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Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
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Simply put, if completed in full, this is arguably one of the most bruising, arduous, unique, and spectacular non-summit reaching hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades.  The 8-mile hike skirts the northern shore of Waldo Lake and then turns north around Rigdon Butte and Lakes, making it by far the best introduction to the wild landscape that surrounds Waldo Lake.

Departing from North Waldo Campground, the trail quickly emerges from the lake’s mountain hemlock forest into the barren landscape created by the Charlton wildfire that burned through 10,400 acres of wilderness on the lake’s northern shore in 1996.  Passing charred forest remains, fresh wildflowers, and opal coves, you’ll eventually make your way to the headwaters of the North Fork of the Willamette River and to Dam Camp Park, where several backcountry campsites make for ideal backpacking.

Turning north near Dam Camp Park, the hike gets more interesting and certainly more challenging.  What makes this trail so strenuous is the nearly constant mid-summer sun exposure and trail conditions around Rigdon Butte and Lakes; these are virtually unmaintained and frequently require scrambles over fallen snags.  The challenge of this loop is rewarded, however, by the truly unique landscape.  Lava rock, forest fire remains, wildflowers, undulating land masses, jagged outcroppings, lush meadows, and numerous cool high-mountain lakes all meld together.

Note: For an alternate and less strenuous experience, simply hike the 3.0 miles (one-way) along the lake’s northern shore to the headwaters of the North Fork of the Willamette River.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Views of Waldo Lake and Diamond Peak. Backcountry campsites.

Cons

Limited shade in peak summer months.

Trailhead Elevation

5,440.00 ft (1,658.11 m)

Net Elevation Gain

120.00 ft (36.58 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Location

Field Guide + Map

Comments

We backpacked in and set up camp at the headwaters. It was cloudy but, according to the weather reports, it was going to clear. We experienced some rain in the evening and spent a very COLD night. In the morning, we realized that it had snowed. We decided we would leave instead of spending another night but not before visiting the lookout tower. We will return!
09/07/2013
Mountain Biked Waldo a few times. Great ride with some nice views ... the old burnt area is really nice! If biking go counter-clockwise from North Campground.
09/07/2013
Mountain Biked Waldo a few times. Great ride with some nice views ... the old burnt area is really nice! If biking go counter-clockwise from North Campground.
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