation: 730 feet
Pet Friendly: Yes
Good For: Most ages- may be hard for young kids and older folks.
Parking Fee: No
Seasons: Late spring to late fall
Overall: The lake is pretty but the mosquitoes are so thick that it’s highly distracting. We would recommend doing this hike in late summer or fall.