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Old 12-26-2020, 11:38 AM   #1
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Bend area advice

I'm optimistically trying to re-plan the OR trip that we cancelled last year. The original plan was to spend several days at Tumalo State Park. But for now OR State Parks are only taking reservations 1 month out, so I'm exploring other options in the area. I've maybe narrowed it down to Elk Lake or Paulina/East Lake (though I'm open to other options.)

Anyone have any opinions about one over the other?
We'll be in our 2wd van, with 2 kids (6 and 8), have mountain bikes and a paddle board.

I like that East/Paulina seem to have to have a mountain bike trail, but Elk looks like maybe less of a scene?

Thoughts?

Thanks!
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Old 12-26-2020, 12:17 PM   #2
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I recommend heading a bit south to Crescent Lake. It get less traffic and is stunningly beautiful. The trails there are incredible. Lot's of camping options there in the van.
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Old 12-26-2020, 02:50 PM   #3
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There’s dispersed camping along nearly all the lakes along Cascades Lakes highway. And, most of them to link into the MTB trail network.

I like camping along the FS road above Todd Lake. From there you can ride to Tumulo Falls, then to the Skyliners Trail Network, and onto Phil’s trail network. We usually end up at Shevlin Park after that.

What time of year are you going? Cascades Lakes highway often doesn’t get plowed until Memorial Day weekend.

Also, other campgrounds near Sisters are first come first serve, and rarely fill up except for Friday’s and Saturday’s.
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Old 12-26-2020, 10:02 PM   #4
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Thanks to you both for the ideas!
We'll be out there at the end of June, so roads should be clear.

Anyone have direct experience with either Elk Lake or Paulina/East lakes? I'm leaning towards making a reservation so I have a fall-back. And then doing some more research on dispersed options. One summer afternoon spent searching for an unoccupied campsite in the Cascades lakes area left me a little gun shy on just showing up.
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Old 12-27-2020, 10:19 AM   #5
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Elk Lake is extremely busy and we try to avoid it. East lake is a great place from camping and fishing but in June can still be a bit cold because of the elevation. Twin lakes, Cultus Lake, Little Lava Lake, Crane Prairie and Wickiup Res all all great places to camp as well. We like to camp along the Crooked River which has numerous BLM dry campgrounds along the river. Just out of Prineville and can be accessed from east Bend as well, just a 35-40 min drive.
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Old 12-28-2020, 12:17 PM   #6
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Elk Lake is extremely busy and we try to avoid it. East lake is a great place from camping and fishing but in June can still be a bit cold because of the elevation. Twin lakes, Cultus Lake, Little Lava Lake, Crane Prairie and Wickiup Res all all great places to camp as well. We like to camp along the Crooked River which has numerous BLM dry campgrounds along the river. Just out of Prineville and can be accessed from east Bend as well, just a 35-40 min drive.
Thanks! That's exactly the kind of intel I was hoping for. I booked a fall-back site at little lava.
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Old 12-28-2020, 12:26 PM   #7
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One more thing to consider... If this coming summer is anything like last summer (probable), Oregon is going to be overrun with visitors. It seems like everybody who couldn't travel overseas or to Canada, or go on a cruise, came to Oregon. Most of the popular areas were packed like nothing I'd ever seen before.

Fortunately, most of them don't know about dispersed camping. The FS road use maps are the best tool for finding good spots.

BTW - Paulina lake is great! And I highly recommend a visit. It's not really accessible to the Bend MTB trail networks, but you can ride the Paulina Plunge, which basically follows the waterfalls down the mountain.

Anyways... Might not hurt to do a check-in here before you go, and we can help point to better spots. June can still have many areas socked in with snow, and we'll probably have a lot of areas closed for tree-fall damage as a result of the fires. Luckily none too close to Bend this last summer.
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Old 12-28-2020, 11:07 PM   #8
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Another area you may want to consider is Prineville Reservoir. The north side has a state park and dispersed sites. The south side only has dispersed sites.
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Old 12-29-2020, 07:52 AM   #9
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One more thing to consider... If this coming summer is anything like last summer (probable), Oregon is going to be overrun with visitors. It seems like everybody who couldn't travel overseas or to Canada, or go on a cruise, came to Oregon. Most of the popular areas were packed like nothing I'd ever seen before.
You sure about that? I thought that was here?
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Old 12-31-2020, 12:50 PM   #10
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I was going to also suggest Prineville Reservoir. And keep it to yourself, but Prineville Reservoir Wildlife Area is a little gem along the western edge of the Reservoir, with lots of dispersed sites.
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