Elk Lake Resort a Great Winter Getaway – And Getting There is Half the Fun

There’s a couple of ways to look at the annual winter closure of Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: You can see it as cutting off your recreational access beyond the gate until the snow melts in the spring.

Or – and this viewpoint is recommended – you can see it as as a chance for a new experience in nature and explore some of the most breathtaking backcountry the state of Oregon has to offer.

And there’s no better way to do that than to make plans to visit Elk Lake Resort for your family’s next winter adventure.

Remember – there’s no “road” to Elk Lake in the winter because the department of transportation doesn’t maintain the highway when it snows. Still, there’s several ways to get there and never has the old saying “getting there is half the fun” been more true.

The easiest way is to have one of the resort’s fleet of Suburbans-turned-snowcats pick you up from Dutchman Flat Sno-Park directly across from Mt. Bachelor or Mt. Bachelor’s parking lot on Friday afternoon and bring you back on Sunday. The most peaceful (albeit sweatiest) way is to Nordic ski to the lodge from Dutchman. The most thrilling way is to ride your own snowmobile in on the 11-mile groomed trail from Dutchman Flat. It’s not often in life you’re able to spend the weekend in a spot inaccessible by cars.

Central Oregon Adventures also rents snowmobiles and sets up shop at the Wanoga Sno-Park, located on Cascade Lakes Highway about 15 miles from Bend. You can rent for a couple hours, four hours or all day. The four-hour rental window gives you plenty of time to do some exploring and stop by the Elk Lake Resort lodge for some food.

The historic lodge is a perfect spot to warm up during a day in the backcountry. The menu has locally sourced, Pacific Northwest inspired meals including elk chili, burgers, mac and cheese and more. And, of course, you can cozy up to the fire with a hot cocoa or catch some football with one of the numerous Central Oregon craft brews on tap.

But for most folks, a few hours isn’t long enough at Elk Lake. For the hearty souls looking to spend the weekend in the winter wilderness, the resort offers deluxe homes, rustic cabins or camping cabins to extend your stay. Some of the cabins include full kitchens and are the perfect spot for large groups to hang together for the weekend.

What you do during your time at Elk Lake is up to you. Rent a snowmobile from the resort and head out into the powder. Take a hike with some snowshoes. Or venture out on the nordic skis you rented for the weekend from Mt. Bachelor. (The resort does not have ski rentals, so be prepared.)

Or, if you want to stay snuggled up inside your cabin all weekend, that’s perfectly fine too.

So find a way to get to Elk Lake this winter and get away from it all.

That road will be back open in no time.

A pair of friends walk along a snow-covered road while holding snowshoes at Elk Lake near Bend, Oregon.

Other stories

More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.

  • Central Oregon Sled Dog Rides: Four-Legged Friends Power All Day Smiles
    Central Oregon Sled Dog Rides: Four-Legged Friends Power All Day Smiles

    You can hear them before you see them. About 30 four-legged endurance athletes chomping at the bit for another chance to prove their worth and provide you with an ear-to-ear grin that will last an entire day.

  • Central Oregon Campgrounds: Tumalo State Park
    Central Oregon Campgrounds: Tumalo State Park

    Forested setting: Check. Gentle flowing river to cool off in: Check. Toilets: Check. Showers: Check. Access to amenities in town: Check, check and check. Tumalo State Park is the state park in Bend’s backyard. It’s located outside the city limits but it’s just a couple of turns and a short, pretty drive from the middle of town.

  • Hopless in Central Oregon: Experience Scenic Cideries and Vino with a View
    Hopless in Central Oregon: Experience Scenic Cideries and Vino with a View

    In an area dominated by craft beer, you might be wondering is there anything else on tap? The answer is, ‘Yes’. Central Oregon is home to award winning cideries and wineries and with postcard-worthy views from their tasting rooms – you won’t be disappointed. Named after the Three Sisters, Faith Hope and Charity Vineyards is just over 30 miles from Bend. It’s hard to complain about the drive though when furry faces from the Alpaca farm nearby greet you right before you turn onto the property.

  • Accessible Adventure: Easy Hikes for Families near Bend, Oregon
    Accessible Adventure: Easy Hikes for Families near Bend, Oregon

    There are so many great hikes in Central Oregon, it can be tough to choose where to start. For beginner hikers or families here’s a couple of easy to get to – and more importantly – easy to conquer starter-hikes. Flanking the Deschutes River near Bend’s Old Mill District, the Deschutes River Trail is a 3-mile loop that starts near Farewell Bend Park.

  • Pumpkin Patches + Petting Zoos = Fall Family Fun
    Pumpkin Patches + Petting Zoos = Fall Family Fun

    As soon as the first hint of autumn rolls around, my three kids ask on a regular basis when we can go to the pumpkin patch. This is not simply because they’re eager to gather Halloween décor. To my kids (all under the age of 12), fall means visiting the farm and getting all the animal petting, ropes course playing and barbecue eating they can squeeze into one afternoon.

  • Adventures Abound Starting at Sunriver Resort
    Adventures Abound Starting at Sunriver Resort

    Sunriver is the type of place that takes your breath away no matter what season it is. During the summer you can hop on a horse for your very own wild wild west experience. The team at Sunriver Stables will make you feel comfortable on your ride, even if you’ve never saddled up before. Whether you’re in a tube or a kayak, floating down the Deschutes River is a relaxing activity that’s fun for the whole family.

  • Central Oregon Winter Adventures
    Central Oregon Winter Adventures

    When the snow flies, Central Oregon shines. All you have to do is choose your adventure. Mt. Bachelor - The model of a complete snowsports resort, Mt. Bachelor offers 360-degree lift-served groomed skiing and riding from its volcanic summit.

  • Free Guided Snowshoe Tours: Educational Exercise at Mt. Bachelor
    Free Guided Snowshoe Tours: Educational Exercise at Mt. Bachelor

    One of the unheralded aspects of Mt. Bachelor is the ski area is full of activities for everyone – not just thrill seekers on skis and snowboards. To add a little education to your exercise, the Deschutes National Forest and Discover Your Forest is offering FREE guided snowshoe tours at Mt. Bachelor through March.

  • 8 Pictures That Will Have You Rethinking Some Life Decisions (Central Oregon Food Edition)
    8 Pictures That Will Have You Rethinking Some Life Decisions (Central Oregon Food Edition)

    Is this plate from 5 Fusion and Sushi Bar art or food? (It’s food. Definitely food.)

  • Backstory: Bend’s Historic Tower Theatre
    Backstory: Bend’s Historic Tower Theatre

    The Tower Theatre occupies a proud spot in Bend’s vibrant downtown area. The theater is filled nearly every night with high-profile acts––it could be called Bend’s living room. But its lights nearly went dark for good.