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Hike the Lake Simtustus Loop

Lake Simtustus Loop

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Distance: 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet.

Lake Simtustus is the second of three lakes that make of the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric project along the Deschutes River. Here, the Deschutes is dammed by the 204 foot tall, concrete Pelton Dam which backs the river up 7 miles through a narrow, basalt canyon. While more known for its boating and fishing, Pelton Park off of Lake Simtustus also has a wonderful hike which allows you to take in the beauty of this lesser visited sibling of Lake Billy Chinook

The trailhead for the Lake Simtustus trail is located right off of Pelton Dam road, just before you reach Pelton Park. The road curves into the hillside as it heads through a draw and you will find a small dirt parking area here. This is the trailhead. You will know you are in the right place cause there are signs telling you this is the trailhead. Trust the signs. The are bad liars.

Before you head out, you may want to stretch for a minute, cause this hike doesn’t mess around. The trail heads straight up the draw you parked at, climbing 200 feet in only about 500 feet. You will definitely be huffing and puffing some once you break over the edge onto an old railroad grade. Now, you can enjoy the views you’ve earned.

Follow the of railway for almost a mile as it winds across the side of the canyon. Take in the views of the beautiful blue waters of Lake Simtustus backed up against the shear cliffs of the canyon. You can even look down river and see the top of Pelton Dam. Towards the back half of the mile, the trail will find its way traveling through some quarried out sections of the canyon, and the rock formations here are really cool.

After the mile is up, the trail is leave the railroad grade and switchback a couple times as it climbs a little higher up the canyon walls. Mosey through a nice bench beneath the cliffs and then head back down towards the old railway. Once you hit it though, don’t weasel your way through some gates and continue down or up it. Look for the trail on the far side. Then gate it and follow it down.

The trail begins by slowly descending the canyon through the junipers. Head underneath a rock fall and then give your knees a pep talk, cause it gets steep once again. If it is winter and the ground is wet, the trail can get very slippery here, so you may want to wear a butt pad. You will soon pop back out on the road, right across from the Pelton Park Store. Head into the park and mosey your way along the lakefront for the final half a mile to complete the loop.


To reach the Lake Simtustus Hiking Trail, take Highway 26 10 miles north of Madras or 3 miles south of Warm Springs. Turn south onto Pelton Dam Road at the signs for Pelton Park and Lake Simtustus. Follow Pelton Dam Road for 3.4 miles and the trailhead will be in a small dirt parking area on your left, just before you reach Pelton Park.

Things to Know

Passes: None.

Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash on under voice command at all times.

Usage: Light

Open Season: Area is open year round. Don't be surprised if the trail is a little muddy in the winter and this area can get brutally hot in the summer and there is little shade.

View Trail Map
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