Updated: Jan 5
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Need a winter getaway? Outside the mountain town of Bend, Oregon, High up in the Cascades, far beyond the ski resort, 11 miles past where the snowplow stops, is Elk Lake Resort. Here, you can rent a cabin year-round and find that intimate mountain quiet under a blanket of snow. The only winter access is to snowshoe, cross country ski, snowmobile, or book a snow-cat pickup through the resort.
From Bend, OR, travel up Century Drive toward Mt. Bachelor. Near Mt. Bachelor, past the Sunrise lodge turn-off, look to the right for the Dutchman-Flat snow park/parking area. This parking area is a popular launch spot for some other winter activities. It is an access point for snowmobiles to access the three sisters wilderness. It provides access to Tumalo Mountain, which is a popular climb for snowshoers and backcountry skiers. Cross country skiers can head out from here and explore the surroundings, though, for day trips, the Nordic Center at Mt. Bachelor is more appropriate. In the summertime hikers and Mountain Bikers access the numerous trails heading up toward Broken Top or back to town from here.
After parking at Dutchman-Flat, you will head down the snow-covered highway for another 11 miles. The Resort has a few times per day when you can schedule a snowcat pickup (Suburbans with cat tracks) or head out on cross-country skis, or snowmobiles. The path is along Century Drive, the summer access road to the lakes. It winds around lava flows past Todd Lake, Devils Lake, and Sparks lake before you will see the first signs for Elk Lake. Don’t take the first road you see. Follow the snow machine trails, look for the Elk Lake Resort turnoff, and head into the lodge.
Coming into the resort midday will look like a Sturges Rally for snowmobiles. The restaurant/bar at the resort is open through winter serving food and drinks to winter warriors and guests alike. It’s a popular stop for the “sled-heads” to gather up. Don’t be alarmed that your quiet winter getaway is being overwhelmed by the whine of gasoline engines. There is a busy time that doesn’t start until late morning and ends in the early afternoon. After the petrol heads clear out you will have the place to yourself.
The cabins vary from remodeled to rustic. During significant storm years, 6 to 10 feet of snow pile around the houses, rendering them little more than lumps in the landscape. Outfitted with all the modern amenities, cooktops and ovens, flushing toilets, full fridges, heaters, and fireplaces, you can make yourself at home here. They range in size from the more significant three bedrooms with pull-outs and can sleep up to about 10, to intimate 1 and 2 bedroom units.
During the day, winter fun surrounds you. From the cabin, cross country ski, snowshoe around the lake, or head out on your skate skis when they groom the road. After a long day, warm up in the lodge for games and libations next to the fire. Find a hill and make sledding run, head out on your snow machine for petrol charged adventure in the 100s of miles of terrain. Or catch the shuttle back to the parking lot and ski Mt. Bachelor.
Outdoor fire pits give an excellent area to warm up during the day, keep it stoked into the evening for a night under the winter sky. You will find these cabins cozy and warm when you are finally ready to retire inside. Pack your food in and cook dinner, or head to the resort for a burger.
1. Note: the fridges are not stocked, so pack in any meals you wish to prepare yourself.
2. The snow can get quite deep, so be sure to bring full winter boots and snow attire (snow pants, jacket, base layers, mid-layers, outer shell. winter hat).
3. Expect to get wet tromping around in the snow, so be sure to bring an extra set of clothes or two.
*Native History:* These lands were originally inhabited by the Molale (Molalla) people, boarded by the Paiute in the east and the Kalapuya to the West. Sadly little has been found to date on the indigenous name of Mt. Bachelor. The last speaker of the Molale language died in the 1950s.
Unlike many states where it is common to have houses/cabins right on a lake, this is a bit rare in the Cascades. Most of the cascade lakes are in the National Forest, making private property hard to find. Essentially you have to find a lake with a property grandfathered in, or in rare cases, cabins/properties can be on a 100-year lease from the forest service. This property on Elk lake is on lease and a gem for the area.