Suttle Lake is one of the most popular recreational lakes in Central Oregon. The lake was originally formed by ice age glaciation when the Cascades were buried in ice. This glacier created a lateral moraine along the north shore, which dammed up water, forming the lake we see today. There are a number of activities available at Suttle Lake, such as boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, mountain biking, and camping. There is also a very pleasant trail that circles the lake, making an excellent hike.
There are a number of different locations where you can begin your hike from. I prefer to head all the way to the west end of the lake, to the day use area there. There are usually less people and it is easier to find a place to park. But there is also a day use area near the Suttle Lake Resort and a number of campgrounds and boat launches along the south shore where you can link into the trail as well. From whichever location you start, it is best to hike the trail in a counter-clockwise direction, in order to take best advantage of the available views.
If you begin from the west end day-use area, look for the trail heading out from behind the kiosk. You will know you are on the right path if you quickly come to a footbridge over Link Creek. After the bridge, follow some roads as they weave through the campground. Keep angling towards the lake and you will reach it at a dock. There, you will find the official trail heading away along the lakeshore.
The trail follows the lakeshore pretty much the whole way around Suttle Lake. Along the south shore. You will pass numerous campgrounds and boat launches as you hike, but the trail is easy to keep track of. As you approach the east end of the lake, the trail will follow Lake Creek for a little way until you reach a bridge. It is a vehicle bridge but there is a side path for hikers.
After the bridge, things can get a little confusing for a bit. Trails kind of follow roads and weave around cabins. You will also see signs for the Lake Creek Trail, but don’t take that, and stay on the Suttle Lake Loop Trail. The trail will skirt the majority of the resort area and eventually, you will pop back out on the lake shore at a nice beach at the eastern day-use area.
From here, the trail again hugs the lake shore on the way back to the western shore. There are some beautiful views of Mt Washington along the way. Keep an eye out for mountain bikers as you stroll, for this is a popular trail for riding as well. There are some areas of flowers during the early summer and all the vine maple along the trail can make for some beautiful fall colors during the autumn months.
To reach Suttle Lake, take Highway 20 thirteen miles west of Sisters, or seven miles west of Hoodoo Ski Area. There will be a nice big sign directing you to the Suttle Lake Lodge along the highway. To reach the western shore, follow the signs towards the campgrounds rather than the lodge, staying to the right. After 2.2 miles, the road will round the western end of the take and dead-end at the day use area.
Passes: A Northwest Forest Pass is required for this trail.
Dogs: Allowed but must be on leash.
Usage: Moderate for the trail, but Heav for the lake in general
Open Season: The trailhead will likely be accessible during most of the year, but covered in snow during the winter months.