“I can’t believe how blue it is!” cried my friend Mona. “You said it was amazing, but I really didn’t expect this.”
We had just ridden the first half of the Little Crater Lake Loop, near Timothy Lake. I had ridden in this area before and had visited Little Crater Lake, so I knew what to expect. But clearly, my description of the lake hadn’t done justice to this sapphire gem.
Little Crater Lake is one of the prettiest – and most interesting — lakes you will ever see on a trail ride. This tiny lake, which you can reach from either Joe Graham Horse Camp or Clackamas Lake Campground, is located just off the PCT on the north end of Timothy Lake.
Formed by an artesian spring that gradually eroded the softer soils around it to create a deep pool, the lake is a brilliant blue, so clear you can see the knots on the logs submerged at the bottom of the lake. And the water is a constant 34 degrees year-round.
The trail to Little Crater Lake runs along the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River, then along the shore of Timothy Lake and through lovely stands of old-growth forest. The return trail goes over some hills and through some clear-cut areas, so it has less shade but it offers views of Mt. Hood.
You can camp at either Joe Graham Horse Camp or Clackamas Lake Campground. Joe Graham has 14 sites with 2-, 3-, or 4-horse corrals. Clackamas Lake has 46 sites, of which 19 allow horses and 11 have 2-, 3-, or 4-horse corrals. All sites have picnic tables, fire pits, and parking for one trailer. You’ll find potable water and toilets at both camps. Reservations (www.recreation.gov) are strongly recommended.
The Little Crater Lake Loop is covered in the Joe Graham and Clackamas Lake Horse Camps chapter of Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.