Sailboats at Elk Lake below Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon

Elk Lake Makes an Impression (and Memories)

15 min read

Elk Lake Sailing

Elk Lake has become my go-to spot out of all of the Cascade Lakes along the Scenic Byway just 30 miles west of Bend. It could be the accessibility, or the 13 square miles of pristine water, but it’s probably more the views of Broken Top, South Sister and Mt. Bachelor from the lake, and the chance to sail, paddle, float or just lie on the beach. The Elk Lake Resort is the icing on the cake: local beers on tap, live music on the weekends, and a full menu for breakfast, lunch or dinner (and don’t forget ice cream!)

Elk Lake Resort Live music in Central Oregon

My first time to Elk Lake left a deep impression. I was thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2006, and arrived at the one-mile side trail to the Lake and Resort at about dinner time. (Mile 1,958.3 from the the Mexican border). I hadn’t been planning on heading into the lake, but we thru-hikers can be very susceptible to suggestion, especially if that suggestion involves food. The other hikers I was with at the time mentioned the possibility of burgers and beer and before I knew it, we were all heading down the side trail in search of a hot meal.

We descended on the resort and indulged in burgers, fries, beer, and ice cream. As I still wanted to hike a few more miles that night, I didn’t take a dip in the cool and clear waters, but made a mental note to come back to play. 


When I moved to Bend a few years after the PCT hike, Elk Lake became a summer tradition. With several sandy beaches to choose from, campgrounds, the resort, boat launch and music on the weekends, there was always a reason to leave the hot summer days in Bend and head to the cool clear waters in the mountains.

I love sailing on Elk Lake, for $5 you can launch your boat, catch the great afternoon winds and revel in the mountain views. Last summer my boyfriend and I spent the night on the lake, anchored far enough out from the resort to have the essence of solitude, but close enough to hear the live music from their outdoor stage on Saturday night! We grilled out on the deck of the boat, cracked a beer and watched the night slowly descend on the water. It was simply wonderful.


Recently we have been heading up to Elk Lake to swim, float and lie on the beach. The Sunset View day-use area is directly across the lake from the resort and its protected little bay is an awesome place to spend the day with a picnic and some sort of watercraft. Because much of the lake is quite shallow, the water becomes wonderfully warm in the summer. 

Relax, adventure, party or just simply be. Elk Lake provides for all.

Renee Patrick
Renee Patrick
Renee Patrick likes to be on the move: from over 6,000 trail miles hiked (including thru-hikes on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails) to her current mission of mastering the sport of packrafting, you can find her on the trails, mountains, rivers or in the coffee shop (or pub) planning her next trip. When not hiking, camping or paddling she works as a writer and graphic designer in Bend. Follow her adventures at