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Lake Creek Trail

Cool off with a hike by the Metolius River

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 makes an alpine hike worthwhile. But if you’re looking for something a little different, a little less crowded, a little less known: look toward the foothills.

Lake Creek Trail traverses a lovely 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, beckons swimmers. Hikers can start and stop in a variety of places, making the trek as short or long as they like. Lake Creek Trail even connects to larger regional trails like the Metolius-Windigo.

Try starting at Deschutes Land Trust’s Metolius Preserve for a 5.5-mile round-trip hike to Suttle Lake and back. This non-profit-owned nature preserve offers a parking area with a porta-pottie and a kiosk to help orient visitors. From the kiosk head west on Lake Creek trail, but keep a lookout for a spur trail on the left that heads south towards Lake Creek. This half-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.

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Back on the main Lake Creek trail, follow the flat, well-defined track 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 roadbed into the Deschutes National Forest. Pine and larch are intermixed with fir trees and wild rose. 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 and leaves behind as it recedes. 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; hikers 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 Suttle Lake Lodge!

Once you reach the lodge, you simply retrace your steps, and 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.

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