Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Campin' at Olallie Lake

There's a couple trails in the Olallie Lake area I've yet to visit.  On the ever-shrinking list of "uncompleted 100 hikes," these were next on my agenda.  But Olallie Lake is a long drive from Portland (almost three hours). In order to bag both hikes, I suggested a weekend camping trip to my hubby.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

On the shore of Olallie Lake

It's been many years since we've camped at Olallie Lake.  This lake is part of a larger scenic area consisting of a high forested plateau and lots of small, charming mountain lakes.  It's very remote - located deep in the Mt. Hood National Forest sandwiched between Mts. Hood and Jefferson.  I remembered a long drive over bumpy gravel roads to get there.

Fireweed flowers were everywhere

Thankfully, the roads have improved from our last visit.  My hubby and I arrived on a hot Friday mid-afternoon and scored one of the last shaded campsites near the lake.  After unpacking and putting up the tent, Roger grabbed his fishing pole and set out in search of the "big one."  I loaded up my backpack and camera, ready to explore the first of my new trails.

Monon Lake with the tip of Mt. Jefferson

Yes, "New Hike Friday" has been resurrected.  Today's trail of choice was a path from Olallie Lake around adjacent Monon Lake.  Only a half mile apart, these bodies of water are connected by a well-used path.  Once you reach Monon Lake, the trail continues, following the shoreline for a total of 2.9 miles.

It was another trek through an old fire zone.  In 2001, a large forest fire swept through this area and ghostly gray trees bore stark reminders of the disaster.  But like Canyon Creek Meadows, this area was well on its way to recovery.  Large bushes and small trees covered the ground.  Rose-colored fireweed flowers brightened the scene.

Ghostly trees

Vivid blue and beautiful, Olallie and Monon are the largest lakes in the Olallie Scenic Area.  But they couldn't be more different.  Olallie Lake boasts a small resort with cabins, boat rentals and a tiny general store.  It is ringed with three USFS campgrounds.  Since Olallie Lake is used as a drinking water source, swimming is not allowed, but fishing and boating are permitted. 

Olallie Butte makes a perfect reflection on Monon Lake

Monon Lake, on the other hand is totally undeveloped. No official campgrounds at all. But swimming is allowed, and there's a nice trail following the entire shoreline. Many people make the trek to Monon to get their water sports fix. (And I noticed lots of "squatter" campers clustered between the road and the west shore).

Boggy meadows around Monon Lake

I began my afternoon stroll on Olallie Lake's south shore.  It took a little bushwhacking to finally locate the trail, but once found, it was an enjoyable half mile from my campsite to Monon Lake.  Fireweed flowers bloomed profusely near the water's edge.  Olallie Butte, rising above the lake-dotted plateau, was my constant companion.  As I left Olallie's shore behind, I entered the burn zone from a previous fire. 

Entering the burn zone

Once again, this fire-ravaged area was much more interesting and scenic than expected.  The silvery gray dead trees made for a beautiful contrast with the blue sky.  Flowers and green shrubs rose from the forest's floor.  Good photographic material. 

Fireweed in the evening sun

As I approached Monon Lake, I was delighted to see the very tip of Mt. Jefferson appear over the treed horizon.  I circled the lake clockwise, first making my way through the burn zone.  As I approached the southern edge, dead trees gave way to untouched forest and swampy meadows.  In some areas, logs had been placed over the trail.  I'm assuming this area gets quite muddy certain times of the year.  Looking across the lake, I noticed Olallie Butte making a nice reflection on its lovely blue waters.  Kodak moment!


I continued along the western side of Monon Lake, past many primitive camps, where people had just pulled off the road and squeezed a tent in the narrow space between the road and shore.  After a half mile, I left the squatters behind, and wound through another brilliant green meadow, complete with boardwalks and a cute footbridge.  This led me back to the north side of Monon Lake, through another burn zone.  This area looked to have received the brunt of the fire's wrath.  Many trees still bore blackened scars from the inferno.  A very somber place.

Happy Anniversary to us!

I returned to our campsite to find Roger stoking a nice campfire, and prepping a steak dinner.  I opened up a bottle of wine and we had a toast.  It was our 27th wedding anniversary.  I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than being outdoors at this lovely lake with my wonderful husband.

Mt. Jefferson evening reflection on Olallie Lake

After dinner, the sun began to set over the forested hills.  It's rays turned the adjacent trees a soft pink hue.  Too late, I grabbed my camera and hurried to the lakeshore.  I caught the sun's last rays on Mt. Jefferson before it was gone for the night.  And I did get one nice reflection of the mountain on Olallie's ripply surface.

Ahhh.....what a great day!  And tomorrow held the promise of another new hike to explore.  Stay tuned for my next post for photos and story.

Linking to:  Share Your Cup Thursday.


  1. Nice post and happy anniversary. The 'ghostly trees' pic is the standout here, I think

  2. What an awesome trip! I have not been to Olallie in a really long time, and have wanted to go back for a while. But as you said, its a pretty long drive, and we usually stick closer to home.

  3. Beautiful:) What a fun adventure. I haven't been brave enough to do the hiking/camping thing:) Maybe next summer!

  4. How peaceful that looks! And Happy Anniversary to you and Roger. So glad I found your blog.

  5. How blue that water is! Happy anniversary. What a great photo of the 2 of you!

  6. That's an awesome anniversary! Congrats to you both! :)

  7. What a perfect way to spend your anniversary! Ollalie Lake reminds me of so many lakes here in Central Oregon.
    Thanks for sharing your special day!

  8. What a beautiful place to spend time together. Happy anniversary to you! Hubby and I just celebrated #40 on the 4th. I love the footbridge and that last photo with the reflection is breathtaking. Thanks for sharing with SYC. Looking forward to your next adventure.

  9. An awesome post and a memorable trip for you and your husband. Don't we wish we could do more trips like this?


Don't be shy! Please leave a comment.