Waldo Lake in the Fall
Life has been really busy since I last wrote an entry for the blog. I got married and have been busy with other things life threw my way. Sorry I haven’t written in a while.
One of my favorite places to ride in the Fall is Waldo Lake.
Waldo Lake is one of the clearest lakes in the world. Waldo is an amazing place to view from its shores or campgrounds, but to mountain bike around Waldo adds a whole new experience. The ride is longer than you would think. The ride is about 22 miles with a fair amount of short roller climbs. The trail’s elevation is at around 6,000 feet. Many people think they can whip around Waldo in an hour or two, which is not true for the average rider. I think the fastest people I know can knock out Waldo in around 2 ½ hours. The fastest I have done it was 4 hours, but then again I still like to ride Waldo and enjoy the views too. Most times I ride Waldo it takes 5-6 hours, which includes snack breaks and sightseeing stops.
There are many reasons to wait until Fall to ride Waldo:
1. Less bugs. If you ride Waldo before mid-August, be ready for the bugs.
2. Less people. After school starts the amount of people drops dramatically. It picks up again a little when hunting season starts.
3. The weather. I personally think our summer in Oregon is July-September.
4. The leaf colors. The colors are amazing mixed in with the lake, mountains and forest.
5. Trail conditions. While it is nice most of the time, rain combined with the morning dew cuts the dust down greatly.
Waldo Lake can be ridden clockwise starting/finishing at Shadow Bay, or as I prefer you can ride it counter-clockwise. I prefer to start at Shadow Bay and ride the trail between Shadow Bay and North Waldo Bay campgrounds. I find this to be the least exciting part of the trail, because you don’t see much of the lake; half the time I just take the road so I can hurry up and get to the burn section. Not too far out of North Waldo Bay you enter the burn section (the fire happened in 1996), but not much new growth has occurred because the forest service has chosen to let the trees return naturally. Most of the few trees that are starting to grow are only a couple feet tall, but the area is really interesting in the fact that it gives you a feel of what fire can do to a forest and how slowly forests recover with out man’s help.
After about 4 miles you leave the burn and get back into the trees, after a while you will come to a bridge; before crossing the bridge head south along the creek and you’ll see a pump house. Keep going and follow this trail even if it is a little overgrown, and it will put you out by the lake. I really enjoy the view, and I have never seen anyone else in this spot. It is only a couple hundred yards off the main trail, but you feel a lot farther away.
Back on the Waldo Lake Trail, from the bridge on make sure you stay of the main trail. There are a number of trails that leave off the right of the Waldo Lake Trail and they all lead to wilderness, which mountain bikers are not allowed to ride in. The trails to the left are short and just lead to the lake.
The good part about living in the Oakridge/Westfir area is we have so many great trails to ride anyway, but I feel sorry for people that live in area’s where most of the forest is wilderness and they have to drive a long way just for a ride after work.
Anyway back to the trail. There are many great viewpoints along the trail of the lake. One of my favorite spots is about ½ way around the lake right after the shale rock section. As far has I know this area doesn’t have a name, but you can tell a lot of people stop there, if you climb up on the rocks it is a great view of the lake and mountains around the lake. Plus there is a really cool view of trees underwater right there. After that point the trail heads away from the lake for a while and you lose site of the lake mostly for miles. There are some pretty small ponds on the side of the trail in this area.
About 2/3 of the way around the lake there is an unmarked trail that leads down to an interesting bit of history. There is a big sign down there explaining everything. I won’t give anything away so you can see it for yourself.
About 80% into your trip there is a log cabin type shelter by the lake that was set up for cross county skiers. It is a great stopping point to view the lake. About 95% into the ride you can break off and head towards Bobby, Betty, Gold and other small lakes. If you are into a longer ride, you can also break off here and head to Willamette Pass Resort for lunch or dinners on Friday’s-Sundays mid June-Labor Day. This will add about 15-25 miles to your ride depending on which route you take.
Your ride ends back at beautiful Shadow Bay, where you can go for a swim or lay on the dock after your ride.
If you would like to know about a certain Oakridge/Westfir area trail please contact me at