A Tour of North Arm and Lake Harriet

My last post, A Tour of Timothy Lake, showed you the main areas we are covering this summer, but didn’t include the two remote campsites we also help with as well.  These two locations are actually really great, and I enjoy my visits to them and their solo camphosts, but they are remote enough I don’t find time to visit every day.  Let’s start by orienting you  first, so if we see the map from the last post at the top of the picture is the north arm of Lake Harriet and the location of North Arm Campground.

North Arm is a rustic campground that has several hike-in sites, a day use area, and both reserveable and first come, first served campsites.  Some of them are large enough for trailers, but the road getting up to the campground is mostly gravel and in places can be a little rough.  The directions from Sandy, OR: travel east on Highway 26 for approximately 40 miles to Skyline Road (Rd 42). Turn right on Skyline Road, travel south 4 miles. Turn right on FS Road 58 and follow for 4 miles. Turn left onto 5890 for 3 mile.  I actually go up the back way and the drive itself is beautiful.  For me the route is to just stay to the right and eventually I make it there.  Cell coverage is in and out when you get in the forest, so make sure you have the coordinates ( 45°8’39″N, 121°46’31″W) in your GPS prior to checking it out.

I start out on a decently paved road, which turns to graded gravel.


Meditation Point parking lot, which you can see from the first map is roughly the halfway point.


Love the views of the lake as I travel the ridge.


And I even get views of Mt. Hood during a portion of the drive. I always forget it’s here and it’s such a nice surprise.


Almost every trip I see a deer bounding across the road, so I generally drive 20-25 mph which is why it takes me so long to get there.


The sign for the entrance is actually across the road, but the big gate is a good clue you are in the right place.




Kiosk at the start of the actual campground. The trees are so tall here that I couldn’t get the entire thing in my picture


Wonderful views of the lake and it is VERY popular with kayakers


Dock and small beach area people like to hang out


Not only are there several sites there, but also dispersed sites in the surrounding area which people hike into. This is one of the most popular dispersed sites and I would love to camp up here with Lee.

The campground itself is more rustic like I said and I just love the vibe.  People are really friendly, there are lots of repeat customers, and everyone seems to knows the camp host by name. Since he usually has at least a few available walk-in sites, we try to stay in close contact when there is overflow from the main campgrounds.  Communication is tough though because the radio and phone only work in certain spots, and sometimes we just need to jump in the truck and make a trip up to check in.

#6 on this map is Timothy Lake and #7 is Lake Harriet. You can see their distance from each other and the distance from Portland (the closest major city) and Government Camp (the closest small town).  As an FYI these are all of the recreation areas that the company I work for manages. Last year we were located at #4 Promontory Park. 

Usually after making the drive up to North Arm I then go down to Lake Harriet, which is the only location on a completely different waterway.  Harriet Lake is halfway between Timothy and the river sites we covered last year, but is supported by the team out of Timothy.   It also has a solo camp host and 8 campsites, but because of the popularity of the lake for fishing does a brisk day use business.  This campground was completely remodeled last year to help with parking and people seem to like the new layout.  Day Use fees of $5 also apply here, but since this lake is heavily stocked and has trophy fish put in a couple times a year, it is almost always packed on the weekends.  Actually the host told me the regulars book the campsites as soon as they are opened on the website every year and even though it has a couple of walk-in sites, they are rarely available.  In a way that is actually for the best since cell phones and radios don’t work down here so my only way to contact the host is via a landline.


The drive to Lake Harriet, despite being pretty is definitely not my favorite.  It is an unpaved national forest road and in sections has steep drop offs and is extremely narrow.  It’s not so bad when traffic is light, but on the weekends the drive is worsened by the clouds of dust being churned up by other vehicles.  I just drive very slowly and pull over frequently when the clouds of dust completely obscure my vision, but thankfully once I get on pavement towards the end it is much better.

As you can see there are no guard rails of any kind and the drop offs easily 100 feet into the river below


Clouds of dust linger long after cars go by


This is one of the worst areas and it does have markers at least, but really only one truck at a time can fit through.


Turnoff to Lake Harriet.  This road is narrow as well, but it’s pretty


It even has a little waterfall along the route


The campground/day use entrance is to the left


Brand new dock for people to fish from. It was getting lots of use on Memorial Day weekend.


Boat launch area for both small craft and larger fishing boats


Entrance to campground


The sites are large, level, and mostly along the river. Easy to see why they are in such high demand.

Despite the relatively long drives to these remote sites, I really enjoy visiting them.  First and foremost I want to make sure the camp hosts feel supported, but I also enjoy how quiet it is.  My radio and cell phone don’t work in these locations either, so I am able to really focus on the camp host and the visitors without competing demands.  I’ve told both the camp hosts that if I get really stressed out I am going to come and hide out with them for several hours and they have both said I was welcome.  Lake Harriet even has a resident golden eagle that I am dying to get some pictures of, which makes it an even better place to be.  I’m going to write a post soon talking about what I am doing all day, but for now I need to get on with my day.  I had to get up at 4am  this morning to even have time to get these posts done and since I am covering a campground today need to get down to Hoodview pretty early.  Again, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me as regularly as you are used to.  It’s taking me longer to get acclimated in the new job than I originally expected.

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3 thoughts on “A Tour of North Arm and Lake Harriet

  1. I was surprised to see how many people were at the lakes this early in the season. Seems as though no matter how remote, there are always people around. We are going camping this week, and hoping for a bit of solitude, but on a lake? Maybe not. LOL

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