Hiking to a lake in the mountains is just about one of my favorite things. The challenge, the beautiful hike and the reward of a lake (alpine or not) with jagged mountains towering over. No matter how much my thighs burn and my lungs tighten, I never tire of it, nor do I even think, this is my last one.
What I didn't know about Oregon, was how many lakes it has. You can find a lake for whatever your desire is. Boating, fishing, SUPing, kayaking, swimming, relaxing. There is one for everyone. These lakes, however, are some of the best we have found with a decent hike. You start at elevation and you climb.
Oregon's 5 Best Hikes to Lakes
The lakes in this list are located either in Central Oregon or Eastern Oregon and within one of the Wilderness areas. These areas are more strict with a few rules. For camping, you cannot camp within 200' of water and the fire bans are longer. For drones, they are not allowed. Dogs are allowed, but please pick up after them as well as yourself (dig and carry out toilet paper) if you are overnight camping. Also be aware of leash rules while in wilderness areas. This for safety of wildlife and your pet.
This is just a small idea of what Oregon has to offer!
Strawberry Lake in Strawberry Wilderness
I was surprised to find something like this in eastern Oregon that wasn't in the Wallowas. To date, this could be my favorite lake in Oregon. The hike was minimal, but you could continue on for miles in search of other lakes. We got there early in the season and even though it was still a bit frozen over, it was stunning with the snow in the mountains. There were plenty of spots to hang out for the day and camp for the night, but as a reminder, Strawberry Wilderness has the 200' rule.
No Name Lake in Three Sisters Wilderness
A gem of a lake with its vibrant colors. Along with a glacier and jagged rocks, it is a sight to see. This can be a challenge to get to and you now need a permit, but it is well worth the burning thighs. Fun for dogs and anyone looking for a challenge. Take your time and make sure to take in the surrounding views.
Maxwell Lake in Eagle Cap Wilderness
Located in north east Oregon, Eagle Cap Wilderness could make the claim for the best hiking in Oregon. Known as the Alps of Oregon, the hiking here is what hikers dream of. Elevation gain, beautiful lakes, kept trails and views of mountain peaks. Maxwell was probably the shortest hike we found in the area, but it was not easy. We also saw mountain goats here!
Wild Horse Lake in Steens Mountain Wilderness
In south eastern Oregon, the Steens seem like a bit of an anomaly in the area. Surrounded by farm land and desert sits this small mountain range. As you take the scenic loop, you can make a stop at Wild Horse Lake Trailhead. Stop for lunch and enjoy the view and then take the steep down and steep up hike to this lake. Even at 9,000'+ feet it can get very hot and dog's pads can burn on the hot rock. You can take time to cool off at the lake though as there is plenty of space to stop for lunch, take a swim and relax. We saw a few skinny dippers!
Moraine Lake in Three Sisters Wilderness
I think that this hike is one of the best for someone who is trying to get into hikes with elevation and at elevation. A short drive from downtown Bend and just past Mt. Bachelor is Devil's Lake. Devil's Lake on it's own is one of the most beautiful in the Cascades. However, this is just your starting point. This is also the starting point for climbing Three Sisters so it is busy, but well worth it. You can camp here as well, but be aware of the 100' distance from the water. Otherwise, it is a great place to hang out for the day.
I hope you enjoy one of these lakes and by all means it isn't a complete list of the amazing lakes that Oregon has to offer. As we explore more, we will do another article on more of the lakes.