Most people come to Cove Palisades State Park to camp, fish, and play in the water. But one of the most spectacular activities at this beloved park is the hike to the penninsula via the Tam-a-Láu Trail.
The phrase "Tam-a-Láu" means "place of big rocks on the ground" in the local Native American language. The geology of this area is particularly breathtaking, as the Deschutes, Metolius and Crooked rivers come together in a spectacular fashion. Steep canyon cliffs rise up from the eerily still water. Vertical basalt columns clash with horizontal layers of sandstone, ash and conglomerate rock. As you walk up the side of the canyon to the top of the plateau, take a moment to appreciate the millions of years of change that occurred in order to produce these rock formations.
Begin the hike from the Upper Deschutes Day Use Area or the Deschutes Campground. Once you're at the Tam-a-Láu Trail signboard, the trail climbs about 600 feet to gain the upper penninsula. From there, a 5-mile loop trail gives you a tour of the flat tableland with views of the Deschutes and the Crooked rivers plus a glimpse into what Central Oregon looked like before cities were established.
This hike is best tackled on a cool day since it is very exposed to the heat of the desert sun. Even though this is a popular park, you're likely to find plenty of peace and quiet on the trail. Keep your eyes open for mule deer, red-tailed hawks, and other desert fauna.