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Tam-a-láu Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Lake Billy Chinook, Deschutes Arm, from The Peninsula, Tam-a-láu Trail (bobcat)
Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), Tam-a-láu Trail (bobcat)
View to The Island and Round Butte, Tam-a-láu Trail (bobcat)
Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa), Tam-a-láu Trail (bobcat)
Looking up the Crooked River Arm, Tam-a-láu Trail (bobcat)
Route of the hike from the day-use trailhead (not a GPS Track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Cove Palisades Upper Deschutes TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: The Island Viewpoint
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 6.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 650 feet
  • High Point: 2,620 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Spring through Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No (overnight parking not permitted at trailhead)
  • Crowded: No



The Tam-a-láu Trail involves a mile-long ascent up to a lava plateau called The Peninsula in Cove Palisades State Park. Then it’s about four flat miles around the rim and across the plateau taking in views of both the Crooked River and Deschutes Arms of Lake Billy Chinook. At the viewpoint is a view across to The Island, a smaller plateau that is now protected and has been off-limits to hikers since 1997. Vegetation on The Peninsula’s plateau is a mix of open sagebrush country with an expanding western juniper woodland that is being heavily thinned. In the summer, this hike can be very hot and very noisy, with all the jet ski and boat activity on the lake below, so it is a quieter experience when the marina is closed for the boating season. If you are staying at the Cove Palisade’s Deschutes Campground, the hike is a six-mile loop endeavor as the trail leads up the rim from there. “Tam-a-láu” is a native phrase meaning “big rocks on the ground.”

From the Cove Palisades Upper Deschutes Trailhead, walk into a dry woodland of western juniper with some ponderosa pine. The trail rises gently above Jordan Road and then drops to the day-use area access road. Cross the road and join a trail coming up from the picnic area. Go right here and cross Jordan Road. The trail drops on a short paved section to the information kiosk at the Tam-a-láu Trailhead near the campground. You need to sign in and sign out here at the beginning and end of your hike. The kiosk also gives information about the geology and natural history of the area (The plateau above is a layer of intracanyon basalt over the sedimentary/debris flow layers of the Deschutes Formation).

Switchback immediately and then hike down a vale of juniper and sagebrush with large boulders dotting the landscape, the “tam-a-láu” of the trail’s name. A sign asks you not to leave the trail. The path rises from here, making four switchbacks and sometimes using railroad tie steps. Wide views west to the Cascade volcanoes and the Deschutes Arm of Lake Billy Chinook begin to appear. After this ascent, make a long traverse under a rim line rock face to a juniper/ sagebrush /fescue bench. From here the trail switchbacks up, joining a rubbly old road track to reach the Tam-a-láu Loop Junction on the edge of the plateau.

Go left here and walk along the rim, getting views of the Deschutes Arm and the Cascades, including the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mount Jefferson. The main vegetation in this area is sagebrush and rabbitbrush, with clumps of western juniper. Look for blooming phlox, yellow bells, and gold stars in early spring. Round Butte is the low prominence on the lava plateau to the north. Pass under power lines and reach the tip of The Peninsula at The Island Viewpoint, which gives a view down to the palisades above the park’s petroglyph, the park headquarter buildings, and then The Island, which separates the Deschutes and Crooked River Arms of the artificial lake.

To make the loop, keep left (facing south) and take the foot trail close to the rim; avoid the jeep track that runs down the center of the plateau and joins the trail section you just hiked. Views of the Three Sisters and their accompanying lower peaks will open up. There are great views down to the Crooked River Arm and the sheer walls of its canyon, the road bridge you crossed to get to the trailhead, and irrigated farm fields on a wide bench above the basalt cliffs. From time to time you will note low rock walls where ranch workers stacked stones. Death-camas and balsamroot bloom along here in profusion in mid-spring. Pass under the power lines and then turn inland to make the final third of the loop.

The trail heads into the plateau, here vegetated by sagebrush and juniper. The latter are out of control here and have been thinned to prevent their utter dominance. Cross an older jeep track and walk through an area with older junipers, some at least 250 years old. Cross a second jeep track and then the power line track. The trail drops gently to the Tam-a-láu Loop Junction, whence you can go left and head back down the rim.

Note that there may be times during the winter when substantial snowfall may make the trail inaccessible.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 Oregon State Parks day pass
  • Trailhead area open 7:00 a.m. to sunset
  • Dogs on leash
  • Keep on the trail
  • Register and sign out at the Tam-a-láu Trailhead


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwill
  • Best Hikes Near Bend by Lizann Dunegan
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Bend & Central Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Bend, Overall by Scott Cook
  • Day Hikes in Central Oregon by Jan Siegrist
  • Hiking Oregon's Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Trail Running: Bend & Central Oregon by Lucas Alberg
  • Best Dog Hikes: Oregon edited by Falcon Guides
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

More Links

Page Contributors

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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