Summer snowmelt in the Cascade Mountains opens the gateway to one of Central Oregon’s hidden treasures: the lovely Cascade Lakes in the Deschutes National Forest.

Located just west of Bend (and inaccessible from November to May) these 14 little alpine lakes are reached by the 66-mile Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Climbing the high road out of Bend, one can understand why generations of families have returned to these lakes year after year for summertime camping.

“I call it a string of pearls,” said Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway program leader Robin Gyorgyfalvy. “Every lake and every site is a jewel.”

First timers will appreciate Elk Lake, one of the area’s best deep water lakes for swimming, sailing and kayaking. Elk Lake Resort offers rustic cabins for rent, and a lodge with a restaurant and a bar.

Hosmer Lake (once called Mud Lake) is a sportsman’s paradise with great catch-and-release fly-fishing for (stocked) Atlantic salmon. The shallow, marshy waters are also prime for wildlife viewing, bird watching and canoeing.

Of Todd Lake, Gyorgyfalvy said, “It’s a perfect little lake — like you are in the Alps.” A flat trail circumnavigates Todd, which is a favorite with families for walk-in campsites and wildflower study.

Sparks Lake, with stunning views of volcanic lava against the backdrop of Three Sisters and Broken Top, was most loved by Ray Atkeson— Oregon’s Photographer Laureate (1987-90) — and favored by amateur and professional photographers.

In addition to relaxation and scenic beauty, visitors come here to learn about the geology, wildlife and ecology of the area through more than 40 interpretive signs and sites. Most of all, these hidden lakes offer a sense of escape without having to go far at all. “It is just a really beautiful place,” said Gyorgyfalvy. “It really feels like you are leaving everything behind.”

A complete brochure of the lakes, resorts and activities is available at local forest service offices and visitors centers.

About the Author: Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Tawna at Visit Bend says…

    Great post on the Cascade Lakes! They’re one of the best things about being in Bend. All the lakes you named are fabulous, especially Elk Lake.

    For those seeking a more “secret” spot among the Cascade Lakes, one of my favorites is Blow Lake. I gave a little more info in this blog post a few months ago:


    Thanks for sharing some of Bend’s great hotspots. We sure love it!

    Written on June 9th, 2011 / Flag this Comment

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