The Marilyn Lakes Loop Snowshoe Trail leaving from the Gold Lake Sno-Park on Willamette Pass is an excellent trek through a beautiful forest with a chance to visit three snow covered and frozen lakes. The warming shelter, located at Gold Lake, also offers you the opportunity to relax by a fire half way through your adventure. Beautiful views and a tranquil setting make this one of our favorite treks along Willamette Pass.
Begin your snowshoe from the Gold Lake Sno-Park, but don’t bother driving toward the back and parking near the restrooms and warming shelter, unless, or course, you have to go after that long car ride. The trip beings along the Gold Lake road, located across the highway from the Sno-Park. So the closer you can park to the entrance, the easier getting out and on your way is.
Head back out to the highway and you should see Gold Lake road just across and a little to your left, across Highway 58. Take care in crossing the road, as cars and trucks can come up fast. Once across, head towards the gate closing the road to vehicles and take this chance to put on your snowshoes.
The trail begins by following Gold Lake Road as it heads towards Gold Lake. The road will slowly climb for about ¾ of a mile as it rounds the western side of Willamette Pass Ski Area. You will reach the junction with the Marilyn Lakes Loop at about the half mile point, but stay to the right and on the road for now. Soon the trail will begin its descent into the lakes basin as it travels through the thick forest.
As you continue along the road, there will be a couple more trails directing you to the Marilyn Lakes off to your left. Don’t worry about those yet and just stay on the road as you march towards Gold Lake. About 2 miles from the Sno-Park you will arrive at the Gold Lake Day-Use and Campground Area. There are all the normal structures here, kiosks and restrooms and such, and it is pretty cool seeing them buried in feet of snow.
The Gold Lake Snow Shleter can be found just past the campground road on the right side of the trail. If you reach the bridge, you’ve gone too far. The shelter has a wood stove and picnic table as well as a small sleeping platform if you want to try and stay the night. Just be aware that everyone that wants to use the shelter is accommodated, so don’t expect to claim it as your own.
The only drawback of the shelter and this area is you can’t see the lake. It would be a shame to trek all this way and not even get to see it, so head down the road towards the campground you passed when you first reached the area. It’s just a short little detour and being able to stand on the shores off the 100 acre frozen expanse if pretty cool.
When you are ready to move on from Gold Lake, look for the kiosk on the left side of the road just before reaching the bridge over Salt Creek. The Marilyn Lakes Loop trail leaves from here and will take you away from the road and into the beautiful snowy basin. There are a number of different trail options as you proceed along the loop. You should reach the first trail junction you reach, after 0.4 miles along the loop. This trail just takes you back to the road and you haven’t even seen anything yet. So stay to the right to head towards the lakes.
About a tenth of a mile past that trail junction, you will reach the second. If you head to the left, you will travel along the north shore of Upper Marilyn Lake. One huge perk of this route is seeing a beautiful view of Diamond Peak across the icy lake. However, you will bypass the Lower Lake and end up back on the road with well over a mile back to the Sno-Park.
If you head right, you will soon find yourself along the shores of Lower Marilyn Lake. The trail hugs the eastern shore of the lake as it heads south and there are a couple great spots the get right out on the shores of the lake. You will also round the southwestern point of Upper Marilyn Lake only about a tenth of a mile after you leave the lower lake. The trail doesn’t get right up next to the lake here, so if you want to see it better, you have to break some trail through an open area to the lake’s shores.
After leaving Upper Marilyn Lake, the trail begins to do the real climbing of your outing, so hopefully you still have some energy left. Prepare to march up about 200 feet in the next half mile. Soon, you will find yourself up the hill though and heading along a fairly level grade as you parallel the road, weaving through the trees and passing the occasional spring. About ¾ of a mile from the upper lake, you will pop back out on the road. From here, it’s just a short half mile, gradual downhill back to the parking area..
The trail leaves from the Gold Lake Sno-Park, located on Highway 58. The Sno-Park is on the south side of the road, 26 miles east of Oakridge or just 0.7 miles west of the Willamette Pass Ski Area.
Passes: An Oregon Sno-Park permit is required November 1 through April 30.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: There will usually be snow cover from December to some time in April.