Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon is one of the all-time great outdoor-lover destinations.  In the summer, not only is there the Deschutes River to float or paddle down, which runs right through the center of town (literally dividing its east & west sections) ~ but once you head up the Cascade Lakes Highway, you’ve got literally hundreds of lakes to enjoy.  In this article, I’m detailing my picks for the “Top Five Lakes by Bend.”  Each is within about a 30-minute drive of downtown Bend, & will give you opportunities to swim, kayak, paddle board, hike, take the dog for a stroll, or simply enjoy the stunning mountain scenery.

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Devil’s Lake is one of the best Cascade Lakes for photography! Its bright turquoise waters form the perfect backdrop for photos with your friends & family…

GWTW Tip: If you’re hungry after an epic day at the lake, check out some of my favorite food trucks in Bend….

Map of Great Lakes by Bend

In this article, I’m listing lakes in order of their distance from Bend ~ starting with the shortest distance, which is Todd Lake.  You’ll find all these lakes along the Cascade Lakes Highway (also called Century Drive), & all have easily accessible parking lots close to the highway. 

Todd Lake

Sparks Lake

Hosmer Lake

Devils Lake

Lucky Lake

Elk Lake

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon

1. Todd Lake

Todd Lake is the first lake you’ll come to on the Cascade Lakes Highway, & is just past the Mount Bachelor ski area.  At MP 23, turn right onto a dirt road; there will be a sign for “Todd Lake.”  Park in the small dirt lot, & note that the lake is not visible from here.  Walk about a 1/4 mile to reach the lake, which makes it a little trickier to kayak or paddle board here, as you’ll need to carry your gear out & back.  That’s why Todd Lake gets my vote for one of the best places to hike: take the easy, 1.3 mile stroll around the lake (dogs must be on leash in summer).  Or if you prefer harder hikes, head up the steeper ridge trail which will give you INSANE views of Mt. Bachelor!

Todd Lake is Perfect For: Hiking with Kids & Dogs

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

Views of Mt. Bachelor can be found on the far side of the lake, while views of the Three Sisters can be found on the side closer to the parking lot. Climbing the higher ridge trail will ALWAYS give you better views!!

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Todd Lake

Todd Lake is the closest Cascade Lake to Bend ~ & has a lovely, fairly flat trail that circles the entire lake. Views of Mt. Bachelor (pictured here) & the Sisters are STUNNING!!! And yes, my puppy Charlie swam half of this lake trying to “catch” our kayaks!

2. Sparks Lake

Sparks Lake is THE iconic lake in Bend, & has graced many a travel brochure.  Go past Todd Lake, & at MP 25, turn left at the “Sparks” sign.  Keep left, & stay on a bumpy road for about 1.5 miles.  The rewards will be worth it!!  This lake is the shallowest on this list (at 8 feet), making it one of the warmest, great for kids & swimming.  You can also kayak & paddle board here, but just know that late in the season, the lake can get SO shallow it can make paddling very difficult!  My friends got “stuck” there last summer ; ).  There are also easy 1-2 mile loops around the lake that are ideal for photographers, as you’ll get panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains. 

Note: There’s no fishing at Sparks Lake.

Sparks Lake is Perfect For: Photography, Families, & Swimming

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Sparks Lake

If you’ve seen photos of Bend: you’ve probably seen photos of Sparks Lake, which offers iconic shots of Mt. Bachelor, as well as Broken Top & South Sister. Note: this is a VERY shallow lake (meaning it’s one of the warmest & good for kids & swimming)!

3. Devils Lake

In terms of the beauty of its water: Devils Lake is my favorite on the list.  I first visited it when my friend & I hiked South Sister (one of the hardest hikes by Bend) ~ the South Sister Trailhead is located at Devils Lake.  Here, you can kayak, paddle board, or take in one of the many hikes that begin here: the short circle loop, hikes to Tyee Spring or Hell Springs, or to Devil’s Garden.  Take note: if you want to swim in this lake, it is FREEZING!!!  It’s one of the coldest on this list, due to its mountain spring sources.

Devils Lake is Perfect For: Kayaking & Photographers

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Devils Lake

TURQUOISE!!! And FREEZING!!! That sums up Devils Lake in two words : )

For more details & photos of Devils Lake, read this article.

Best Lakes by Bend, Oregon

4. Elk Lake

Of all the lakes we’ll discuss today, Elk Lake is far & away the most POPULAR lake on the Cascade Lakes Highway.  And there are a lot more services here than at other lakes: you can rent kayaks & paddle boards right at the marina (you only carry the board about 10 feet!), there’s a rustic little restaurant & ice cream shop steps from the marina; people enjoy sailing & pontoon boats here, & swimming is H-E-A-V-E-N in this water!!  I just swam there last week on a hot summer day, & it was divine.  Because the lake is so popular, dogs are strongly discouraged from swimming or using the lake, due to sanitation issues. 

But they’re welcome at pretty much every other lake on the list!

Elk Lake is Perfect For: Learning to Paddle Board & Kayak, Swimming, Eating/Lodging (But NO DOGS)

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…

5. Hosmer Lake

Hosmer is the lake I really don’t want to tell you about.  At present, in its “hidden” location behind the far more popular (& larger) Elk Lake, it seems to be a real local’s-only spot.  And it’s nice ramp, right at the edge of the parking lot, makes it a perfect place for kayakers & paddle boarders to set their gear in the water.  My puppy, Charlie, also came on this adventure ~ & because she couldn’t “sit still” in one of our kayaks, she kept jumping in the water & ended up swimming pretty much the whole lake!  I cannot express how BEAUTIFUL this lake is: & you’ll really only be able to appreciate is beauty with a kayak or paddle board.

Hosmer Lake is Perfect For: Paddle Boarding & Kayaking (with dogs!)

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Hosmer Lake

This is my favorite lake: Hosmer! Its less well-known than Elk Lake (& right behind it), & is PERFECT for a long, leisurely kayak!

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Hosmer Lake

The further back you kayak or paddle, the greener the water gets ~ & the more beautiful the mountain views.

Prettiest Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Hosmer Lake

Simply stunning.

***6. Lucky Lake (BONUS Lake!!)

I’m throwing in one extra lake because I love it so much: Lucky Lake!  It’s the most “off-the-beaten path” lake on the list, & furthest from Bend.  Past Elk Lake, & just south of Lava Lakes at MP 38.5, turn right into the dirt parking lot (there’s no sign that I recall).  From there, head up a gentle, one-mile incline that will take you right to the shore of this beautiful lake.  Because of its distance from town & the short hike to reach the lake: you typically won’t find crowds here.  And this lake doesn’t have ice cold springs running into it, making it one of the warmest lakes!  Come here to hike, float, & swim….& bring the kids & dogs!

Lucky Lake is Perfect For: Swimming, Hiking, & Floating

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Lucky Lake

My friend, Chelsea, “modeling” here at Lucky Lake ~ which has about a one-mile hike to reach the lake. Similar to Todd, there’s a flat trail that circles the lake.

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Lucky Lake

The further you walk around Lucky Lake, the more you’ll be able to discover great shots of Middle & South Sister, framed by pine trees.

Where to Stay in Bend

The best hotel for accessing all these beautiful lakes is Tetherow Lodge Hotel.  Located right off Century Drive atop a high bluff overlooking Tetherow Golf Course, this pet-friendly hotel offers gorgeous accommodations, several great restaurants, & killer mountain views.  Another great option, especially for big groups, is to rent a house in Sunriver, an epic family-friendly destination.  Or if you’d rather stay right downtown, check out quirky hotel & pub: McMenamins Old St. Francis School.

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

The soaking pool at McMenamins St. Francis School in Bend, which is part-pub, part-hotel & restaurant.

Top Five Lakes by Bend, Oregon

I hope this guide provides some inspiration for your summer travels.  Remember that all these lakes except for Elk have NO services ~ meaning you need to bring your own kayak or paddle boards.  If you need to rent gear: head to Elk Lake.  And bring a Go Pro to take epic shots of these beautiful spots!

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: Where to Paddle Board in Bend, Oregon?

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