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Battle Ground Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The shore of Battle Ground Lake (Steve Hart)
Rowboat at Battle Ground Lake (bobcat)
Lower Lake Trail Junction (Steve Hart)
Rough-skinned newt on the trail, Battle Ground Lake (bobcat)
Sketch of the suggested loop at Battle Ground Lake State Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Battle Ground Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Marshall Lookout
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 205 feet
  • High point: 680 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes, especially on weekends and in summer


Hike Description

This is an easy afternoon getaway for Vancouver/Camas residents, but it's not far from Portland either. This small crater lake is a very popular destination for families with children, and all kinds of fishing poles can be seen casting over the water. The lake and crater are the remains of a maar volcano, a member of the extensive Boring Lava Field. About 105,000 years ago, rising lava superheated underground water and caused a steam explosion. While the lake floor is only about 60 feet below the surface, the crater bottom is actually much deeper than that, with the hole being filled by thousands of years of sediment, organic matter, and rain water. There is a rather extensive trail system that takes you throughout the 280-acre park, but the outer trails are heavily used by horses and can get very muddy in winter. The loop described focuses on the lake itself and the forested rim of the old volcano.

Battle Ground itself is named after an encounter that never happened. In 1855, Captain William Strong, stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Vancouver, pursued a group of Klickitat Indians under Chief Umtuch who had left the fort without permission. Strong's detachment met up with the group near the current site of Battle Ground. There were negotiations and Umtuch agreed to return but was accidentally killed (it's unclear what really happened). The other band members requested permission to bury their chief, and Strong's company returned to Fort Vancouver without them. Vancouver residents believed it would take a fight to get the Indians to come back, but they kept their promise and returned peacefully.

From the parking lot, walk either of the paved paths past the little food shack and the restrooms. You can rent kayaks, boats, and paddle boards here. Very soon, you'll reach the shore of the lake at a large improved swimming area. This is a very heavily used park area. In summer, you'll see blankets on the grass and frisbees in the air. Turn right on the sidewalk and walk past another restroom building above the little beach. The wide trail heads north for 1/10 of a mile to a sign reading "Lower Lake Trail". Turn left here and head around the lake on this trail.

In some ways, Battle Ground Lake has an oddly untouched look to it for a place so heavily used. You'll probably see quite a few people in your brief tour, and in the summer, the swimming area will be packed with screaming kids. Still, as you stroll around the lake, usually a few inches above water level, it's possible to remove yourself from the rat race. It's also pretty easy to take photographs that look a lot more remote than they really are. There are a lot of fallen trees at the edge of the lake. These provide habitat for bass and ducks as well as adding a lot to the beauty of the scene. Douglas-firs, cedars, hemlocks, and maples form the dense canopy, while Oregon grape and invasive ivy dominate the understory. The rooty trail rises and falls. On the west side of the lake, you'll pass moss and licorice fern-covered boulders of lava that illustrate the violently volcanic origin of the lake. There are a couple of benches looking out on lake views and numerous places to stick your feet or your fishing gear in the water. After 0.6 miles, there's a trail junction with the Upper Lake Trail, which provides access to the rest of the trail system as well as the improved camping areas.

Make a right on this connector trail, and head up a slope of Douglas-firs and vine maples. At the junction with the Upper Lake Trail, go right and soon come to another junction. Taking a left here passes you over the rim to descend a slope past a concrete cistern. When you come to a four-way junction, go right on the Hill Trail. This wider trail is also used by horses and heads up a slope and then descends. Rise gently again, and reach a sign pointing to the Marshall Lookout. Here there's a bench and a memorial plaque honoring Charlie and Vivian Marshall. There's not much of a view anymore down to Battle Ground Lake. The trail continues out to the Hill Trail, where you can turn right to keep going. You'll descend a trail stabilized by log bars, and then turn right to take a short connector to the Upper Lake Trail.

Make a left and walk under vine maple bowers to reach the first of several hike-in campsites. Pass an outhouse (closed in winter), where the trail becomes a vehicle track. After two more outhouses, the path drops and becomes paved. You'll head through a play area with a covered picnic shelter to reach the parking area.


Regulations, fees, etc

  • Discover Pass required ($10 day use)
  • Park hours: April 1st - September 30th - 6:30 a.m. to dusk; October 1st to March 31st - 8:00 a.m. to dusk
  • Dogs on leash at all times
  • Fees are charged for camping or boating
  • Children under 4 are not allowed to swim in the lake
  • Restrooms, campground, picnic areas, play area, boat launch, equestrian trails

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Urban Trails: Vancouver by Craig Romano
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Washington Hikes by Scott Leonard
  • Washington's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Washington State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Marge & Ted Mueller

More Links


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.