Spotlight: Waldo Lake, Willamette National Forest
Waldo Lake, one of the world’s purest lakes, lies in the Oregon Cascades within Willamette National Forest about an hour east of Eugene, Oregon. From Eugene head towards Highway 58 following the impressive Willamette River as you make your way into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The surrounding forest will reveal a myriad of dazzling mountain lakes, clear streams, and colorful meadows for you to explore. To reach Waldo Lake from I-5, travel east on Highway 58 about 60 miles to the junction of Forest Road 5897 and proceed north to the lake.
What You’ll Find
Incredible views of the Cascade Range to the north as you canoe across its deep vibrant blue waters.
Quiet nights as you nestle down in one of three comfortable campgrounds on the eastern edge of Waldo Lake: Shadow Bay, North Waldo or Islet (first-come first-serve only). You’ll also find swimming beaches, hiking trails, recycling centers, solar composting toilets, fresh water, picnic tables, fire rings and friendly camp hosts.
The Waldo Lake Wilderness hugs the western side of the lake, providing 37,162 acres of pristine wilderness for you to explore by foot or horseback. The 22-mile Jim Weaver Loop Trail circles the lake and provides opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and horse riding.
Make Sure You
Paddle out to one of the small islands and view the blue waters of this spectacular lake. Waldo Lake covers 10 square miles and reaches depths of 420 feet – making it the second deepest lake in Oregon. Only electric motors or human powered paddles will get you across the lake so leave the jet skis and motorboats at home.
Bring your bike and peddle the area. Bikes are allowed on many of the trails, including the Jim Weaver Loop Trail around Waldo Lake. When speed is what you need, than a short drive over to the Oregon Skyway on Highway 58 is the place for you! This scenic summer gondola at Willamette Pass Ski Area will lift you and your bike to the top of Eagle Peak, where you can ride back down in time for lunch.
If you want to sleep far from vehicles, roads and generators, load up a canoe and paddle across to the western side of the lake and the Waldo Lake Wilderness. Here you will find abundant solitude and beauty. Be sure to camp 200 feet or more off the shoreline and follow Leave No Trace methods so others can enjoy their stay.
To learn about the area during the summer months when rangers give talks at the North Waldo Campground Amphitheater. The most popular time to camp here is late August or early September so be sure to make a reservation for Shadow Bay or North Waldo campground if you want one of the prime spots during the busy season.
In summer, bring your bathing suits, towels, and beach toys to help splash away the summer heat. The clear waters and beautiful sandy beaches of the lake are incredibly enticing.
Even during summer, pack your coats and hats! At 5,414 feet in the Cascade Mountains, Waldo Lake campers can experience cool nights. Warming up is a pleasure though—sip hot chocolate on the sandy shores of this incredibly peaceful lake or enjoy s’mores by the campfire.
Be sure to bring hiking shoes to explore the area’s more than 84 miles of trails.
Mosquito repellent is a must, especially during June and July. These little creatures thrive in the moist environment surrounding Waldo Lake. If you are very sensitive to bites, plan your visit for August or later.