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Timothy Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Hood reflection, Timothy Lake (bobcat)
Cooper Creek, Timothy Lake (bobcat)
Pink gilled mushrooms at Timothy Lake (bobcat)
Little Crater Lake in the fall (bobcat)
Boardwalk and footbridge at Crater Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (bobcat)
View to the dam wall from the Pacific Crest Trail, Timothy Lake (bobcat)
The trail stays within a couple hundred feet of the lake with frequent nice views (Jerry Adams)
The loop route around Timothy Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Timothy Lake Dam TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Little Crater Lake
  • Trail log: Timothy Lake/Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 12.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 460 feet
  • High point: 3,355 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: May through November
  • Family Friendly: Yes, in short sections
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Busy during summer and weekends

Contents

Hike Description

This is a moderate length, relatively level hike around Timothy Lake, a reservoir constructed to regulate water during the summer for PGE dams lower down on the Clackamas River. The lake is formed by a dam at the southwest corner of the lake. On the south side of the lake are several campgrounds that fill up on summer weekends, so this is definitely not a wilderness hike. There are a lot of boats on the lake, but speeds are limited to 10 mph. On the north side it is wilder, and you can make a short detour to the deep spring at Little Crater Lake. A nice time to go is mid-fall, when the campgrounds are deserted and there is little human activity. Loons, swans, and other northern waterfowl can be observed on the lake at this time. Another feature of the location, which is near the Cascade crest, is the surprising diversity of conifer species. The entire hike is within 100 feet of 3300 feet elevation. At 3300 feet in the Cascades, there is a lot of snow here in the winter. Maybe the snow will melt off by Memorial Day at the end of May. The snows will return, usually in November.

Horses are allowed on this trail. There are horse bypass trails around the campgrounds to keep horses out of the campgrounds. Bicycles are allowed on everything but the PCT section, but there is a way to bypass this. The PCT section is fairly short, and there aren't too many people, so some people ride their bicycles on it anyway. This hike is arbitrarily defined as starting at the dam and going counter-clockwise but you could start at other points, including the Little Crater Lake Trailhead.

A good option is to camp at one of the campgrounds and do the hike as a day hike. The campgrounds are Pine Point, Hood View, Gone Creek, and Oak Fork. Nearby are Clackamas Lake, Joe Graham (horse camp), and Little Crater Lake campgrounds. There is a primitive campground on the north side. The lakeside campgrounds usually fill up on summer weekends. The nearby campgrounds are less likely to fill up. You can make reservations for the lake campgrounds at Recreation.gov.

For a clockwise circuit, follow the road along the north shore of Timothy Lake. From the Myron Blank West Shore Day Use Area, you can see the log boom across the lake. At a junction, go right on a gravel road, passing a boat ramp and restrooms, to reach a trailhead. The sign says it’s 13 miles around the lake and 1 1/2 miles to Meditation Point.

The trail enters a woodland of younger trees with some older hemlocks and Douglas-firs. There are also silver firs, noble firs, and many Pacific yews. Then you'll pass into older woods with many larch trees, which turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. Cross a wide footbridge over Dinger Creek, and hike through a patch of old-growth forest. The trail rises to enter secondary silver fir/hemlock woodland before again reaching older woods of Douglas-fir. larch, hemlock, and yew. Drop gently to cross a small creek in a yew thicket. Then cross another creek on a footbridge, and come to an abandoned road bed and the junction with the Meditation Point Trail #526.

The Meditation Point Trail follows a peninsula vegetated with Douglas-fir, hemlock, western white pine, noble fir, boxwood, chinquapin, Oregon grape, twin flower, and trailing blackberry. The trail rolls up and down past numbered campsites and an outhouse. You'll reach the end of the peninsula at Campsite #4. There’s a picnic table here and a quiet, shaded view fo the lake.

Back at the junction, a sign notes it’s three miles to the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail crosses a small creek in a yew thicket. The lake narrows considerably here, and you’re hiking about 50 feet above the shore. Pass the North Arm Campground down to the right in lovely woods of Douglas-fir, larch, hemlock, and yew. After you reach the campground road, go left on the road about 50 yards and resume the trail. Enter secondary forest and cross a creek on a footbridge. There’s a clearing with younger trees before you enter an area of old growth conifers. Then you'll walk along a short boardwalk before the trail arrives at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail #2000. Here, go left to visit Little Crater Lake.

On the Little Crater Lake Trail, pass through a livestock fence and exit the old-growth forest to cross a footbridge over a narrow wetland. Pass over a stile, and take a boardwalk to sapphire-hued Little Crater Lake, where there's a viewing platform that explains the spring's formation. In late spring, look for false hellebore, lupine, marsh cinquefoil, and arrow-leaf groundsel blooming in the area.

Return to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, and bear left to continue your circuit of Timothy Lake. Rhododendrons, bear-grass and Oregon grape form a sparse cover under large, old-growth Douglas-firs. Come to the Pacific Crest-Timothy Lake Trail North Junction, and keep left over a boardwalk into a forest of Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock. Cross a large footbridge over Crater Creek and tread a boardwalk to the Pacific Crest-Old 1916 Trail Junction. (The latter is now labelled the Timothy Lake Bike Trail #537.) Keep right in a young forest of Douglas-fir and hemlock with western white pine, hiking along an arm of Timothy Lake and passing a couple of gushing springs on the right. At a boggy inlet, get a glimpse of the top of Mount Hood to the right above the trees. The trail rises under bigger trees, while user paths criss-cross the PCT and lead to Timothy Lake. The tread descends into Douglas-fir/hemlock woods with a few larches and yews. Then you rise a little into secondary growth before the trail levels above the shoreline. You'll enter another area of old growth where a spur leads right along a rocky promontory for views over Timothy Lake. After this, you'll drop into quiet mossy woods carpeted bear-grass and Oregon grape. Reach a bouldery slope above the Oak Grove Fork and come to the junction with the Timothy Lake Trail #538.

Bear right to leave the Pacific Crest Trail and descend in three short switchbacks. After you cross a bridge over the Oak Grove Fork, you'll arrive the junction with the Southshore Trail #529. To avoid busy campgrounds, keep left and head up, switchbacking to the junction with the Miller Trail #534. Stay right on the wide path of an old road bed to drop and cross the entrance road to the Oak Fork Campground. Keep left at a trail junction, with a path to an amphitheater leading to the right. After this, you'll cross the road to the Gone Creek Campground. The trail drops to a junction with the Southshore Trail, where you keep left along the south shoreline in second growth woods getting a great view of Mount Hood. The trail splits for a few yards, so keep right along the shore for more views of the mountain. At a junction with the western segment of the Southshore Trail, which passes two more campgrounds, stay left. At an unmarked junction, keep right and rise to cross paved FR 57. The trail heads away from the lake and rises in mossy woods. Then it drops to proceed next to the road before veering to the left.

Soon you'll reach a gravel road at a communication tower and water tank. Go left on the road and pass around a green gate. The trail descends to FR 5740, where you'll go right a few yards and then bear left on FR 57. There’s a large map sign of the lake area here. Now cross the dam wall, getting views of the Oak Grove Fork below and the overflow channel. On the other side of the wall, you'll reach your vehicle at the Timothy Lake Dam Trailhead.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required or $5 day use fee; America the Beautiful pass NOT accepted
  • Restrooms, picnic areas, reservable campgrounds
  • Share trails with horses and mountain bikers

Maps

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking Mount Hood: A Year-Round Guide by Eli Boschetto
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Mountain Biking Oregon: Northwest & Central Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

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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.

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.