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Clear Lake in Oregon: A Visitor's Guide

Clear Lake is located in the central Cascades of Oregon. It is a beautiful and serene destination that offers hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and more!

Nestled in the heart of the Willamette National Forest, Clear Lake offers a wide range of recreational activities, including fishing, camping, hiking, and boating. The lake is in central Oregon, just northwest of Sisters and east of both Salem and Eugene. It's located just off Highway 126, also known as McKenzie Highway.

On the west side of the lake is Clear Lake Resort which offers cabins for rent year-round and rents out boats, canoes, kayaks, and more.

Clear Lake

Clear Lake: At a Glance

  • Location: Oregon 97759

  • Coordinates: 44.369612 -121.994576

  • Nearest Town/City: Sisters, Oregon

  • Elevation: 3,080 ft

  • Family Friendly? Yes

  • Camping: Yes, tent and RV camping are available nearby.

Location and Getting There

To get to clear lake, you can take Highway 22 east from Salem or Highway 126 from Eugene. You'll exit from Highway 22 onto 126 (also known as McKenzie Highway). The lake is just not of the Carmen Reservoir and Sahalie Falls.

To Do at Clear Lake

Here are some of the most popular activities to do at and near Clear Lake:


Clear Lake is perfect for boating, with its calm waters and stunning views. Visitors can rent a boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard from one of the local marinas or bring their own. There are also several boat launches available for visitors to use.


Clear Lake is a popular fishing destination known for its trophy-sized rainbow trout, brook trout, and kokanee salmon. Fishing from a boat or the shore is permitted, but visitors must have a valid Oregon fishing license.


There are several campgrounds in the area, including Coldwater Cove, Olallie Campground, and Big Lake Campground.

Clear Lake and Trees
Clear Lake is a popular fishing destination.

Keep reading for more information about Clear Lake campgrounds.


The area surrounding Clear Lake is home to several hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging climbs. A few popular ones include:

  • Koosah and Sahalie Falls Trail

  • McKenzie River National Recreation Trail

  • Clear Lake Trail

You can read more about hiking at Clear Lake below.

Swimming and Beaches

Clear Lake has several swimming beaches, perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot summer day. The water is chilly but crystal clear and refreshing.

Wildlife Viewing

Visitors can spot a variety of wildlife in the area, including bald eagles, osprey, otters, and beavers. Be sure to bring binoculars and observe wildlife from a safe distance.

Hikes Near Clear Lake

Here are a few popular hikes near Clear Lake:

Clear Lake
Koosah and Sahalie Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes near the lake.

Koosah and Sahalie Falls Trail

Length: 2.9 miles

This scenic hike takes you from the Sahalie Falls Viewpoint parking area north, past the falls, and over a bridge crossing the McKenzie River. The trail then turns south, passing another viewpoint of the falls before passing Koosah Falls.

The trail takes another turn at Carmen Reservoir before heading back to the parking lot.

McKenzie River National Recreation Trail

Length: 12.4 miles

The very lengthy McKenzie River National Recreation Trail stretches to almost 12.5 miles. The trail takes hikes from the east side of Clear Lake (the parking area) and south along the west side of Sahalie and Koosah Falls.

Then continues south past Tamolitch Falls for a total of 6+ miles south. (You'll have to turn around and hike all the way back).

Clear Lake Trail

Length: 5 miles

This 5-mile loop trail takes visitors on a scenic tour around the lake. It starts at Clear Lake Resort before heading south around the lake The trail is easy and suitable for all ages and skill levels. The scenery stays pretty consistent throughout the hike.

Patjens Lakes Loop Trail

Length: 7.1 miles

This is another great loop trail that's not far from Clear Lake. It's just about 7 miles long and gains around 800 feet in elevation. Most people take around 3-4 hours to finish it.

The trail starts at the Patjens Lakes Trailhead and loops between tall hillsides and a number of small lakes and ponds before brushing the southern bank of Big Lake.

Camping at Clear Lake

There are a few different camping options near Clear Lake. These include:

Coldwater Cove Campground

Coldwater Cove Campground is the best campground if you're camping at Clear Lake. The campground is on the southeast side of the lake and has 34 campsites.

These fill up fast every year. All but 3 of the campgrounds are single sites. The campground does not offer electric sites, but there are toilets and picnic tables. Drinking water is also accessible.

Olallie Campground

The Olallie Campground is located along the banks of the McKenzie River and offers visitors 16 sites to choose from.

There is no electricity in the campground, but there are picnic tables and vault toilets. There should always be a camp host there, too, from whom you can buy firewood.

Big Lake Campground

If you don't mind having to drive to get to the lake, the Big Lake Campground is another choice. It's located just north of Mount Washington and south of the Santiam Sno-Park.

Clear Lake View
Coldwater Cove Campground is the closest campground to Clear Lake.

Tips for Visitors

If you're planning a visit to Clear Lake, here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Pack appropriately: The weather in the area can be unpredictable, so it's essential to pack for various conditions.

  • Check for permits and regulations: Depending on the activities you plan to do, you may need to obtain permits or follow certain regulations.

  • Be mindful of wildlife: It's important to observe wildlife from a distance and to respect their habitats. Avoid feeding or approaching animals, and be mindful of any signs indicating wildlife closures or restrictions.

  • Plan for accommodations and dining: There are a variety of accommodations and dining options in the area, from campsites and RV parks to hotels and vacation rentals. Consider booking in advance during peak seasons, and bring your own food and snacks, as the area has limited options.

  • Respect the environment: Clear Lake is a pristine natural area, and visitors should take care to leave no trace. Pack out all trash and dispose of it properly, and be mindful of fire restrictions during dry periods.

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