Linton Lake offers excellent camping, fishing and swimming in Three Sisters

Linton Lake Beach in the Three Sisters Wilderness.

It can be a day hike or an adventure – an easy hike with kids or a hike to one of Oregon’s most impressive waterfalls.

You can fish, swim, explore, or just hit the water from a sandy beach in this narrow canyon in the Three Sisters Wilderness, just off McKenzie Highway 242.

The destination is Linton Lake, a multi-faceted location that can accommodate plans that cover all age groups, adventurous appetites, and adventure styles with a fairly quick trip from the Willamette Valley.

First of all, yes, you need a Central Cascades Wilderness permit to day hike or camp here, so be sure to take care of that before coming through Recreation.gov.

Once you do, you’ll need to plan what kind of adventure you can have.

Full-Day Lake or Falls Adventure

Linton Lake trailhead.

One option is a day trip, and it’s a pretty fun place for that.

It’s only 3 miles round trip to Linton Lake, which is swimmable from a nice sandy beach, and a few different spots. In other words, it’s a nice and very easy day hike.

Beyond that there is a hard to reach run to Linton Falls. I was visiting my young children so didn’t make the trip as it’s a bit dangerous. But when I visited, several people hiked there and came back. It’s about an extra mile or so but takes people on an unofficial trail to Linton Creek.

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea for normal people to go up there. There is extensive fire damage and the lower falls viewpoint is on the edge of a cliff; it would be easy to fall into the canyon,” guidebook author Matt Reeder said.

Linton Falls in the Three Sisters Wilderness is a very difficult waterfall to reach and can be quite dangerous.

Good hiking spot for kids

The reason I visited Linton Lake was for an easy hiking trip with my kids. The nice thing about Linton Lake is that it’s only 1.5-2 miles from a few campsites, with limited sections of steep trail. This makes for a great beginner trip.

The hike begins at a parking lot in Alder Springs Campground – where there are restrooms – before crossing the road up a pair of wooden steps and starting on the Linton Lake Trail.

The trail goes through old growth forest to begin with, then crosses lava fields and a pass before descending back to the lake. You see the lake fairly quickly, but it takes a bit longer to reach a place where it is safe to access.

The most obvious place – and where the trail seems to officially end – is at a large campsite where Obsidian Creek descends. The sheltered camping here is good and you are allowed to make campfires here as long as it has not been prohibited by a high risk wildfire season.

Camping near Obsidian Creek at Linton Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness.

From the campsite there is a nice little path down to the lake and a sandy beach with good swimming access (although there is some seaweed which is a problem for some children).

Beyond the first campsite, a more rugged trail continues to a second campsite near where Linton Creek rolls into the lake. This area also offers good access to the lake and a possible second camping complex.

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