Featured hike: The Lake Creek Trail

Jul 27, 2015
July and August are great summer months for hiking the high country in Central Oregon. The Cascades offer respite from the high desert heat and stunning scenery certainly makes the hike worthwhile. But if you’re looking for something a little different, a little less crowded, a little less known: look toward the foothills.


July and August are great summer months for hiking the high country in Central Oregon. The Cascades offer respite from the high desert heat and stunning scenery certainly makes the hike worthwhile. But if you’re looking for something a little different, a little less crowded, a little less known: look toward the foothills.

The Lake Creek Trail traverses a great section of the Cascade foothills through the towering pine forests of the Metolius basin. Summer is a wonderful time to hike the trail as the forests provide shade and the creek and its source, Suttle Lake, beckon swimmers. Hikers can start and stop in a variety of places making the hike as short or long as you like.  The Lake Creek Trail even connects to regional trails like the Metolius-Windigo. (See a trail map).

Try starting at Deschutes Land Trust’s Metolius Preserve for a 5.5 mile round trip hike.  This non-profit owned nature preserve offers a parking area with a porta-pottie and even a kiosk to help orient visitors. From the kiosk head west on the Lake Creek trail, but keep a lookout for a spur trail on the left that heads south towards Lake Creek. This ½ mile detour is worthwhile as it takes visitors to a bucolic log bridge that spans the north fork of Lake Creek. The creek is lined with lush vine maple and alder and provides habitat for a myriad of species including native redband trout, spring Chinook salmon, and sockeye salmon. Interestingly, Lake Creek is the migratory route for one of the only two sockeye runs in Oregon.

Back on the main Lake Creek trail, follow the flat, well-defined trail through the open forests of the Metolius Preserve.  You’ll see evidence of historic logging, but what might not be clear is the Land Trust’s decade-long effort to return health to this forest. Wildflowers found on this stretch of trail include yarrow, scarlet gilia, and for those with sharp eyes, spotted mountain bells. Woodpeckers can be heard knocking on the trees.

From the Metolius Preserve the trail follows an old road bed into the Deschutes National Forest. Pine and larch are intermixed with fir trees and wild rose. You catch glimpses of the creek from openings in the trees. Eventually the trail crosses paved Road 12 and then begins to travel uphill. Here you begin to hike along ancient glacial moraines, the piles of rock and silt that a glacier moves with it! In fact, these moraines are 20,000 years old from a time when alpine ice sheets covered most of the high Cascades.

Eventually the trail crosses under highway 20 and you can follow the trail or road to the shores of Suttle Lake. The public swimming beach provides a great place to cool off as do the ice cream cones from the Suttle Lake lodge! Return as you came. 

To reach the Metolius Preserve: Drive 9.8 miles west of Sisters on Highway 20/126. Take a right on Road 14 (Camp Sherman/Metolius River turnoff). Drive 2.6 miles on Road 14 until you come to a "Y", stay left (straight) at "Y". Continue on Road 1419 another 2.2 miles until you reach a stop sign. Turn left at the stop onto Road 1216.  Drive 1.4 miles and then take a left onto Road 600 at the large Metolius Preserve welcome sign. Drive approximately 1/4 mile to parking area. (Download directions).