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An Off Road Trip Secret-Olallie Scenic Area, Oregon USA

Updated September 25, 2017.

An off road trip secret buried deep in the Oregon wilderness is waiting to be explored!  Olallie Lake Scenic Area is a rugged getaway nestled in the forested shadows of the Cascade Range Mountains.

With great anticipation, every year we go on an autumn colors road trip.  Established when the kids were very young, we carry on the family tradition now they are grown and gone.  Sometimes they join us for a local autumn day trip.  Sometimes we extend the pleasure over a long weekend, taking the scenic route, an off road trip venturing to wild places.

About Olallie Scenic Area

At the foot of Olallie Butte is almost inconceivable beauty, Olallie Lake Scenic Area.  This gem of the Mt. Hood National Forest, borders the fascinating Warm Springs Indian Reservation to the east, Mt. Hood to the north, the West Cascades Scenic Byway to the west, and Mt. Jefferson to the south.  Over 200 dazzling alpine lakes set in a monumental landscape make for a spectacular experience.

Explore Olallie Scenic Area

Click on the links below to find fantastic places to see and thrilling things to do

The journey begins here . . . live the adventure!

Map Your Off Road Trip to Olallie Scenic Area

Use the map below to locate the destination of your choice in the Olallie Scenic Area.  Click on the red pins to get more information.

Olallie Scenic Area Topographical Map

National Forest Service

How to Get There

For this autumn colors road trip we chose to loop from south to north, starting at Breitenbush Lake Campground and ending at Olallie Lake Resort

From Portland, Oregon, take I-205 south.  Take Exit 12A and merge onto OR 212E/OR 224E toward Clackamas.  Turn right onto OR 224 E/Clackamas Hwy.  Continue on OR 224-E through Estacada, Oregon. 

At the south end of town begins the OR-224/West Cascades National Scenic Byway/OR 224, which follows along the left bank of the Clackamas Wild and Scenic River.  About 25 miles from Estacada, take a right onto NF-46 and travel about 28.1 miles.  Turn left onto NF-4220 and travel about 7.2 miles.  Turn right into Breitenbush Lake Campground. 

To continue to Olallie Lake from Breitenbush Lake Campground, turn right on to NF-4220 and travel about 4.5 miles.  The road is especially bad in this section between Breitenbush Lake and Olallie Lake. 

To complete the scenic loop, continue north on NF-4220, passing Head Lake and Fish Lake on the left and travel about .9 miles.  Turn left onto 42/NF-4230 and travel about 4.3 miles.  Turn right onto NF-46 and travel about 14.8 miles. 

Continue north on the West Cascades National Scenic Byway/OR 244, until you arrive in Estacada, Oregon.

Wilderness Preparation

Spring chases the snow from these higher elevations usually by the end of June, with snow returning again in mid-October. 

Because the area is so remote and there are no nearby services or conveniences off road trip contingency planning is imperative.  Come with a full tank of fuel, warm clothing, extra food, and plenty of drinking water as none is available.  The mosquitoes can be fierce so wear long-sleeves, pants and a hat, and take mosquito repellent. 

Be prepared to pack out trash and to take care of personal needs in the forest, bring a small hand shovel and biodegradable toilet paper.

No cell phone signal or service is available.  The nearest public land-line phone is at Ripplebrook Guard Station with services and fuel in Detroit, Oregon.

Access to the Olallie Scenic Area via the route we took is rough and the gravel road is not well maintained.  Use off road trip driving savvy:  high-clearance and/or four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended.  This area is not well traveled after Labor Day weekend in September when the seasonal recreational activities in the scenic area cease to attract visitors.

Click here to buy Emergency Kit

Help is unlikely in the event of emergency during the off season.  Come prepared to be self-sufficient if the unforeseen should happen.  We always wear hiking clothes and take backpacks filled with survival gear, including maps, a compass and bear spray, in case we have to hike out.

Breitenbush Lake

Serenaded by the music of the forest and ruffled by gentle breezes, we breathed deeply the pristine air and basked in the beauty of the marshy meadows surrounding Breitenbush Lake.  We had the place to ourselves, only passing one other brave adventurer the whole off road trip.

A perfect mid-afternoon picnic spot, we lunched on Spice Rubbed Picnic ChickenAll-American Potato Saladcarrots, celery, oatmeal raisin cookies and lemonade.

A backpacker’s favorite, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, wends through low, fiery shrubs and golden marsh around the mirrored lake ringed by an emerald alpine forest.

The High Cascades Mountain, Olallie Butte, dominates this picturesque scenic area.  The distinctive pinnacles at the highest part of the cauldron lend character to this shield volcano.  Unmaintained, yet passable, Olallie Butte Trail leads to the summit where lay the ruins of an old fire lookout tower.  Except for the lower western flank, most of Olallie Butte lies inside the boundary of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

Following lunch and a hike, we continued our off road trip, stopping frequently as the forest opened atop basalt crested ridges overlooking breathtaking expanses.

While the challenging road conditions seem daunting, the views of this high lakes basin just off the switch-backs going down the mountain are awe-inspiring; Horseshoe Lake against a backdrop of forested mountains.

The Willamette Valley and the Coast Range loom in the far blue distance.

Olallie Lake

Numerous trails wind through the scenic area; the Olallie Meadows, Olallie Lake Loop trail follows the shore of Olallie Lake.  In Chinook, Native American Language, “olallie” means berry.

Stunning scenery captivates us everywhere we look.  Here chiseled boulders line a creek bed, dry after an Indian summer.

 Mt. Jefferson, shrouded in its own weather, graces the amazing beauty of this wild place.

The quaint lodge at Olallie Lake Resort houses a small store to meet visitors' needs.

Paddle boats and row boats can be rented as only non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake.

Accommodations at the resort include rustic cabins and yurts.

Coupled with raw wilderness and jaw-dropping scenery, this unforgettable place rivals any scenic National Park, a terrific off road trip idea!

Indelibly imprinted on my heart, I will always cherish the family memories made here.



Camp 10 Campground (some RV sites available, no hookups)  *No water available

Horseshoe Lake Campground

Lower Lake Campground (tent only)  *No water available

Paul Dennis Campground (tent only)  *No water available

Peninsula Campground (tent only)

Canoeing & Kayaking

  • Breitenbush Lake
  • Horseshoe Lake
  • Olallie Lake


Triangle Lake Horseshoe Camp  *No water available


Guide Services

"The Fly Fishing Shop has been supplying the finest service and equipment to the most discriminating fly fishers for over 30 years."

Hiking & BAckpacking

Lodgepole Trail 706

"The Lodgepole Trail, the former alignment of the old Skyline/Pacific Crest Trail, crosses several source creeks of the main branch of the Clackamas River and is little traveled; during the return along the Pacific Crest Trail on the lower slopes of Olallie Butte, you may encounter PCT through hikers towards the end of summer."

Monon Lake Trail 729

"This trailhead is located near Monon Lake and is an option if you want to do a shorter hike around that more secluded lake and avoid Olallie Lake."

Olallie Meadows Trailhead

"This loop option, mostly within the Olallie Lake Scenic Area, uses the Lodgepole, Red Lake, and Pacific Crest Trails, finishing with a short stretch of the Russ Lake Trail, to visit a series of lakes and meadows in an area once buried under a Pleistocene ice sheet several hundred feet thick. You will get many views of nearby Olallie Butte from various points during the hike, and Mount Jefferson thrusts its ancient volcanic plug to the south."

Pacific Crest Trail

"The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, travels deep forests, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. The trail symbolizes everything there is to love—and protect—in the Western United States.

Untold thousands of hikers and equestrians enjoy this international treasure each year. Some only travel a few miles, while others complete every mile in a single season . . . "

Pacific Crest Trail Interactive Map

Potato Butte Hike

"The first mile of the trail, you travel through old growth forest, passing vine maple, rhododendron, and beargrass. After climbing that first mile, the trail takes off across a plateau. It suddenly feels a lot more open, with the understory dominated by huckleberries and beargrass . . . "

Red Lake Trail 719

"The Red Lake Trail #719 crosses the Pacific Crest Trail #2000 at this four-way junction on the south slope of Twin Peaks. Going south, the Red Lake Trail drops to Top Lake. Going north, it descends to Fork Lake and Sheep Lake . . . "

Russ Lake Loop & Russ Lake Trail 716

"The Russ Lake Trail, leading past three lakes in the "McQuinn Strip" area of the Warm Springs Reservation, is only 0.9 miles long. This loop extends that short in and out hike a little by heading to Triangle Lake first and then using the short, but unmarked, Lodgepole Tie Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail in order to visit in Russ, Jude, and Brook Lakes. The Russ Lake Trail has not been officially maintained since the transfer to Warm Springs in 1972, but it is an obvious tread all the way to Russ Lake."

Top Lake Trail 725 to Cigar Lake

"The Red Lake Trail #719 meets the Top Lake Trail #725 here at the northwest corner of Top Lake. Head north to the Pacific Crest Trail. Head south along the Top Lake Trail to make several switchbacks up to the PCT at Cigar Lake . . . "


Olallie Lake Resort Cabins & Yurts

"Olallie Lake Resort has 10 cabins available, each with a view of the lake.  Two yurts are currently located in the Paul Dennis Campground. The cabins are very rustic in nature,  no electricity or indoor plumbing.   Outside of each cabin is a water spigot with usable water.  There are outhouses located throughout the cabin area.  Each cabin has a wood stove inside, and wood is provided."

Olallie Lake Guard Station Cabin

"This historically significant, two-story cabin was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s for the Forest Ranger that patrolled the area. It is a classic example of the Forest Service rustic architectural style of Depression Era administration buildings. The cabin is located on the far south end of the Mt. Hood National Forest. It’s location near the shore of Olallie Lake affords visitors views of the north face of 10,497-foot Mt. Jefferson and 7,215-foot Olallie Butte, in the Cascade Mountains. The facility was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Olallie is Chinook jargon for 'berry.'"

Olallie Meadows Cabin

"The historic Olallie Meadows Cabin was built in 1910. This cabin is closed for restoration and should be open for recreation rentals by 2016. Numerous hazard trees in campground making camping dangerous."  *No water or restroom.


The Olallie Scenic Area guidebook

More Oregon Road Trips You Might Enjoy . . . 

Clackamas River Recreation Area

Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway--A Wild West Gold Rush!

Exploring Like Christopher Columbus

Molalla River Corridor & Table Rock Wilderness

Oregon Central Coast

Oregon City--Pioneering the Past

The Columbia River Gorge--Historic Columbia River Highway, Eastern Section

The Historic Columbia River Highway--Historic Columbia River Highway, Western Section

The Snake River Oregon--Road Tripping Up-streme!

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