Elk Lake Beach – General Information
Open: Year-round, with limited access from November to May (ice and snow)
Type Of Beach: US Forest Service
Main Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Windsurfing
Popularity: Low to Moderate
Services: Pit Toilets, Picnic Tables
Accommodations: Camping & RV Parking Nearby, Lodging in Bend
If you’ve ever wanted to go visit the beach but found that it was too crowded, you’ll love our series on lesser-known beaches in the state of Oregon.
Today’s entry is Elk Lake Beach, a beautiful hidden gem near the city of Bend. The lake has very few minerals in it, which means you can see all the way down to the bottom no matter what time of year you visit!
In addition to the usual beach activities, there are a lot of water activities here that you might not get at a beach on the coast.
What to Expect
Elk Lake Beach is quite different than the rest of the entries in this series because it is the only one not at sea level. It is located by Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters Mountain Range, approximately 4,900 feet high!
The main reason that Elk Lake Beach isn’t as popular as it should be is its location. When people think of lakes at high elevations near Bend, Oregon, they tend to think of Crater Lake, Oregon’s only National Park, and another amazing place to visit if you have the time!
There are two main areas that collectively make up Elk Lake Beach, the eastern section known as “Elk Lake’s Sunset View Day Use Area” and the “South Beach Picnic Area”, which, as you might have guessed, is nearer to the southern portion of the lake.
Strictly speaking, there are probably a lot of sandy areas with sand around the lake but these are the two that are used most often, have road access, and that most people mean when they say “Elk Lake Beach”.
Where is Elk Lake Beach Located?
Elk Lake Beach is, as the name suggests, located on the shores of Elk Lake, which is a small natural lake located near the Central Oregan section of the Cascade Mountains.
From Bend, head south by southwest on the Cascade Lakes Highway for just over 25 miles to arrive at Elk Lake. This will get you to Elk Lake Resort (see below) and from here, you can take Forest Service Road #3360.
The first area you’ll come across is the Sunset View Day Use Area, about two miles from the Forest Service Road exit. If you continue on for about two more miles, you’ll find the South Beach Picnic Area.
Getting to the Beach
Both sections of the beach are located right next to their respective parking lots and are just a short walk away.
There is a trail that connects the two beaches here (see more below in the hiking section), so if you get a good parking space but want to check out the other area, you don’t have to move your car.
The picnic tables are located in the South Beach area and it’s been a while since I’ve been here but if I remember correctly, both beaches do have toilets.
Things to Do on Elk Lake Beach
The lake is almost completely transparent, which makes it a great place to swim if you’re concerned about sea creatures sharing the water with you. You’ll want to stay pretty close to the shore, of course, as the lake has a maximum depth of up to 64 feet.
It’s also a great place to get a pool float and relax on the water in the hot sun. It’s one of my favorite things to do and it can be difficult to find a spot to safe spot to do it, so I love coming here whenever I can.
From various points in and around the lake, you can go fly-fishing, cast your reel off of a boat, or stand on the shore. There are a couple of types of trout here, Kokanee and Brook trout, with the latter being the more common of the two.
Boating (Both Motorized and Non-Motorized)
There is a boat launch at the southern beach that is open all year long, despite the inconsistency of the water level, which can vary as much as 14 feet at different parts of the year! Both motorized fishing boats and small kayaks can be used here.
This is one of the best windsurfing spots in the state of Oregon, I’m told. I’ve never gone myself but I have been tempted to try it. I don’t know of any place in the Bend area that rents boards but I could be wrong.
Where to Stay
For lodging, Bend is probably the best choice. There are a few smaller towns along the way but for a lower price and more options, I’d recommend getting a hotel, motel, Airbnb, or other accommodations in Bend.
However, if you prefer to sleep closer to the great outdoors, Elk Lake might be the perfect beach. There are four campgrounds in the area, including the aptly-named Elk Lake Campground. Dispersed camping is also available nearby, as it is part of the Deschutes National Forest.
If you’d like to stay in a rental cabin, the Elk Lake Resort and Marina on the northwest corner of the lake offer a tremendous opportunity to sleep in comfort but still be close to the amazing scenery that Elk Lake has to offer.
Other Activities in the Area
There are a few hiking trails in the area, including the roughly 2.3-mile Elk Lake Trail that goes between the two parts of the beach. There are trails of all sizes and difficulties in the Deschutes National Forest.
If you’d like your hikes to be a bit more vertical, there are multiple mountains nearby that you can summit, ranging from relatively easy like Mount Bachelor (more of a hike, really) to moderate non-technical like South Sister to advanced like Mount Hood.
Elk Lake Resort
During the winter months, the only access to the lake is through the Elk Lake Resort and Marina, which rents snowshoes and snow machines to visitors. In the summer, they rent paddleboards, kayaks, and pontoons. There are also full excursion packages available.
One of the other Cascade Lakes, Hosmer Lake is named for a local writer and naturalist Paul Hosmer, not 2015 Kansas City Royals World Champion First Baseman Eric Hosmer.
It is a popular location for kayakers and fly fishers, which is the only type of fishing allowed at the lake. The most common type of fish found here is salmon, so if you prefer salmon to trout, you might want to visit Elk Lake Beach first, then fish for salmon at Hosmer.
If you’re looking for a beach away from the coast that isn’t very crowded most of the time and provides the beautiful scenery of an almost fully transparent lake and the nearby mountains, look no further than Elk Lake Beach.
No matter if your visit lasts only a few hours or if you decide to spend a few days at one of the campgrounds or the resort, you’re sure to have an amazing time at this picturesque lake near the Oregon Cascades. Book your next mountain adventure today!