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Memaloose Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Talus slope on the west side of the lake (cfm)
False bugbane (Trautvetteria caroliniensis var. occidentalis), Memaloose Lake Trail (bobcat)
Ancient forest, Memaloose Lake Trail (bobcat)
Rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum), Memaloose Lake (bobcat)
GPS track of hike to Memaloose Lake and South Fork Mountain
  • Start point: Memaloose Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Memaloose Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 2.6 miles out and back
  • High point: 4,115 feet
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Late spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The closure of Memaloose Road in 2015 due to fire damage has made Memaloose Lake a very roundabout and even more tortuous drive: the detour, like the former approach, can still be gauntlet run of target shooters. Because of this activity and also the longer reroute, there may have been some relief in the number of visitors to this quiet pocket of old-growth forest, one of the five parcels of the Clackamas Wilderness. You'll enjoy towering old-growth trees, an exquisitely lush understory, and a placid scene at the little forest lake.

Your hike begins in a cool, majestic forest of old-growth Douglas-fir. You will also notice massive specimens of western red-cedar, western hemlock, and noble fir. Sign in at the wilderness permit box, and continue up alongside Memaloose Creek in a carpet of oxalis and vanilla leaf. Many of the giant trees have fallen and taken nature’s course. The trail drops slightly to cross a stream lush with spiny wood fern. Rise over a hump and keep up along another creek and then cross it to head up more steeply. The trail crosses a creek among more large noble firs. Then, switchback three times and make a long traverse up to cross Memaloose Creek. The understory changes to bear-grass and rhododendron, and in this area, you will see Clackamas white irises blooming in late June/early July. At a trail junction (The fork right leads up to the north end of the lake), the path switchbacks and rises. On the left, Memaloose Creek pours down a small waterfall. Reach the campsite at the lake among rhododendrons that bloom brightly in early summer. This is a shallow swimmable lake, ideal for cooling off in the heat of the summer. Look for rough-skinned newts floating lazily in the waters.

Cross the creek to your left to find the official campsites, some with firepits. A footpath also leads to the swampy area at the south end of the lake. The old aluminum toilet that had been on the left side of the trail is now bullet-riddled and has been moved as a sort of trophy to one of these campsites. If you prefer a longer hike, you can find the trail to South Fork Mountain on the east side of the lake. A brushier trail along the west side of the lake offers a few more viewpoints. Visit the small talus slope on the western edge of the lake to hear the resident pikas peeping.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Best Old-Growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon by John & Diane Cissel
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


  • CFM (creator)
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.

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