Updated: Nov 22, 2022
A calm lake situated deep in Mount Hood National Forest, managed by Willamette National Forest.
Lake Name: Elk Lake Lake Coordinates: 44.8226, -122.1211 Lake Elevation: 3702′ Access: Drive up Note: The last 4 miles of road into the lake are rough and narrow. The lake is a popular place. Know your comfort zone driving before attempting this one. Date: 7-6-20
There didn’t appear to be any official day-use areas at Elk Lake. (There is a day-use type area. Reference the Forest Service website for more information.) I pulled into the campground and parked on the side of the road. There was only one campsite being used – an older couple with kayaks.
It was almost evening and there were clouds in the sky, so it made everything feel darker. There were a few confident chipmunks nibbling on trash. It looked like they’d gotten into the trash can. I got out of my truck and walked down to the water’s edge. The lake was huge and looked like glass. The water was so still. It was so quiet. The bugs weren’t bad, I didn’t get any mosquito bites.
The usage is noted as “heavy” on the Forest Service website. I’m sure it is on weekends. It would be a nice lake to kayak or swim in. I wouldn’t want want to camp at the lake when there are a lot of people there or drive the roads when there are a lot of people on them. I came across about 10-15 cars on the rougher parts of the road on a slow day.
One thing to note is that Elk Lake is technically in the Clackamas River Ranger District within Mt Hood National Forest, but the campground and area around Elk Lake are administered by Willamette National Forest.
Day Use: Parking is limited within the campground. If visiting for the day, please be aware that overnight campers have priority in the campsite parking. Day visitors can park in an empty campsite for the cost of half the overnight fee ($5.00). (directly from the Forest Service website)
How to get there (from Estacada, OR)
Take Hwy 224 (turns into FS 46) out of Estacada for 67 miles. Turn right onto FS 4696 and continue for 0.8 miles. Turn left on FS 4697 and proceed for 4.7 miles. The road T’s, turn left on Elk Lake Road (still FS 4697) and continue for 2.5 miles There will be a weird split in the road, one road will go downhill (to the left) and the other will go uphill (to the right) and looks sketchy. Stay to the left (the road that goes downhill), that road goes into the campgrounds.
NOTE: FS 4697 and Elk Lake Rd are both awful with exposed rock and it can be rather narrow at times which makes for close passes with other cars. It’s a bit rattling (figuratively and literally). I don’t usually comment on the condition of roads because I feel it is very subjective, but this one is worth having a little warning on.
Lake Coordinates: 44.8226, -122.1211
Clackamas River Ranger District map location: T9S R5E S06
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