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Clear Lake Trail

This hiking trail loops all the way around Clear Lake along the scenic McKenzie Highway in Oregon.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4.6 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  Clear Lake, the "lake born of fire", is the headwaters of the McKenzie River and was formed 3000 years ago when lava from Sand... more »

Tips:  You will find Clear Lake on Hwy 126 3 miles south of the Hwy 20/126 junction. If coming from Eugene/Springfield go roughly 64 miles... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Clear Lake Resort

Clear Lake Resort has cabins and campsites for rent. You can rent rowboats, for $15 per hour or $30 for the day, to take out on the lake. There is also a restaurant here with good food. To the left of the restaurant is a swimming area, but beware the water is VERY cold.

The cabins run from $64-$117 per night. The four campsites run $18 per... More

2. Parking Lot, Shelter & Trailhead

Instead of going to the Clear Lake Resort, turn right into the free parking area/picnic area. You will find a large log shelter here, great for eating lunch. You will find the trail head for walking around the lake just past the shelter.

This log picnic shelter was built in 1937 by members of teh Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC program... More

3. Clear Lake

As you hike along the four mile Clear Lake Trail, you'll discover a diverse landscape. This landscape is very different from what it was 3,000 years ago. At that time there was no lake, only a densely forested drainage dissected by a rumbling white water river.

About 1,000 b.C., Sand Mountain erupted. Lava flowed out toward what is now called ... More

4. Bridge Crossing the McKenzie Headwaters

This is the official headwaters of the McKenzie River. If you are in a boat DO NOT go further then this bridge as Sahalie Falls is a scant half mile down stream.

5. Sahalie Falls Trail

The Clear Lake Trail intersects with the Sahalie Falls Trail here. It's a .7 mile detour to Sahalie Falls (which has a 2.6 mile loop of it's own). Keep straight to continue around the lake.

6. Edge of Two Times

At this point, you can stand with one foot in the forest and the other on the edge of the lava flow. The forest looks like the whole landscape might have looked thousands of years before the eruption. The lava field is a landscape in its early youth. thousands of years into the future, the lava will have broken down, and a new forest will stand... More

7. Cold Water Cove Campground & Boat Launch

Perched on a hill overlooking the south end of Clear Lake, Coldwater Cove is the favorite of many and disappoints no one. The crystal clear water of Clear Lake is a joy to boat on, but no motors are permitted. The area is nicely treed with Douglas fir and hemlock.

$16 Single Site $30 Double Site $8 Extra Vehicles.

Campground is open from 05/... More

8. A Nest Over the Lava

There are several ospreys that return from wintering in Mexico and South America to spend their summer months nesting at the lake. You may see one catch a fish and take it to the nest at the top of the tree ahead of you. If you do see ospreys using the nest stay on the trail so you don't disturb them. As you walk on, be on the lookout for other... More

9. Old-Growth Forest

This old-growth grove stands in sharp contrast to the lava field and supports a different living community. you may see trees with rectangular holes excavated in them. These were made by one of the more spectacular members of this community, the pileated woodpecker. The pileated is the largest woodpecker in the country. It has a pointed red... More

10. McKenzie River Source

You are standing at the source of the McKenzie River. The turquoise blue color of the pool is caused by the remains of many generations of fresh-water plants called diatoms. Diatoms are mostly made of white silica which covers the bottom of the spring. The brilliant color comes from the light reflecting off the silica layer and back through the... More

11. Fish Lake Creek

The creek below you flows from Fish Lake just north of here. Fish Lake dries up completely in the summer and forms a grassy meadow. Fish Lake Creek only flows when the lake is full.