Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon in the summer is a veritable playground, & one of the best places to play ~ especially when it’s hot out, is Elk Lake.  It’s a 40-minute drive from Bend up towards Mt. Bachelor to reach the lake, & once you’re there, you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, pontoon boats, go for a swim, take a hike, grab a bite at their cute restaurant….basically, have an all-around amazing summer’s day.  I just took friends up there & taught them all how to paddle board: this is the place to learn, as the lake is so shallow!  In this “Guide to Elk Lake by Bend,” we’ll get a great overview of this pretty spot & all there is to do here.

Summer Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Different sides of Elk Lake offer up different, amazing views….

GWTW Tip: If you’re hungry after an epic day at the lake, check out some of my favorite food trucks in Bend. Or if you want to know my favorite places to paddle board, read this article

Map of Elk Lake

Elk Lake

Downtown Bend

Quick FAQ about Elk Lake

  • How Far is Elk Lake from Bend?  Elk Lake is 32 miles due west from Bend, & the drive takes about 40 minutes. Take the Cascade Lakes Highway (Century Drive) up towards Mt. Bachelor; you’ll pass Todd Lake & Devils Lake. A few miles after Devils Lake, look for a sign for “Elk Lake” & turn left towards the resort & marina.
  • Where to Park at Elk Lake?  There are parking lots higher up from the marina, which requires a short walk ~ or many people park right along the road that leads into the resort (parallel parking). 
  • Are There Toilets Here? Yes! Both the resort & restaurant have bathrooms (the restaurant is very close to the marina), & there are also restrooms sprinkled throughout the campsites, which are located just south of the main resort area. 
  • Can You Rent Kayaks & Paddle Boards at Elk Lake? How About Boats? Yes, you can rent all of the above right at the marina. This is one of the best things about Elk Lake: it’s one of the only lakes on the Cascade Hwy that rents gear! The marina is open from 10AM-6PM, & all rentals must be returned by 6PM. In addition to kayaks & paddle boards, you can also rent pontoon boats here.
  • Can You Camp at Elk Lake?  Yes! There are about 20 campsites here, most of which can be reserved in advance (only a few are first-come, first-serve). Click here for more info about camping. 
  • Can You Stay at Elk Lake? What are the Closest Hotels to the Lake?  Yes, you can stay right at Elk Lake in their rustic cabins, glamping tents (not pet-friendly), or their camp cabins. It’s not super upscale ~ more like John Candy’s “The Great Outdoors!” Check out lodging at Elk Lake here.  For more upscale, try Tetherow Lodge Hotel on Century Drive, Seventh Mountain Inn, or family-friendly Sunriver.
  • Can You Swim in Elk Lake? How cold is the water?  Swimming in Elk Lake is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!!! I just swam there last week for about an hour, & it was truly divine. Because the lake is so shallow, the water temps here are much warmer than other nearby lakes ~ such as next-door Devils Lake, which is freezinggg. I don’t have an exact water temp for Elk Lake, but I’d guess it was in the 60’s: refreshing but lovely.
  • Can You Fish at Elk Lake?  Yes you can, though it’s not one of the most popular lakes for fishing; you’re most likely to catch trout here.
  • Is Elk Lake Pet-Friendly?  KIND OF. While we saw many dogs on the shores (by the restaurant & at campsites), dogs are discouraged from swimming in Elk Lake due to the shallowness of the water & sanitation issues. This is a bummer, because I really wanted to bring my dog paddle boarding here: but I totally get why she’s not allowed. You can bring dogs to pretty much every other lake on the Cascade Lakes Highway, which I discuss in this article.

Is Elk Lake by Bend Dog-Friendly? Girl Who Travels the World

These well-behaved goldens were hanging out at Elk Lake’s picnic tables last week ~ but unfortunately, the Forest Service discourages dogs from swimming in Elk Lake due to sanitation issues.

  • Can You Hike at Elk Lake? Yes. There’s a fairly flat 4.7 mile out-and-back hike on the back-side of the lake (by Bachelor) ~ get more info on it here
  • What You Need to Fully Enjoy the Lake = Bring water, drinks, some kind of inflatable/water gear like paddle boards or kayaks (even a floatie ~ you can tie it up to one of your boards!), a waterproof camera or waterproof phone case, waterproof outdoor speaker, & towels.

Photos of Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon

Best Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Elk Lake

We rented two paddle boards at Elk Lake last week & I taught my friend’s daughters how to paddle board. This is probably the BEST lake to learn paddle boarding on by Bend, as the water is SO shallow (especially on the left/north side of the lake).

Best Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Elk Lake

There’s a lot of shoreline at Elk Lake with lodging options, camping spots, & sandy beaches to hang out on…

Elk Lake is Perfect For: Learning to paddle board & kayak, swimming, fishing, camping, renting a pontoon boat, eating/lodging (but NO DOGS in lake).

Photos of Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Though the main marina area can be hectic, if you take a walk around the lake: you’ll be rewarded with more quiet & beautiful views.

Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

She had never paddle boarded before ~ but after a couple of hours at Elk Lake was practically a pro! (And that’s Mt. Bachelor peeking out behind her…)

Summer Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Elk Lake in the summertime.

Summer Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

You can barely see South Sister above the tree line here, but the further you get out into the lake, the better you can see it.

Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Finish up your day at Elk Lake’s restaurant, which has lovely views of the lake. You’ll also find live music here during the summer on weekends.

Where to Stay by Elk Lake

LOGE Bend is an amazing place for adventure-lovers to stay: it’s close to all the lakes as well as a ton of mountain bike trails.  Right across from them is luxurious Tetherow Lodge Hotel, which is pet-friendly & great for golfers ~ but pricey.  A great option for big groups is to rent a house in Sunriver, which is an epic destination in its own right, yet close to Bend & all its many lakes.

Summer Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

LOGE Bend has an amazing location at the base of the Cascade Lakes Hwy, & is totally geared towards adventure.

Guide to Elk Lake by Bend, Oregon