Cultus Lake is one of several lakes located along the National Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, roughly 47 miles away from Bend at the north base of Cultus Mountain.
This natural lake was formed by melted glacier water in the high Cascades. The name comes from Native American Chinook Jargon and means something useless or extremely bad. In the early 1900s, this area had one of the largest beaver populations that attracted fur hunters. Nowadays, Cultus Lake is popular among anglers, hikers, swimmers, boaters, water-skiers, jet skiers, windsurfers, and campers.
Small and secluded Little Cultus Lake is located on the south side of the Cultus Mountain.
Visitors can stay at Cultus Lake Resort which features a lodge, 23 cabins, a marina, general store, and restaurant. A variety of watercrafts rentals such as motorboats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are available. The resort has a public day-use area with a beach.
There are four campgrounds in the area and three of them are a boat-in only. Advance reservation through recreation.gov for boat-in campgrounds is required. A parking area designated for boat-in campgrounds is located within Cultus Lake Campground. All these campsites can be accessed by hikers via Winopee Trail.
Cultus Lake Campground, Day-Use & Boating Site on the northeastern side of the lake offers opportunities for waterskiing, windsurfing, swimming, sailing, and jet skiing. Winopee Lake Trail leading into the Three Sisters Wilderness starts at the campground. There are a dock and two boat ramps within the campground.
Big Cove Boat-In Campground is boat-in only campground, located on the northern shore of the lake.
Little Cove Boat-In Campground is located on the northern shore of the lake.
West Cultus Boat-In Campground is located on the west side of the lake.
The lake is popular among anglers for the chance to catch trophy-sized lake trout aka Mackinaw. It is common to get a 10 lb fish, but the record was set in 1996 with 17.5 lb mackinaw. In addition to lake trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, and mountain whitefish are present. Please, make sure you are compliant with all of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations.
Both motorized and non-motorized boats are permitted on the lake.
Swimming is also a very popular recreational activity here. The sparkling clear water surrounded by ponderosa pine, douglas fir, white pine, and spruce attracts many water sports enthusiasts. There are a few sand and gravel beaches. The shallow water of the most popular lake's beaches warms up by July and August.
Cultus Lake Day-Use Area is a great swimming spot with a beautiful 460-foot beach and picnicking area.
The resort has a large public day-use area with a nice beach. There is a small private beach for resort guests.
Winopee Lake Trail
Difficult | 17 miles (27 km) out & back | 700 ft (213 m) elevation gain
From Winopee Lake Trailhead at Cultus Lake Campground, you can hike along the north shore of the lake. After about 2.9 miles, this trail heads north to Teddy, Muscrat, Winopee, Snowshoe, and Long Lakes.
Winopee Lake Trail connects to Metolius-Windigo Trail at the northwestern shore of the lake. The north Winopee Lake Trailhead within Three Sisters Wilderness links to Elk Creek Trail and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Permits are required in the Three Sisters Wilderness.
Cultus Lake Loop Trail
Difficult | 12 miles (19 km) loop | 700 ft (213 m) elevation gain
A trail around the base of the Cultus Mountain with the trailhead located at the resort. If you hike clockwise, the route consists of Forest Development Road NF-4635 (1 mile), NF-4630 (1.7 miles), NF-4636 (0.7 miles), NF-640 (0.3 miles), Deer Lake Trail (2.4 miles) at Little Cultus Lake, Metolius-Windigo Trail at the north edge of Deer Lake (2 miles), Winopee Lake Trail at Cultus Lake (2.9 miles), NF-120 at Cultus Lake Campground (1 mile).
Caution. Early summer on the lake is characterized by an abundance of mosquitoes and flies, so repellent along with other protective measures is a good idea.
Cultus Lake | General Description
Open: Year-round; Due to snow in winters, the roads are closed
Managed: US Forest Service
Location: Cascade Lakes Highway, Deschutes National Forest
Services: Restrooms, picnic sites, boat ramps
Activities: Boating, fishing, swimming, windsurfing, water- and jet-skiing, hiking, and nature-viewing
Accommodations: Cultus Lake Resort, Cultus Lake Campground, Big Cove Boat-In Campground, Little Cove Boat-In Campground, West Cultus Boat-In Campground
Distance from the parking: Short
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Yes or Interagency Senior/Access/Military Pass
Elevation: 4,500 ft (1,372 m)
Cultus Lake is located:
- 47 miles west of Bend
- 110 miles east of Eugene
- 171 miles southeast of Salem
- 210 miles southeast of Portland.
- Take Cascade Lakes Highway 46 and travel 44.4 miles southwest to Forest Road 4635
- Turn right onto Forest Road 4635 and continue 2 miles to Forest Road 120
- Bear left and follow 0.2 miles on FR 120 to the destination.