One of Oregon’s largest bodies of water, and also one of the most pristine lakes in the world, Waldo Lake a great high-elevation spot for every outdoor activity imaginable.
There’s hiking through alpine forests, lakeside fun, camping, swimming, canoeing, electric-motor boating, mountain biking, and more. But at 5,400 feet, this lovely spot is snow-covered for a hefty chunk of the year and has a limited visiting season, so it’s best to plan early and grab a spot before they’re snapped up.
There are so many ways to tackle Waldo Lake, but my favorite is by walking the Jim Weaver Loop, a 20.2-mile trail with numerous camping opportunities. It’s a straightforward hike, with no offshoots or tricky junctions – just a nice, easy meander along the lake’s shoreline. There’s only one break in the gentle up-downs of the trail, and that’s in the area south of Green Lake where a few steep points of elevation offer a bit of a challenge.
The lake is just out of sight for most of the trek, but the rare glimpses are worth the wait. Because Waldo Lake has no permanent inlet, there’s no nutrient flow in, meaning plant life is stunted. So while the shoreline is lush with growth, the lake edges are beautifully pristine and plant-free. The trail bend on the south side of the lake also offers great views of Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, and the Middle and South Sister.
You’ll find a few primitive campsites scattered trailside during the walk, as dispersed camping is permitted. It’s easy to pitch a tent by the lake if that’s your joy, but keep in mind there are three developed campgrounds in the area if you’d prefer your experience to come with some amenities. (But keep in mind campgrounds usually fill up mid-August into September, and run on average $24/night.)
Click the Learn More button for details on the Waldo Lake area from the Forest Service.