Backpacking Wahtum Lake
This week, we take you to explore Wahtum Lake between Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. We show you the truth about the beauty and craziness of backpacking with boys.
How to Get There
After a two hour drive from Portland, proceed up the fully paved road until the trailhead to the lake. NOTE: You need a NW Forrest Pass to park at the lake.
After leaving the parking lot, walk down the hill to fill out a wilderness permit. These are stored in the box under the map. One copy needs to stay with you during your stay and the other copy is put into the box slot. There are plenty of campsites around the lake, and your first choice will be wether to head West or East around the lake. We like to head west, down the steep stairs and walk 0.6 miles to the river outlet of the lake.
Most of the campsites are large with enough space for two tents and are spaced far enough apart so you feel like you have some privacy. We normally setup camp, have a snack and prepare for the hike up to Chinidere Mountain – the destination of many day hikers from the parking lot. The hike up the mountain is another 1.1 miles with some areas of steep, but safe terrain.
At the top of the mountain, beware of the south face, where the loose rocks and steep cliffs pose a hazard to kids and adults alike. When the kids start to get antsy, we head back down to camp to relax for the rest of the day. Sunset and sunrise are often beautiful events and worth staying up/getting up to watch.
Heading back to the parking lot in the morning, we are able to make a
Our Tips for Visiting
- As seen in the video, there can be logging activity in the area or other delays.
- During the summer months, campfires are not allowed, so bring a stove to warm your food or make s’mores.
- During summer weekends, the short hike from the parking area may lead to the campgrounds being busy or full of rowdy campers. We prefer visiting during the weekdays or off-season to avoid the crowds.
- The lake is crystal clear, home to fighting Crawdads and I have seen kids swimming in the lake before.
- The total distance with the summit hike is 3.4 miles – which works well for most 6-7 year olds (my rule of thumb is the maximum miles should be 1/2 the kids age per 24 hour period).
- Always check your kids for ticks (or leaches if they went swimming) head to toes (and in-between) after you return from your trip.
More information about Wahtum Lake can be found at their USFS page.
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