Camping at Olallie Lake, Oregon

Several weeks ago, I took a trip with my roommates to Olallie Lake in Oregon. This car camping trip was a nice departure from the gear focused backpacking trips I’ve been taking recently. Rather than weighing gear and tossing all nonessential items, we packed up some wilderness luxuries such as pillows, extra water, and most importantly, food, food, food, and the cookware to prepare it.


Olallie Scenic Area lies within the Mt Hood National Forest. This area encompasses Olallie Lake and several other smaller lakes as well as Olallie Butte, an extinct shield volcano and the highest elevation between the stratovolcanoes Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson. There is a privately owned resort on the lake composed of small cabins as well as primitive camping in two campgrounds.

Though all driving, getting to Olallie Lake is a feat in itself. It sits at an elevation of 4,900 feet at the end of an hour long drive on forest roads including eight miles on unpaved gravel roads. We made the drive in a sedan, but I wouldn’t recommend the trip in a low to the ground vehicle. We set up camp in a clearing and in accordance with camping regulations for the area.

I woke early the first morning and took a walk along the lake. I was fortunate to observe a family of otters playing along the shoreline, one had caught a fish that I saw him swim along with. I was also up early enough to see the sun rise from behind Olallie Butte and cast its first rays onto the jagged Mt Jefferson to the south. We spent the day hiking to the summit of Olallie Butte at 7,218 ft. Being a volcano, the summit was barren with the exception of some gnarled vegetation and full of rough volcanic rocks. We were rewarded with a 360 granting views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson, the Oregon high plains to the east, and dense conifer forest to the west.

I was charged with cooking for this trip which I greatly enjoyed as I was able to experiment with cast iron on an open flame. We constructed a simple ring of rocks for a fire pit and lay two logs across on which to set the pan. With this setup, we prepared meals of pancakes, eggs, and toast, and chicken for dinner.

This quick weekend trip to Olallie Lake was a good reminder that we don’t have to set any records each time we set out into nature. Just getting together with some good friends, good food, and the serenity of wilderness is it’s own good time.

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