Bend is a quaint city nestled on the Deschutes River near the Cascade Mountains in Central Oregon. This outdoorsy community has much to offer, from skiing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and boating. Oregon has some of the cleanest and clearest lakes on earth, perfect for spending a day on the water, forgetting about your troubles. And while the water may be chilly, there are many activities you can do to pass the time. Discover the nine best lakes near Bend, Oregon!
1. Clear Lake
This lake is a little over an hour from Bend, but it’s such an incredible lake we had to include it! Clear Lake is a mountain lake with two central bodies of water connected by a bottleneck. This pristine water is fed by Mount Washington’s snow runoff, which takes 20 years to filter through caverns before reaching the lake. Volcanic activity created the lake 3,000 years ago, and you can see evidence of an ancient forest under the water’s surface. People often dive into this freshwater to view the upright-standing trees. You can also hike the Clear Lake Loop Trail and view the neighboring lava field and forests. Or you can fish, kayak, swim, canoe, or paddle.
2. Paulina Lake
This lake is 50 minutes from Bend, but it’s a must-visit due to its unusual location. Volcanic activity created the Newberry crater over 500,000 years ago, precisely where the lake sits today. Located 6,331 feet above sea level in a giant crater, Paulina Lake has a volume of almost 250,000 acre-feet and over six miles of shoreline. The lake supports many recreational activities, including camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and jet-skiing. It’s a popular fishing destination, despite there being no native fish. But rest assured, the Fish and Wildlife Department regularly stocks it with salmon and trout.
3. Sparks Lake
This natural body of water is 40 minutes from Bend near the Cascade Range’s crest. Make it a day, take the gorgeous scenic byway through the Deschutes National Forest, and enjoy views of Oregon’s major mountain systems. Sparks Lake is a remnant of a bigger lake that is now filled with vegetation and wildlife, and its water comes from mountain snow melt. There is a boat launch at the lake with parking, trails, and campgrounds. Sparks Lake is an excellent fly-fishing destination, but boat motors must be off before casting your line.
4. East Lake
To the east of Paulina Lake, and about 50 feet higher, is East Lake. Volcanic activity also formed its caldera, and it receives its water from snow melt, rainfall, and hot springs. Wooded shorelines and sandy beaches line its blue-green water, providing recreationists and geology enthusiasts with a beautiful space to unwind. People come to East Lake to picnic, camp, fish, boat, kayak, and swim. Plus, it’s shadier than the other nearby lakes and the perfect spot to escape the summer heat.
5. Elk Lake
Located in the Central Cascade Range, Elk Lake is part of the volcanic landscape in Deschutes National Forest, along the scenic byway. This picturesque lake is a natural body of water surrounded by mountainous terrain, with the Three Sisters to the north and Mt. Bachelor to the east. People use the lake for boating, fishing, swimming, and windsurfing. It is one of the most popular spots of the Cascade Lakes and is an all-season vacation destination. The forest service offers campgrounds, picnic areas, and boat launches; check out the private resort and cabins for a comfortable trip.
6. Todd Lake
Covering 45 acres near the crest of the Cascade Range is Todd Lake, a natural lake 30 minutes from Bend. The lake is nestled in a small glacial valley at the base of the stratovolcano, Broken Top. A watershed covered in a dense conifer forest drains into the lake, and meadowland covers the north, south, and west areas. The lake is a popular recreational area for swimming, picnicking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and nature viewing. Motorized boats are prohibited, but you can use other watercraft.
7. Cultus Lake
This lake is almost an hour from Bend but is a favorite area during Oregon summers. It is a glacier-formed lake at the northern base of Cultus Mountain in the Deschutes National Forest. The lake is two miles long and produces trophy-sized lake trout, so obviously, fishing is one of the many activities you can do here. 120-foot pines and Douglas-Firs surround the lake, making it a photo-worthy trip. You can stay at a campground or book your stay at their resort, featuring cabins, a restaurant, and a store. Then spend your days boating, sailing, and jet-skiing.
8. Hosmer Lake
This lake is the hidden jewel of the Cascade Range and a favorite spot for locals. Hosmer Lake is a natural body of water 5,000 feet above sea level and part of the volcanic landscape along the scenic byway. While it’s technically a lake now, encroaching vegetation is slowly turning it into a marsh. Thickets and dark green forests surround the water, hiding secretive wildlife and fish; the best way to experience the area is by canoe or kayak. Most people visit this secluded lake for wildlife and nature viewing and quiet fly-fishing.
9. Lucky Lake
This lake is 45 minutes from Bend and one of the more “off the beaten path” areas on the list. You won’t find much information about it because most people won’t drive up its mile-long dirt road to get there. And then hike another mile to reach the water’s edge. But you won’t regret it once you’re there. Lucky Lake is secluded and never crowded, and it’s one of the warmest bodies of water in the area. Visit this little slice of Oregon heaven and spend the day hiking, swimming, and lazily floating on rafts.
Summary of the 9 Best Lakes Near Bend Oregon
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