The Swampy Lakes Sno-Park is one of the higher elevation Sno-Parks on the way to Mt Bachelor, located just to the east of Vista Butte and Tumalo Mountain. There are a number of snowshoe trails and cross county ski trails that take off from this area, which can result in a very crowded parking lot. However, the vast majority of these people head off to Swampy Lakes and the shelter to the north. If you are looking for a nice snowshoe through the woods, on a well beaten and marked trail, without squeezing by hordes of people, then the Short and Long Loops at Swampy Lakes are just what you are searching for.
The trails leave out of the north end of the parking area, just across the road from the vault toilet. Head to the north to some signs marking the beginnings of all kinds of different trails, but look for the short and long loops. They will head off to the right. You can choose to go around the loop either way adn there are no real differences in either direction, but I chose to go counterclockwise, because I started heading right and to then go left would have messed with my delicate perceptions, or something……. I just went right, so deal with it.
The trail is well marked an generally packed down fairly good as you stroll through the trees. You will cross a few cross county ski trails along the loop, but they are always well marked as well. There isn’t much scenery or a snow shelter to visit along this loop, but just being out in the snow is nice, and you should actually be able to find some solitude on this trail.
A little less than a mile into your snowshoe, you will come to the intersection with the short loop. Here, if you are looking for just a quick voyage into the snowy wilds, head left and cut off the back half of the long loop. If you are still wanting more, keep heading straight as you dive deeper into the woods.
The trail gently wanders through the trees and up and down small hills. In a little less than a mile, you will encounter another junction, with this trail taking you to the Nordeen Snow Shelter and eventually Virginia Meisner Sno-Park. If you can work a shuttle, traveling between Swampy Lakes and Virginia Meisner would be a great trip. Or, if you don’t mind adding about 1.5 miles to your trip, you could always head down to the shelter and then come back and continue on your loop. So many choices….
But, if you are like most of us, you will continue along the Long Loop to the left. The trail will round the backside of the loop as the forest opens up a little here, granting you some snowy vistas. You will also pass over a small swampy area just before reaching the Short Loop again, which is wide open now and kind of cool. You will reencounter the Short Loop a mile after the Noreen Shelter junction. Keep heading straight and you will be back at the Sno-Park in less than one short mile.
To reach Swampy Lakes Sno-Park, just head west of Bend on Century Drive towards Mt Bachelor. The Sno-Park will be on the right 14 miles from the round-about at the intersection of Mt Washington, Reed Market, and Century Drive.
Passes: An Oregon Sno-Park permit is required November 1 through April 30.
Dogs: Are not allowed at this Sno-Park.
Usage: Trail is light, but the Sno-Park is heavy.
Open Season: There will usually be snow cover from Thanksgiving to some time in April.