Trip Report: Round Lake Backpack Camp
Trip Report: Round Lake Backpack Camp
Tall green trees stand upside down, reflected perfectly on the surface of Round Lake in the Clackamas Ranger District of Mt. Hood National Forest. A cool mountain breeze wafts across the sub-alpine lake, creating ripples that make the inverted trees shimmy and dance. Dragonflies patrol the lake shore, darting here and there to capture insect prey (hopefully mosquitoes). Occasionally, concentric rings form where a fish rises, making a meal of a dragonfly. The sun is warm and bright along the shore, but cool deep shade is just a few steps away under the tall trees that surround the mountain lake.
Round Lake is a Forest Service Campground on Mt. Hood National Forest. Most such campgrounds are drive-up sites, and indeed, once-upon a time, a road led here. The road was closed years ago, and now a short, easy, half-mile trail leads to 6 lake-side campsites that still have picnic tables and grated fire-rings. It's free to camp here: the price you pay is driving to a remote location and hiking in.
The steepest part of the trail is the first fifty feet or so as it launches up a hill from the trailhead. But then it is an easy ramble through a mature Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock forest. Wildflowers of the woods like Bunchberry and Rhododendron bloom alongside the trail, and big showy Bear Grass flowers stand out in open meadows.
It doesn't take long to reach the lake near the marshy outlet. Sparrows, thrushes and other songbirds dart about the brush, singing their beautiful songs. Green mountains jut into the sky above the lake basin.
A trail loops around the lake (as of this writing, June 2014, the south side of the loop was overgrown and unmaintained). The campsites are located in the woods with views of the lake. I selected one in the middle, not too far from the inlet stream in the southeast corner of the lake. I had my pick, as there was no one else there.
There are no other trails leading directly from the campsite, but the Hawk Mountain Trail is a short drive away. I circumnavigated the lake and explored the woods of the hillside above camp. There were plenty of Amanita mushrooms popping up all over camp, but I found some Morel mushrooms up at 4500 feet.
Back at camp, I enjoyed luxury camping, sitting at the picnic table to study maps and observe the lake. I saw a beaver cross the lake carrying a big stick in its mouth; it left a big spreading "V" in its wake, distinct from the circular patterns from fish rising. The only other "V" wake I saw was from a female wood duck feeding near the shore.
As darkness began to set in, things got louder. The haunting sounds of the Varied Thrush, as well as the thrilling upward-spiralling trill of the Swainson's Thrush echoed across the lake. Then the frogs started their chorus, filling the cooling evening with a symphony of mountain sounds. There were a few mosquitoes about, but it was still early enough behind the snow melt that they were slow, and they disappeared soon after dark. The stars came out, and I rested well in the serene mountain air.
The next morning, I packed out and left, but the wonder and awe of raw Cascade nature I experienced at Round Lake reverberates with me still.
Round Lake is the perfect destination for anyone young or old, craving the back-country experience of camping at a Cascade mountain lake. The trail to Round Lake is a short and easy hike. Getting to the trailhead, however, involves a longer, more tedious drive on remote gravel roads.
Why not let Next Adventure take you to the trailhead?
Next Adventure Outdoor School offers custom backpack & camping trips to awesome back-country destinations like Round Lake in addition to our regularly scheduled trips and day hikes. We can create a private tour for you, your family or group, customized to fit your interests and needs. Experience the Northwest natural wonders available in Oregon with guides that know the trail and natural history of the area.
Come join us! Contact us today at email@example.com
Next Adventure is a fully-insured licensed Outfitter and Guide with the State of Oregon. Next Adventure is an equal opportunity Recreation Provider operating under special use permit on the Mt. Hood National Forest and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, USDA Forest Service. Next Adventure Guide-Instructors are locally trail-experienced; lead guides carry current Wilderness First Response certification.