Elk Lake is a high-elevation lake situated within the Deschutes National Forest, along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, about 32 miles southwest of Bend. The lake surface area is 405 acres with 5.1 miles of shoreline. Elk Lake is a well-known popular spot for swimming, fishing, boating, windsurfing, hiking, and camping.
Elk Lake Resort on the east side of the lake is a good base for cross-country skiers, snowmobiles, and a snowcat during the winter. Snowmobiles, snow shoes, and fat tire bikes rentals are available. A historical landmark Elk Lake Guard Station is located nearby.
The guard station was built in 1929 to serve as a base for a forest guard. Now it is a visitor information center where you can learn how the forest guard lived and worked in the last century.
The beautiful lake features pristine settings with beautiful scenery amid ponderosa pine forests. The snow-capped Three Sisters Mountains rise high above the north side and Mount Bachelor towering over the eastern side of the lake.
The lake is the most popular and heavily used among other Cascade Lakes and reservoirs. There are three day-use areas, four campgrounds, a resort, boat ramps,and hiking trails around the lake.
The lake is open year-round, but snow and ice prevents access between November and late May.
Swimming & Windsurfing
Long stretches of sand-and-pebble beaches and blue crystal-clear water make this sparkling lake inviting for swimming in late summer. Because this is a high-altitude lake, surface temperatures are getting warmer and more comfortable (65-70°F) for swimming by about August. The floor near the shoreline is shallow making the lake friendly for children.
The top spots for swimming are located in Sunset View Day Use Area (east side), Little Fawn Campground and Day Use (southeast), South Beach Picnic Area (southwest), and Elk Lake Resort and Marina (west).
The lake is popular for sailing and windsurfing. Windsurfing starts from Sunset Cove.
Canoe and boat rentals are available at the Elk Lake Resort. There is a 10 mph speed limit for motorboats.
Swimming areas are closed to animals.
At the end of July, Elk Lake hosts the annual Cascade Lakes Swim Festival.
A mile long trail runs from Sunset View Day Use to Little Fawn Campground. Also, other hiking trails lead to other high-elevation Cascade Lakes and the Pacific Crest Trail.
Hosmer, Sparks, Blow, Doris, Devils, Todd, Cultus, Lava, and Little Lava Lakes are located nearby.
The Cascade Lakes are accessed via the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway also known as Century Drive and Forest Service Road 46. The byway route is closed in the winter due to snow accumulation.
Elk Lake | General Description
Managed: US Forest Service
Location: Cascade Lakes Highway, Deschutes National Forest
Services: Restrooms, picnic sites, boat ramps
Activities: Swimming, boating, windsurfing, fishing, hiking, camping, and picnicking
Accommodations: Elk Lake Resort, Little Fawn Campground, Point Campground, Elk Lake Campground
Distance from the parking: Short
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Yes or Interagency Senior/Access/Military Pass
Dogs: Must be on a leash
Popularity: Moderate to high
Elevation: 4,800 ft (1,463 m)
Elk Lake is located:
- 32 miles west of Bend
- 121 miles east of Eugene
- 160 miles southeast of Salem
- 200 miles southeast of Portland.
- Take Cascade Lakes Highway 46 and travel 35 miles southwest to Elk Lake.