At 5553 ft. elevation Summit Lake is aptly named. Located in the SW portion of the Deschutes Nat'l Forest this is another of the many impressive high cascade lakes in this area. Diamond Peak rises above the lake directly to the north. You can't see it from the road but get out on the lake in a canoe and the view of the rugged SE face of Diamond Peak is impressive. To the south Cowhorn Mtn. and Sawtooth Mtn. are visible. This is a good sized lake, almost 2 mi. across from NE to SW. You can easily spend a day just exploring the convoluted shoreline by canoe. The north and west shore of the lake is largely accessible by vehicle and there is a small Forest Service campground on the NW end of the lake, as well as many primitive camp sites all along the route. Many of these require you to park along the road and pack your gear in closer to the lake. There also are a few nice canoe-in camp sites along the remote south shore. One site we visited was guarded by this burl-log totem pole , topped by a piece of driftwood that looks like a Pterodactyl.
This is a great base camp location for many hiking and/or mt.biking trails. The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the western shore and crosses the road at the southmost tip of the lake. The best access to the PCT is close to the campground where the road to Emmigrant Pass joins the lake road. From here you can hike (bikes not allowed on the PCT) north into the Diamond Pk. Wilderness for some incredible views. We usually mt. bike on the Windy Lakes Trail No. 46, which starts from the NE end of the lake and travels roughly SE into the incredible roadless area that lies between Summit Lk, Crescent Lk and Cowhorn Mtn. Here the forest is filled with snow-melt pools, lily ponds and small lakes. By late summer many of the small pools and ponds have dried up into grassy meadows. The Windy Lakes are three small lakes, all crystal clear and deeply colored. Here is a view of the smallest, North Windy Lake. We often ride the 6 mi. into Suzanne Lk., which offers some nice swimming and diving, providing you like really cold water. A word of caution: with all the sources of water this area is home to truly viscious mosquitos, at least until late summer when things have dried out and nights are cooling. Several years ago we came up in July to bike but forgot the bug-repellent. We only got a couple miles down the trail before we gave up and fled in terror, the mosquitos were that bad. Now we don't usually come up until late August. These photos were taken in early Sept., 1997.
You have two choices to get to the Summit Lake area. From the east on Hwy 58: turn south at the Crescent Lake junction, follow FS 60 along the west shore of Crescent Lake until you reach the Summit Lake road 6010. Follow this primitive dirt road for approx. 7 mi. to the campground. From the west: just east of Oakridge turn south off Hwy 58 and follow the Rigdon Rd., FS 21, along the west side of Hills Creek Res. and along the Middle Fork of the Willamette R. After 30+ miles you turn left on FS 2154 and begin your final ascent. It is about 6 mi. to reach 6010 then left another 2 mi. to the campground. FS 2154 starts out paved but quickly becomes washboarded gravel until you reach the dirt road 6010. There is 4000 ft of elevation gain from the spillway at Hills Crk. to Summit Lake, and 2000 ft of it occurs in the final 8 mi., a climb that may tax your auto's cooling system on a hot day.
This is a fairly remote yet quite popular area
and you might be surprised to find most of the camp spots taken
on a nice weekend. The season is short at this elevation, July
through September, and you should be prepared for rapid changes
in the weather.
Back to home page