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Island Lakes Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Lower Island Lake, off the South Waldo Trail (bobcat)
Island on the south shore of Waldo Lake (bobcat)
South Waldo Shelter on the Waldo Lake Trail (bobcat)
Upper Island Lake, South Waldo Trail (bobcat)
The route through the Waldo Lake Wilderness to the Island Lakes (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Shadow Bay TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Lower Island Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 10.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1330 feet
  • High Point: 6,215 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-summer into fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



For a dash of the Waldo Lake Wilderness and some secluded lakes just south of the wilderness, try this in-and-out hike on well-maintained trails. Waldo Lake is one of Oregon’s largest natural lakes and is also considered one of the purest lakes in the world. This is because few streams enter the lake to add nutrients that encourage plant growth. This hike takes you to old-growth montane woods, a historic shelter, bountiful huckleberry patches, and after passing several small lakes, two picturesque larger lakes just off the trail. Note that the Waldo Lake Trail and the trails south of the wilderness boundary are used and maintained by mountain bikers.

Find the Waldo Shoreline Trail heading into a lichen-draped mountain hemlock woodland at the east end of the parking area. Blue diamonds on trees denote this is a cross-country ski route. Engelmann spruce, silver fir, noble fir, and western white pine also form the forest canopy here as you hike through huckleberry, grouseberry, and bear-grass. Cross a footbridge, and keep right at the Waldo Lake-Waldo Shoreline Trail Junction to join the Waldo Lake Trail #3590, additionally labeled as the Jim Weaver Loop Trail. Pass a wilderness kiosk, and drop to pass over a footbridge and cross a boggy seep of skunk-cabbage and wood fern. After a couple more footbridges, you’ll see a spur to the right that leads to a beach and views to a small forested island just offshore. A second spur a little later takes you to a campsite and a closer view of the island. The trail now veers away from the lakeshore to circle around a lush meadow at the lake’s southern end. Cross a footbridge, and note the large hemlocks and spruces. At a trail junction, go right to take a look at the South Waldo Shelter, with its shake roof, wood stove, picnic table, and sleeping platform. The shelter is maintained by Lewis & Clark College Outdoors.

From the shelter, cross a footbridge over a creek, and arrive at the Waldo Lake-South Waldo Trail Junction. Make a left here, and fill out a form at the wilderness permit box. Cross a marsh-marigold bog, and start ascending a slope in shady forest with a huckleberry understory. This is prime berry-picking territory in late August/early September! You can see the outline of Mount Ray looming ahead through the trees. Pass a meadow on your left before the trail levels to cross another boggy expanse. The trail rises more steeply on an eroded tread, but eventually passes over a saddle. Exit the wilderness, and drop down a lupine-lined tread to pass an unnamed lake. Reach the four-way South Waldo-Mt. Ray Trail Junction.

Continue straight from the junction on the South Waldo Trail: It’s 1.8 miles from here to Upper Island Lake. The trail is well-maintained by mountain bikers, and traverses a slope of mountain hemlocks. It then crosses a boggy, mossy brook, where you’ll get a view to Mount Ray, before it winds up very steeply to an old-growth bench. Continue hiking up to a broad, wooded bench with boulder outcroppings in a wide-open understory. The trail drops, and you’ll pass a ski trail sign for Jo Ann and Lorin Lakes. Hike through a small lupine/woodrush meadow, and wind down to pass an unnamed lake to your left. Soon see Upper Island Lake to the right. Cross a shallow gully with its own pond, and head right through the trees to the shore of the lake, which has a small rocky island. Lower Island Lake is more picturesque, and lies below the trail. Recross the gully, and then go right to bushwhack down a steep slope to the lake, also of course, with its signature island. Return to the trail, and head back the way you came.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Restrooms, picnic area, campground nearby
  • Share non-wilderness trails with mountain bikers
  • Lots of mosquitoes until August


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Waldo Lake Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Middle Fork Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Willamette National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Willamette Cascades
  • Adventure Maps: Oakridge, Oregon Trail Map

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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.