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Round Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Round Lake from the picnic area (bobcat)
The spillway at the Round Lake Dam (bobcat)
Spillway gears on the Round Lake Dam (Steve Hart)
A turtle basks on a log, Round Lake (bobcat)
The loop around Round Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Lacamas Park TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Potholes
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 140 feet
  • High point: 295 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

Round Lake, like its larger neighbor Lacamas Lake, is a child of the Missoula Floods, a depression carved when ice dams collapsed somewhere in northern Montana over 12,000 years ago and swept down through the Columbia River valley. The floods were not a single event but occurred at least 40 times over a period of 2,000 years. A "Missoula boulder," perhaps rafted down the cataclysmic spate on a floe of ice, sits at the south end of Round Lake. The area was a rich foraging ground for Native Americans, who found wapato in the lake and camas on the oak scablands above it. In the early 1880s, a ditch was excavated that connected the lake with Camas' new paper mill (see the Mill Ditch to Round Lake Hike). At that time, two dams were constructed at the south end of Round Lake, raising the water level by some 12 feet (the old timber dams were replaced in the 1930s). Another aqueduct to the paper mill was dug by Chinese laborers. Nowadays, this is a recreation area, where families come to picnic and fish for trout, bluegill, and smallmouth bass. A trail leads around Round Lake and connects with other scenic hikes in Lacamas Regional Park (see the Lacamas Heritage Trail Hike and the Lacamas Creek Loop Hike).

From any of the paved park trails, turn right and head south through a parkland shaded by towering Douglas-firs. A large information kiosk details the geology, hydrology, and natural history of Round and Lacamas Lakes. The trail soon turns to gravel as it follows a thin strip of land between Round Lake on the left and Mill Pond on the right. A gangway crosses a small dam that controls flows to the Mill Pond. After this, you'll come to a trail junction. The right fork leads to the Mill Pond Dam, the beginning of the Mill Ditch Tunnel, and trails that lead to Camas School District office and an elementary school (see the Mill Ditch to Round Lake Hike). To continue the short loop around Round Lake, take the left fork and cross the Round Lake Dam, where Lacamas Creek pours over a spillway into a potholed gorge, with flows much more impressive during the wet season. A summer scramble trail leads down to exposed rocks when water flow is low.

After the dam, keep right to follow the rim of the gorge and get a view of the The Potholes. In the winter, the creek makes a short but impressive drop and in summer the rock ledge is exposed with the circular indentations that give the waterfall its name. Return to the shore of Round Lake, and pass the "Missoula boulder" an exotic rock brought here from far to the north by the Ice Age floods. Switchback up twice to reach a wide pathway, where you'll turn left (keeping straight will take you up to the Lacamas Park Lily Field).

The trail drops into a gully, then rises and drops again to cross a creek and reach a small dock offering views over the lake. Look for turtles basking on the logs, cormorants sunning in rows, and great blue herons stalking the shallows. Keep hiking along the shore and cross a wide footbridge over an alder-shaded skunk-cabbage wetland. Under Douglas-firs and maples again, you'll hike in an understory of Indian plum, hazel, and sword fern. Trillium bloom here in the spring. You'll pass below a private residence before arriving at 35th Avenue. Follow the sidewalk down past an overflow parking area, and turn left just before you reach Everett Street. A footbridge takes you over the channel between Lacamas Lake and Round Lake. Reach the park picnic area and return to your vehicle.


Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • Park open 7:00 a.m. to dusk
  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms, play area, interpretive signs, picnic area

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington by Susan Elderkin
  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Urban Trails: Vancouver by Craig Romano
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun

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.