Tenas Lakes is a group of at least eleven small lakes and ponds located in the Mt Washingotn Wilderness just below Scott Mountain. Tenas is a Chinook term meaning small, which is very appropriate giving that the largest of the lakes is only 15 acres in size and less than 20 feet deep. What these little lakes lack in stature, they more than make up for in tranquility and picturesque-ity (I just made that a word).
Begin you hike from the Scott Lake trailhead. Head out on the Benson Lake trail leaving from the north end of the parking area, and begin your slow but steady ascent up towards Scott Mountain. In just 1.3 miles and about 400 feet of climbing, you will notice Benson Lake’s shimmering blue waters off to your left. There will be a small user trail heading down to it if you would like a closer look. Benson Lake sits in a basin carved by glaciers and covers about 26 acres to a maximum depth of 55 feet. The water is a stunning blue and it makes for an excellent break in the hike.
Once you are finished at Benson Lake, head back up to the trail and continue on your journey. You will pass a number of small ponds hidden in the trees over the next mile as you make your way to the Tenas Lakes junction. There will also be abundant huckleberry and blueberry bushes along this section of the trail, making for a nice little snack if you are there during August/early September. Once you reach the trail junction, head to the left for 0.1 miles to head down to the Tenas Lakes.
Once you crest over a rocky knoll and look down at the first lake, you will gaze upon what you always imaged a little forest lake should be. Its rocky, cliff lined shores and stunningly blue water make it one of the most beautiful little lakes in the Cascades. You could spend the whole day here, exploring all of the little lakes and ponds and even swimming in the surprising warm (for a mountain lake) water.
From Sisters, head over McKenzie Pass on Highway 242 for 20.4 miles, or 6 miles past the Dee Wright Observatory on the top of the pass. From the valley, head east on highway 242 for 16 miles up towards McKenzie Pass. Follow a dirt road to the west for 0.7 miles past Scott Lake campground. The trailhead is at the end of the road.
Passes:A Central Cascades Wilderness Permit is required to access this area between June 15th and October 15th. The permits will be available from recreation.gov and will go on sale in early April. A Northwest Forest Pass is also required to park at this trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: McKenzie Pass closes seasonally, and is usually only open form July til early Novemeber.
Bugs: This area is a mosquito paradise with all the lakes and ponds. If you go before September, bring some extra blood.