TAKE A HIKE
10 Relaxing Lakeside Camps on the PCT in Oregon
There’s nothing quite like wrapping up a good day of PCT hiking than beside a pretty mountain lake. They’re a reliable water source, often good for taking a refreshing dip, and the sound of gentle waves lapping on the shore does wonders for lulling you into a good nights’ sleep. Here’s our list of 10 favorite backcountry lakes for camping along the PCT in Oregon.
1. Island Lake
Island Lake is a pretty, wooded lake in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. It is located approximately 13 miles north of the Summit Sno-Park TH, and o.6 mile west of the PCT, and has two nice camp areas near the southern and western shores. The southern camp area is a large space that can accommodate several tents; the western camp area has a few open, individual sites. Both locations have easy access to the lake for fetching water or taking a refreshing dip. This lake often has nice sunsets.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 2, Mi. 13; West on Red Lake Trail #719 to lake junction.
2. Maidu Lake
Located in the Mount Thielsen Wilderness, Maidu Lake is the headwaters of the North Umpqua River. The lake lies approximately 18 miles north of the North Crater TH, and 1 mile west of the PCT, and offers two camp areas on the south and north sides of the lake. The south area is closest to the PCT; the north area, near the lake’s outlet, can be reached by walking the lake’s loop trail. Lake access for swimming and refilling water is better from the southern camp area.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 3, Mi. 17.9; West on Maidu Lake Trail #1414 to lake.
When camping at backcountry lakes, remember to follow Leave No Trace guidelines. If sites are not designated, pitch your tent at least 200 feet from the lakeshore, and take care of personal business at least 200 feet from water, camps and trails.
3. Summit Lake
Summit Lake, just south of the Diamond Peak Wilderness, and accessible via FR-398, is one of the largest—and prettiest—lakes on the PCT in Oregon. There is a small campground on the northwest side of the lake that has a few picnic tables and a vault toilet, and several secluded campsites along the lake’s western shore. All have good water access. Summit Lake can also be reached from the Oregon Skyline Trail; just walk 7 miles west on FR-398 from Crescent Lake.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 3, Mi. 41.4; Campsites are located along FR-398.
4. Rosary Lakes
Just north of Willamette Pass, the Rosary Lakes are three lovely lakes that all have good camping, water access, and swimming opportunities. Due to their proximity to a popular trailhead, they tend to be busier than other backcountry lakes, but they’re so pretty it’s worth joining others to enjoy some lakeside lounge time. The Lower Lake has several large, individual campsites; an open camp area is located on the small rise between the Middle and North Lakes.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 4, Mi. 2.6; Campsites are located right off the PCT.
5. Irish Lake
Located right on the southern boundary of the Three Sisters Wilderness, Irish Lake has a small, primitive campground approximately 0.5 mile east of the PCT. There are several open and secluded sites to choose from, and water access is good. The lake views are quite pretty. This campground is located off beat-up FR-600, so it does get some ORV activity. There are also a few individual campsites on the north and west shores of neighboring Taylor Lake.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 4, Mi. 22.5; West on FR-600 to campground.
6. Brahma Lake
Just a few miles north of Irish Lake, in the Three Sisters Wilderness, Brahma Lake is a primitive alternative to a developed campground. There’s a large camp area on the east side of the lake, just west of the PCT, as well as a few small, secluded sites along the narrow lakeshore trail. Lake access is good from the main area for fetching water or taking a dip in the clean, clear pool. Colorful sunrises and sunsets are common here, and look for juicy huckleberries in season.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 4, Mi. 25.2; West on FR-600 to campground.
If you’re hiking the PCT in Oregon in early summer (June and July), remember that mosquitoes like lakes too. Be prepared with plenty of bug repellent.
7. Reese Lake
Not even marked on most maps, Reese Lake is located in the Three Sisters Wilderness, right in the shadow of South Sister. The small camp area, approximately 9 miles north of the Devils Lake TH, and just east of the PCT, sits on a bluff above the lake and offers stunning views of the lake and mountain. Lake access is easy for collecting water or taking a swim, and a few trees provide wind breaks. This site makes a good basecamp for exploring the nearby Chambers Lakes.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 4, Mi. 58.5; Access from Elk Lake or Devils Lake.
8. Upper Lake
If hiking north, Upper Lake comes after a lengthy stretch of charred forest. If hiking south, it comes shortly after leaving Olallie Lake. Either way, it’s a refreshing sight—and there’s a few nice campsites on the lake’s east shore that invite you to stay and relax. The shallow lake is often clear and cool, and a welcome respite from the summer sun. Upper Lake makes a nice backcountry alternative to the overcrowded Jefferson Park, or the frontcountry camps at Breitenbush and Olallie Lakes.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 5, Mi. 42.2; Access trailheads via OR-4220
9. Timothy Lake
Camping anywhere near Mount Hood is going to be crowded. Forget the noisy campgrounds on the south side of Timothy Lake, and keep going a little farther north. Spread out along a couple miles of the lake’s eastern shoreline, you’ll find 10 remote sites located between the PCT and Timothy Lake. Most are fairly secluded, and have good water access. A few even have decent views. The best sites are the ones farthest north, near Timothy Lake’s North Arm area.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 5, Mi. 74.6–76.8; Find more remote campsites on the west shore
10. Twin Lakes
The Twin Lakes are two forest-ringed pools in the southern Mount Hood Wilderness, just a couple miles north of the Frog Lake TH. Located on an alternate trail parallel to the PCT, Lower Twin Lake has a large camp area, with good water access; Upper Twin Lake has a few dispersed individual sites. With their proximity to the Frog Lake Campground, these lakes can get crowded on weekends, but if you plan your visit midweek you’re likely to find some peace and quiet.
LOCATION: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 5, Mi. 86.9; East on Twin Lakes Trail #495.
Want more info about all these lakes, and so much more? Pick up a copy of Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon for more lakes, more camps, and more info to help you plan the PCT hike that you’re looking for.
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