If you’ve never ridden the trails near Waldo Lake, you have to put the delightful Charlton Lake Loop on your must-do list for next summer. It’s a terrific introduction to the fabulous trails that depart from Harralson Horse Camp.
The loop takes you through beautiful mixed-conifer forest, into a fire scar that’s chock-full of wildflowers in season, and along the shore of sparkling blue Charlton Lake. And it does all this with little elevation change.
Distance: 7 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,450 to 6,000 feet
In the first two miles, the trail goes through the area burned by the 1996 Charlton Fire. You’ll ride amid the ghostly trunks of thousands of burned trees, softened by a blooming carpet of pink fireweed and a scattering of new, young trees that are now five or six feet tall. You’ll pass Charlton Butte, an impressive cinder cone.
Then you’ll leave the burn and enter the dense forest, with its welcome canopy of green shade. The forest here is a verdant mix of pines, hemlocks, and firs.
The shore of Charlton Lake is a pleasant place to enjoy lunch and savor the views before you head back through the forest to return to your trailer.
Charlton Lake Loop is a relaxing, scenic ride. Don’t miss it!
Getting to Harralson Horse Camp
From Eugene, take Hwy. 58 to Oakridge, then continue on Hwy. 58 for 25 more miles.
From Bend, drive south on Hwy. 97 for 47 miles. Turn right on Road 61 (Crescent Cutoff) and follow it for 11 miles. When the road ends at Hwy. 58, turn right and continue 14 miles.
All, at milepost 59, turn north on Waldo Lake Road/Road 5897. In 10.9 miles, Road 5897 veers right toward Charlton Lake and becomes gravel. Stay to the left on paved Road 5898, and in 1.1 miles turn right on Road 511. The horse camp is ahead in 0.1 mile.
Harralson Horse Camp has room to park two to three trailers for day use.
You’ll find more information about the Charlton Lake Loop and other trails in the Waldo Lake area in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.