Sorry it took me so long to get this post out, but Timothy Lake is a really large area and I have been waiting for both the time and a couple of sunny days to take the pictures I needed to provide this tour. To prove that point, I am going to start out with an overview map and then walk you through the area, starting at the West Shore Day Use area (roughly 8 o’clock) and working my way counter clockwise. See that little vertical line to the left of West Shore Day Use? The lodge, office, and the sites for those of us that aren’t camp hosts stay between that line and the West Shore Day Use area.
One of the things that I like about Timothy Lake is that there are several day use areas for visitors that aren’t camping. Campers can use them as well, but it’s nice that there are places for non-campers. Lee’s main job is to cover the West Shore, Pine Point, and Cove Day Use, which the restrooms, trash cans, recycle bins, and monitoring the iron rangers. If you rent a campsite a vehicle pass is included so you can park at any of the day use areas (or hike to them), but non-campers are required to pay a $5 day use fee. Since these areas are great for fishing and picnicking and include a boat ramp, they see heavy use on nice weekends, and he drives back and forth (in a company vehicle) between them.
But back to what they look like. The West Shore Day Use is a thin strip along the lake and includes a small craft launching area, restroom, and a larger parking lot for people to park overnight to hike into dispersed camping. To the north of West Shore all the way up to Meditation Point are wilderness sites, which thankfully a separate group covers. I say thankfully because the only way to get there is by hiking in, and there is a separate program (managed by a separate team) that handles that. The Day Use is ours though, and here are a couple of pictures to show you how it looks. This is West Shore day use and parking, and you can see how far it is to meditation point in the next image. The day use is all the way at the bottom left of the second picture.
This is the only day use site on this side of the lake, and to get to the other sites you cross over the dam. One of the interesting things about this season is they are doing major work on the dam area, and although I don’t understand much of what they are doing, there is a large team of people working on it. In the past, the water constantly being released from the dam came out of a pipe with a cover on the end of it that acted a lot like a nozzle on a garden hose. It made a huge spray, which you can see in the picture below. For whatever reason, they changed it to a concrete spillway along the side, which you can also see under construction in that same picture. Now, the water comes out of the spillway sort of off to the side, and instead of the giant loud obnoxious spray, there’s a really pretty natural waterfall.
Despite the amount of people working down there, it has been very quiet from our perspective and since they aren’t generally working on weekends, their traffic and ours haven’t been at odds, which is nice. It’s also surprisingly quiet, which is probably because of the sound of rushing water which is really all you can hear.
Right around the corner to the right from the view above is the Pine Point Day Use area. It is a little confusing when we are talking to each other because there is a Pine Point Day Use and a Pine Point Campground, but generally context tells a person which place we are talking about. The Day Use has a large boat launch area and trailer parking, along with a huge picnic area and a dock for fishing. There is also a really nice trail (Timothy Lake Trail #528) that goes around the lake (roughly 13 miles) and although you can kind of start anywhere many people come up and start from here. It’s hard to see in the aerial image, but the area all along the water is part of the day use. There are very nice large picnic areas and fire pits.
Right next door to the day use is the actual campground, which was recently “remodeled” and is probably my personal favorite. It is one of the few campgrounds that has some ATT service (depends on the site) and also has a few double and even a triple campsite which is nice for small groups or large families. Across the road is Pine Point Group Campground East and West, where there a few large group sites that see heavy bookings on the weekends. The Pine Point campgrounds are all reserveable sites on Recreation.gov and since they are very popular they fill up fast. Occasionally there is a last minute cancellation that allows for a one night walk-in, but the best way to get one of these sites is to reserve it.
All of the campgrounds have sites that are lakeside and also interior sites. The lakeside spots are generally more popular, but the interior spots are very nice as well. One of the things I like is that every campground has its own small picnic/beach area, so even if you aren’t on a lake view site, you still have a place to enjoy the lake. Which leads me to the Cove Day Use area. This spot is a large amphitheater and play area that is for all of the campers. People do come and hang out for Day Use, but generally the campers will walk in along the lake from their various sites. Over the summer several programs will be held here and including a music program with a classical pianist that I am particularly excited about. Lee spent a chunk of time the other day determining if we could get a baby grand piano down the path and onto the stage, which was pretty fun for him and reminded him of his previous life when he used to work in concert venues and large scale live events.
Next up is the Hoodview Campground, which is aptly named because it has the most campsites with views of Mount Hood. Mount Hood likes to play peekaboo in this area, and depending on where you are standing around the lake you get spectacular views or can’t see it at all. Hoodview’s Day Use area has a great view and also has a place where you can picnic or launch a boat. This is mainly used by the campers who stay here, but some folks do drive in and use it for the day. As with Pine Point all of the campsites are reserveable and although they do have some openings mid-week, reservations are definitely the best way to go.
After Hoodview there is a large section of undeveloped woods, which is nice for taking walks, and then you get to the last two campgrounds we cover. The first is Gone Creek which is scheduled for a remodel at the end of the 2018 season. For now this is the most forested and natural looking of the campgrounds (it’s Lee’s favorite) and also is the only one that has numerous walk-in sites. There are only a few walk-ins that have lakeside views and many of them are definitely meant for smaller vehicles. It also has views of the mountain from it’s day use area, but most of the sites aren’t at the right angle to see the mountain at all, which is a shame.
Finally there is Oak Fork, which was remodeled just a couple of years ago. This campground has a little bit of everything and it’s all very nice. There is a huge boat launch and parking area, large picnic area, 7 cabins (the only cabins we have on Timothy Lake), and several hike in sites. Not surprisingly with all this variety it is super busy, and the camp hosts here are definitely busy. It’s also the first campground people get to when they drive into the area (unless they come up the back way) and many people stop here to check on walk-in availability of campsites. Despite the distance from a major town, we get a surprising amount of people driving up on the off chance they can get a last minute site, and we try to accommodate them as much as we can. This requires close coordination between all of the camp hosts of cancelled and no-show sites, and if we are lucky we can find a place to allow people to camp. When we are completely full, we have to direct them to the dispersed areas surrounding us, but those are often full as well.
I know many people don’t like to plan their travel and make reservations in advance, but for this area (particularly on the weekends) I really would recommend reservations. Many of the sites will not fit a large RV, so planning is definitely called for if you have a bigger rig. Also, I should probably mention that none of these sites have electric and water is only available at a few stations throughout the parks. There is also no dump station close by, so if you are planning on visiting make sure you have full water tanks and empty sewer. Despite these restrictions, it’s definitely worth a visit. The lake is stocked with beautiful rainbow trout and the hiking and kayaking opportunities could keep you busy for days. And best of all, it is quiet! These campgrounds are well managed by the hosts, have incredibly clean bathrooms, strictly enforced quiet hours, and an enforced leash rule. So some of the problems you normally find in the more remote campgrounds are less of an issue here.
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