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Fallen Leaf Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Under Douglas-firs at a frozen Fallen Leaf Lake, Camas (bobcat)
Oregon grape understory, Fallen Leaf Lake (bobcat)
Junction, Fallen Leaf Lake Park (bobcat)
Looking down a creek, Fallen Leaf Lake Park (bobcat)
The trail route at Fallen Leaf Lake traced in yellow; road sections in orange (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Fallen Leaf Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Lacamas Lake (one option)
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out with loop
  • Distance: 4.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • High point: 455 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

In 2011, the City of Camas purchased the 55 acres surrounding Dead Lake, now renamed Fallen Leaf Lake, from the Georgia-Pacific Corporation. The space had been used as a park exclusively for Georgia-Pacific employees and, prior to 1984, part of the area had been the site of the Dead Lake/Camas Catholic Cemetery. In that year, however, the graves were exhumed and their contents transported to the Camas Cemetery. As a recreational site, Dead Lake had been morbidly famous for an unknown number of drownings, with claims that the aquatic plants had tangled swimmers and dragged them down into the unmeasured depths. According to local legend, some of the drowning victims’ bodies were never recovered. It is unclear whether it was these mysterious circumstances or that fact that there was a cemetery on site which gave the lake its name. Now that the area is a public park, the name has been changed to invoke more positive connotations, and a trail system, including a winding tangle of mountain bike trails, has been developed.

From the winter parking area, take the footpath leading north along a low ivy ridge under a canopy of Douglas-fir. Reach slough-like Fallen Leaf Creek, which connects Fallen Leaf Lake with Lacamas Lake. Return to find a trail that takes you up over the low ridge and across a games field with picnic tables. Continue towards the lakeshore, and then turn left back past the picnic shelter and across the main parking area.

Past the winter gate, a trail leads left at a pet waste dispenser. There is a confusing mix of trails in the forest here, many of them designed for mountain bikers. At a junction keep left, and then go right at the next junction. The woods here are choked with ivy and tall holly bushes. Continue up the slope, keeping left at junctions. Just before a softball field, go right and switchback down to a bottomland of mossy big-leaf maples and blackberry vines. Reach a junction at a large maple tree: to do a winding loop up the slope past larger trees, make a left here.

A few yards later, go right up the slope, and switchback onto an old road bed at a large Douglas-fir. Switchback three more times in a mixed forest of Douglas-fir, cedar, hemlock, and maple with an understory of sword fern and Oregon grape. Keep winding up, and then make a traverse before heading up a gully. Soon, drop down the gully past an old cistern, make a traverse, rise up the slope, and then begin dropping down a ridge line on a sometimes braided trail, getting glimpses of Fallen Leaf Lake through the trees.

When you reach the bottom of the slope, keep left at two junctions, and then make another left turn at the last junction to follow the trail above Fallen Leaf Lake’s shore. Dense salmonberry thickets prevent actual shore access. High above to the left, you’ll notice a waterfall tumbling over the rim, and then you’ll cross a small creek. Ignore the path going left before the next creek, and follow the trail up the slope. Keep right at the next junction on a bench above the lake. Go left and then right at the next two junctions, and reach an old road bed shaded by alders and maples. This trail leads to a paved pathway, where you need to make a right to cross a deeply eroded creek with a tiny waterfall. There’s a short dirt loop leading off to the right. The paved path crosses a landslide slope now overgrown with a thicket of young alders. Next, you’ll arrive at Lacamas Lane (You can loop back to Fallen Leaf Lake Park from here via Camas Heritage Park: See the description at the end of this entry).

To extend the outing, go left on Lacamas Lane, and cross it at the junction with 44th Avenue. Walk up 44th for about 80 yards to find the paved trail leading into the woods just before the first house in the Lake Heights neighborhood (You’ll pass a dirt trail before this). Follow this paved trail down the slope and then, after passing below the last house, take dirt trail up to rejoin the paved trail. You’ll also get glimpses of Lacamas Lake through the trees. The trail levels behind a row of backyard fences and blackberry bushes. Pass a paved spur leading out to 44th Avenue and, about 200 yards later, take the second dirt trail that leads down into the woods.

This slope is a network of mountain bike trails, and there are numerous junctions. The idea is to make a loop by heading back towards Lacamas Lane; you will not be able to cross Lake Road to join the Lacamas Heritage Trail. Keep left at a junction, and make two sharp switchbacks down in a woodland of Douglas-fir, grand fir, big-leaf maple, vine maple, and sword fern. Make a traverse under larger Douglas-firs, getting glimpses of Lake Road and Lacamas Lake below. Join an overgrown road bed carpeted with trailing blackberry, and pass a biker jump. The trail drops down the slope; keep left at two junctions, and reach Lake Road. Pick up a trail heading up the slope from here, and wind up to a four-way junction. Stay straight here to cross a shallow gully before heading left when you reach the old road bed again. Keep right at a junction to hike up to 44th, then go left and descend Lacamas Lane. You can cross the road to head back to Fallen Leaf Lake, or make the loop described below.

Loop via Camas Heritage Park:

Head down on Lacamas Lane as it loops down the slope to Lake Road. Cross this busy drive to reach the Lacamas Heritage Trail. Make a right here, and soon reach the Camas Heritage Park Trailhead. Walk to your left around the parking area to find a trail leading left out to a small peninsula on Lacamas Lake. Then head east above the lakeshore under the trees until you come to Lacamas Lake Lodge. Hike out to Lake Road and, without crossing the road, walk its verge to the junction with Everett Street. Go left to take the crosswalk across Everett to continue down Everett 0.2 miles to the gravel driveway leading in to the Fallen Leaf Lake Trailhead.

Lake Road and Everett Street can get busy on weekends, and there are no sidewalks, so this return route is not recommended for children.


Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, covered picnic shelter
  • Park open one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset
  • Share trails with mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.