Schools may be shut down for summer, but Oregon families know that mother nature is the best teacher our children could ever have. While plenty of trails and campsites wait less than an hour’s drive away for Portlanders eager to get a dose of the outdoors, few offer the opportunity to completely unplug and disconnect for a true deep-woods getaway. Olallie Lake is one of Oregon’s best hidden gems for families who want to camp like its the 1970s again. Scroll down to find out where you can find this remote oasis and what it has to offer when you get there.
This remote destination makes you earn your nature escape. While it’s only a 2.5 hour drive away, the family rig navigates tree and river-lined Forest Service Roads that offer beautiful sight seeing opportunities as well as stretches of gravel that slow the ride down. Encourage your little naturalists to watch for wildflowers and wildlife out their windows. Be prepared to lose cell, data and Wifi service the closer you get to the lake.
Drive south on Highway 224 for 26 miles. It becomes Forest Service Road 46. Drive for 20 miles and turn east onto Forest Service Road 4690. Continue for 6 miles on pavement, and approximately 3 miles of gravel to Forest Road 4220. Turn south and drive 4 miles to Olallie Lake Resort.
Olallie Lake Resort is located on the lake and consists of a small store, cabins, yurts, a day use area (with bathrooms), and living quarters for the staff. The store is rustic and stocked with basic groceries, candy, snacks, beverages, souvenirs and hygiene supplies. It also holds the permit of 97 camps sites located within four miles of the resort area. Depending on your family’s camp-style, you can rough it in a tent or camper, or you can reserve a cabin or yurt.
Camping Rates: Single family site starts at $15/night
Cabins & Yurts
The resort has 10 cabins in varying sizes with views of the lake. These small buildings offer basic creature comforts with no inside running water or electricity. There is access to water from an outside spigot. Inside, guests will find all of the basics including a wood stove for heat and cooking, beds, chairs and a dining table, and plenty of split wood ready warm things up at the end of a long day. Two sets of outhouses are located outside in the cabin area.
Two large yurts are also available to rent. They are located in the Paul Dennis Camp ground and come with two bedrooms with queen size beds, and one futon and a living area and kitchen with chairs and a table. Like the cabins, these dwelling spaces don’t have inside running water or electricity. Camp fires are allowed in the yurt area, so plan for smores galore while you are there!
Insider tip: bring bedding, toilet paper, cookware, dinnerware, cookstove and plenty of sunscreen and bug repellent.
Cabin Rates: small starts at $65/night, medium starts at $80/night and large starts at $95/night
Yurt Rates: Starts at $100/night
There are endless opportunities for exploration, adventure and fun at Olallie lake. Chances are, the first thing you will see when you arrive are boats and stand up paddle boarders dotting the lake. You can rent small and big boats onsite, and the best part of the water play is that there are no motors allowed. That’s right, only rowboats and the sounds of the birds chirping and little kids giggling while they navigate the water on their muscle-powered vessels. Life jackets and boat anchors are also available for rent, but if your crew prefers kayaks, SUP boards or some other kind of floatation device, they will need to be brought in.
If your family likes to fish, you are in luck! The lake is stocked with rainbow and brood trout, so there is plenty of fun to be had with a line and a hook. However, you will have to wait to get wet, there is no swimming allowed in Olallie Lake. But not to worry, nearby options for splashing about abound.
You read it right, there’s no swimming in Olallie Lake. But don’t despair, there are over 25 lakes in the area that are perfect for hiking to and cooling off in. In fact, Head Lake is a two minute walk away from the resort and has a floating dock that’s perfect for jumping off of.
The Olallie Lake scenic area has many hiking trails that wind throughout it, but none as well known as the Pacific Crest Trail. There is an entrance to the trail that runs in front of Head Lake, just across the road from the resort. It heads south into Mount Jefferson wilderness and is navigable for hikers ages 6 and up for some distance.
photo: by Annette Benedetti
This section of the trail will take you over snowmelt filled streams, past small mountain lakes and to breathtaking overlooks that reveal Mt. Jefferson and Lake Olallie sitting side by side. Make sure to take time to stop a snap photos, because it’s an image you will want to come back to again and again.
If your little hiker isn’t up for steep trails, you can walk the opposite way on the Pacific Crest Trail on treelined paths that give the younger set the opportunity to play I Spy with little critters and woodland wildlife. Keep and ear (and and eye) out for elk, dear, singing frogs and chirping birds. There’s also a lovely three-mile loop that takes you around Olallie lake itself.
A weekend or a week at Lake Olallie offers a real, off the grid, camping experience for families wanting to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with each other. There are no restaurants located nearby and the only grocery is the one at the resort. Make sure to pack in plenty of food and beverages for your stay. Think: hot dogs, chili, fruit and all of the makings for smores. Don’t forget to bring a camp stove if possible. You will be making food by fire the entire time.
Make sure your gas tank is full and consider bringing a gas can with you. There are no gas stations nearby. Don’t underestimate the remote nature of this beautiful area. Phones are not available and cell service is sketchy at best. Let your loved ones know where you are and not to worry about you if they don’t hear from you for a bit.
It can be hot during the day, but the temps can drop at night so be sure to bring warm clothing and even a coat for after the sun has gone down.
Finding a beautiful location that is free from modern day conveniences and perfect for camping is so much more difficult than when most of us were young. Cherish this opportunity to share what camping is “really like” with your kids. The minute they see the majestic Mt. Jefferson rising above the crystal blue waters of Lake Olallie, they will forget all about their X-box and Iphone and remember the magic hold that nature can take.
Lake Olallie Resort
4 NF-4220, Oregon
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