A quick little hike from Orcas Island's Mountain Lake brings you to Cascade Falls. Depending on the season, this little San Juan Island waterfall can flow. We've been there before, and always love to stop by when we're close. Roundtrip hiking to the falls from Mountain Lake took us a little about 2.5 hours. Plan for 1/2 day in the woods hiking & exploring this waterfall if you're leaving from the Mountain Lake campground like we did. It's totally worth it!
~Paul, Amber, Sis, Mom
I've got to be honest, it's a little tricky to enjoy swimming in the Pacific Northwest. There's water everywhere here in Western Washington, but it's chilly. When summer comes around again this year I'll finally be ready…because I finally found a lake…a warm lake!
To get there…wait for summer, then catch a ferry out of Anacortes…to Orcas Island in the San Juans!
Stop at some island viewpoints and shops along the way. Above: the road up tos Mt. Constitution. Below: views of Volcano Baker and shopping at Crow Valley Pottery.
We've arrived! A little lakeside campground in Moran State Park called…Mountain Lake!
We took a few laps around the lake in our 2 person Innova kayak and had a blast. The water was surprisingly warm - much warmer than Lake Washington in Seattle (where we usually swim in the summer).
The campground has only about 10 spots with parking spaces, and a lot more for groups (not to mention sites in other parts of the park). We made a reservation online here. We didn't have that much trouble getting a reservation on a week day in the summer. There aren't showers onsite - that could be part of it (there are bathrooms & water though).
More than one trail leaves Mountain Lake for lookouts, other lakes, and waterfalls (we've been to one). Canoe & kayak rentals are also available.
So, if you're looking for a warm summer lake to swim in, even in the chilly Pacific Northwest, be sure to book a night or two at Mountain Lake on Orcas Island!
~Paul, Amber, Mom, Sis
A must see when traveling the Oregon Coast is the Oregon Dunes Overlook. Located on the road between Florence and Reedsport (11 miles north of Reedsport), it's an easy stop with multiple viewing platforms, a bathroom, and picnic tables for a quick lunch with an amazing view. Spend a 1/2 to full day hiking the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail to take it all in - ocean beaches, dunes, and coastal plant & wildlife. Want more? We noticed lots of canoe/kayaking groups camping in the sand along slow moving streams that lead out to the ocean…they seem to connect the inland lakes to the sea...a future adventure?
~Paul, Amber, Mom ETC
Map of the loop trail
Info from the US Forest Service
The Washington coast is nice and all…but nothing beats the concentrated lakes, dunes, trails, campgrounds, & beaches of the Oregon coast. Their closeness to the highways & interstate alone makes them easily accessible and so handy for car-camping (a.k.a. sleeping in a tent next to your car…at a campground).
We've taken numerous trips down south from Seattle over the years, sometimes with a stop in Portland for city-fun along the way, sometimes as a quick stop on the way to California, & sometimes just to go for the Oregon beaches' sake. We've camped multiple times at our favorite car-camping spot - the Waxmyrtle Campground - just 7 miles south of Florence, Oregon. It's amazingly beautiful, secluded, and still has yet to make it onto Google Maps for everyone to discover…shhh…
Trails leave here following the Siltcoos River to the nearby ocean (2.5 miles roundtrip) and even closer to the Siltcoos Lagoon. Although it's only open May-September, we got a spot easily a few weeknights last summer and had a blast!
The quickest way to this neck of the woods is via I-5 south to Eugene, OR and then over to the coast. We, however, like the scenic way (mostly 2-lane) via McMinnville & Lincoln City. Whatever you do, don't miss the super scenic Yachats to Reedsport drive (map)…epic coastal driving! Also, note that the Google Map above is to a campground directly across the street from Waxmyrtle. Check the links at the end of this post for exact directions. Upon settling down at our Waxmyrtle camp site, we decided to try the Waxmyrtle 2.5 mile roundtrip hike to the beach.
The trail was a little deep-sandy at times, but totally worth it…what a view! Back to camp for a nice fire…Our next post: hiking in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area!
~Paul, Amber, Mom
Waxmyrtle Campground in Siuslaw National Forest
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
P.S. Waxmyrtle doesn't have showers…it does have bathrooms with running water…head into Old Town Florence for some free public showers (more on this in one of our next posts). Also, you can make reservations for the campground in the summer, although make sure to do it a enough days ahead of time or they won't let you make them. We tried to reserve a site but ended up getting a spot first come with no problem (weeknight, summer). Waxmyrtle is back open May 1st for the upcoming summer…get here!
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