Fawn, Stag and Pretty Lakes are three beautiful alpine lakes situated along the eastern edge of the Diamond Peak Wilderness. Much of the southern Oregon Cascades have been blanketed by thick layers of volcanic ash during the eruption of Mt Mazama, which formed Crater Lake, 6,600 years ago. This has created a landscape where water infiltrates so quickly into the ground, you would almost need a perpetual hurricane to generate any surface streams. But all that water from all the winter snow has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is underground, where it pops up at low spots, often carved out by glaciers, forming these magical lakes.
You will begin your hike at the Fawn Lake Trailhead, near Crescent Lake. The trailhead is located within the day-use area of the lake, and the parking lot is huge. There will be a vault toilet at one end, when you first enter the day-use area, but keep driving to the back end of the parking lot to find the actual trail.
Quickly after beginning your hike, you will have to cross Crescent Lake Road, which circles the lake. The trail is easy to pick up again on the far side however. Continue along the path for ¾ of a mile through a lodgepole pine forest until reaching your first intersection. The fastest way to Fawn Lake from here is to veer right. If you are up for an extra mile, and would like to visit another lake, head left towards Pretty Lake. “But Mike,” you may ask me, “Why not head to Fawn Lake first and complete the Pretty Lake Loop on the way back?” Well dear reader, I leave that up to you. On the return leg of a 10 mile hike, my motivation for adding an extra mile is much diminished when compared to being a mere mile into my journey. So I do the extra stuff first. But that’s just me and you are a free person. But, in this description……. WE GO LEFT.
Now that we are heading left, towards Pretty Lake together, you will be happy to now you will get the majority of your climbing done in the next mile and a half. Prepare to climb about 900 vertical feet in this stretch, and most of the forest isn’t anything to write home about. But, after sweating out a couple pints, the trail will level off and you will see Pretty Lake glimmering through the trees.
The trail continues around Pretty Lake and enters a pretty open stand of the forest where you can get some cool views of Redtop Mountain. Following this, the trail begins to descend a ridge as it drops towards Fawn Lake. The forest really thickens up here. A mile after leaving Pretty Lake, you will find yourself along the western shore of Fawn Lake.
Fawn Lake is the largest lake in this area, covering almost 40 acres. You may be tempted to pop down to the lake here and chill for a little bit, but you should continue along the trail is it travels the southeastern shore for the next half mile. Along this trail, if you look back towards the west, you will see rugged Lakeview Mountain popping into view. Once you reach the intersection with the Fawn Lake trail, there is a nice spot to mosey down to the beach and hang out, and enjoy the view of Lakeview and Redtop Mountains over the water.
Once you reach Fawn Lake, don’t stop here. Stag Lake is only 1.5 miles away and is the coolest of the lakes. Head straight and follow the trail that continues around the eastern end of Fawn Lake. You will soon reach the intersection with the Crater Butte Trail. Heading right here will take you all the to Odell Lake. But, since you don’t want to go to Odell Lake right now, stay left and continue along the lake. The trail will gently climb the ridgeline behind Fawn Lake for a little less than a mile before reaching yet another junction. Make a right here and finish the last half mile to Stag Lake.
Stag Lake is situated in a little basin right at the foot of Lakeview Mountain. From here, the mountain and Peak 6892 dominate the skyline around the lake. There are even some beautiful, sandy (not cascade gravel but actual beach like sand) areas to sit and enjoy the view. Once you are done, head back the way you came towards Fawn Lake. But this time, once you reach the junction with the Fawn Lake Trail, head to the right, away from the lake, and continue through both an open lodgepole pine forest and then and thick, hemlock and fir forest with some pretty impressive trees. It is only 2.5 miles back to that very first intersection. Aren’t you happy you went the long way first now?
To reach the Fawn Lake Trailhead, head towards Crescent Lake just off of Highway 58 over Willamette Pass. From the east, you can either head straight up Highway 58 from Highway 97 near Chemult, or, if you are coming from Bend, hit the Crescent Cutoff Road in Crescent and shave about 15 miles off your drive. From the intersection of the Crescent Cutoff Road and Highway 58, turn left at the sign directing you to Crescent Lake. If you are coming from the west, this turnoff will be on your right, obviously, and 37 miles past Oakridge.
Following the turn towards Crescent Lake, follow the road for a little over 2 miles as it heads over some railroad tracks and makes a sharp left. Soon after this, you will see a sign indicating that campgrounds are to the right. There will also be a large parking area here. Make the right and follow this road for half a mile and then turn left at the next road, heading into Crescent Lake Campground and the Fawn Lake Trailhead. In about a quarter mile, you will encounter a huge parking area for the Crescent Lake Day-Use Area on your right. The trailhead is at the back end of this parking area.
Passes:A free-self issue wilderness permit is also required and can be filled out at the trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Usage: Light to Moderate
Open Season: The trail will likely be snow covered well into May most years and plan on the snow to start slying again sometime in November.
Bugs: This area of the Cascade is notorious for mosquitoes. If you appreciate most of your blood remaining in your body, its best to wait until at least late August to tackle this hike.