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Clear Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Clear Lake (Cheryl Hill)
The loop hike around Clear Lake (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Clear Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: McKenzie River-Clear Lake Trail South Junction
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 280 feet
  • High point: 3,100 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: June-November
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

Three thousand years ago a lava flow dammed the McKenzie River and created Clear Lake, which certainly lives up to its name. This pleasant hike takes you on a loop around the lake (also an excellent snowshoe in the winter). You can head south past the picnic shelter to hike this trail counter-clockwise, but this description will take you clockwise.

From the parking lot in front of the store, walk down the road past the cabins. Just beyond cabins 19 and 20, at the point where the road curves up the hill, you will find the trail heading off along the lake shore. You will get glimpses of the lake through the trees, and soon it is more marsh than lake.

At 0.9 miles, cross a bridge over Ikenick Creek, and then bear right. You are now doubling back on the other side of the marsh, but soon you will reach a view looking south to the store with the tops of the Three Sisters poking up in the distance on a clear day.

The trail curves back north again and, at 1.7 miles, you will cross Fish Lake Creek. You are now on the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. Soon the lake comes back into view. At 2.25 miles, the trail heads inland to skirt around Great Spring, the source of the McKenzie River. The water percolates up from the lava rock below and forms a small beautiful pool before flowing out to the lake beyond.

Shortly after the spring you will pass by the store where you started, just right across this narrow section of Clear Lake. The trail leaves the trees behind and enters an area of lava. This stretch can be hot in summer, but is very pretty in autumn when the scattered foliage turns color.

You will reach a section of trail that was once paved, but the pavement is now crumbling and eroding. Pass the boat launch at Cold Water Cove Campground, and continue south. Soon the trail curves west around the southern shore of the lake. At four miles, you'll reach a junction where the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail continues straight towards Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls. To complete the loop, turn right.

Cross the footbridge over the lake's outlet where the McKenzie River heads south. The rest of the hike is easy, a one-mile stroll through the forest back to the day use area and the store.

Fees, Regulations, Facilities, etc.

  • Picnic area, restrooms, resort with cabins
  • Campgrounds nearby


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • 50 Old-Growth Hikes in the Willamette National Forest by John & Diane Cissel
  • Hiking Oregon's Central Cascades by Bruce Grubbs
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon's Southern Cascades: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Trail Running: Bend & Central Oregon by Lucas Alberg

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.