Rosary Lakes, Oregon is a set of 3 lakes located about 70 miles southeast of Eugene – about 69 miles southwest of Bend – in the Deschutes National Forest. It’s a popular hiking, fishing, and backpacking destination nestled in a dense, beautiful sub-alpine forest.
The trailhead is off of highway 58 – after turning off the road, it’s just right of a large sand shed tucked behind the tree line. It’s actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which is another reason for its popularity. The parking lot is large with one pit toilet but no potable water. You can read more about the trailhead here.
Rosary Lakes, Oregon
My husband Nat (below middle), brother Oliver (below left), and I arrived at Rosary Lakes Trailhead around 10:30 am on Saturday, September 29. The weather was sunny with mostly blue skies and a few scattered clouds. It was forecasted to rain later in the evening / early Sunday morning, so we were prepared.
Oliver accidentally locked his keys in his car – with his gear still inside! Thankfully he had a spare key stashed away for emergencies.
Finally we shouldered our packs and hit the trail!
Rosary Lakes Trail
The trail starts off at a slight incline covered by tall trees with baby trees scattered throughout. We could hear traffic noise from highway 58, especially at first, but the farther we hiked the less we heard.
After about a 1/4 mile you’ll reach an intersection and a sign posted to a tree. The sign says 3 miles to the right for Rosary Lakes. We estimate this is the distance to the first lake. However, there’s a sign up ahead that states 3 1/2 miles – this is about the distance to the third lake. The sign at the trailhead states 3 miles, too. A bit confusing!
You will notice small blue signs posted to trees every couple hundred feet. Those mark the trail for cross-country skiers who come through here during the winter when the snow falls.
Soon after we reached the next sign.
The trail was quite dusty – my black shoes and leggings were covered in a layer of dirt.
Most of the trees are tall with few low-hanging branches, creating an open forest. In some areas the underbrush is thin and dry.
The sun filtered through the thick tree canopy – it made for beautiful lighting.
In other areas the forest is more lush and you can see the new growth.
The trail continues to climb a very gradual incline away from highway 58. By the time we were close to the first Rosary Lake, the traffic noise had dissipated. (Except for the occasional plane.)
Rosary Lakes | Lower
Finally we reached the first lake. We could clearly see the first signs of fall with the small colorful trees sprinkled around the water’s edge.
The trail hugs the southern and eastern sides of the lake as it heads toward middle Rosary Lake. We decided to carry on to the next one. Watch your step over the small rock field!
There are many great options for campsites right along the trail. The forest is very open in this area, so there are plenty of spots to set up camp.
There are also many good fishing spots just off the trail. Much of the terrain bordering the lake is flat and wide with plenty of beached logs to recline.
Rosary Lakes | Middle
A short 1/4 mile will get you to middle Rosary Lake. We had planned to set up camp on the opposite shoreline in the photo below, but we noticed folks had already snagged it.
You’ll have a great view of the large butte across the lake. More on that later. :]
We continued on yet again. By the time you leave the second lake you can already see the third lake between the tall thin trees. The surrounding area is still open with little underbrush.
Rosary Lakes | Upper
Soon after we arrived at upper Rosary Lake. Each lake is smaller than the last.
The trail continues to curve around the eastern side of the third lake until it breaks away on the northern side.
We settled on a little spot tucked between the trees – we followed a small side trail off the main Rosary Lakes Trail.
Once we set up camp, brewed some hot beverages, and munched on some snacks, we decided to venture to the top of the butte. Yes, the butte pictured above. Apparently Nat and Oliver conquered this trek several years ago and suggested we all hike up there.
I just want to note that there is no marked trail up to the butte – we just bushwhacked our way up toward the top. So please use your best judgement and exercise caution. It’s slippery and steep!
We climbed and scrambled until we finally made it to a plateau. The views were beautiful of middle (right) and upper Rosary Lakes.
Here’s a closeup of the upper lake. The weather was perfectly clear.
We decided to continue on and climb father up the butte. Eventually we made it to another plateau where we finally stopped and soaked in the stunning panoramic view of Rosary Lakes. We could see all 3 lakes (the upper lake is peeking through the trees on the left).
If you look past the lower lake beyond the tree line, you’ll see Odell Lake.
There were tiny wild succulents tucked between rocks, scattered alongside the butte.
After a while we clambered down the butte and headed back to camp.
The Afternoon & Evening
The boys enjoyed some fishing while I explored and took photos. A lot of branches and dead logs strewed the shore.
The fall colors were a gorgeous contrast against the blue water and green bushy forest.
We eventually made our way back to camp where we relaxed, cooked dinner, and enjoyed the view of upper Rosary Lake. There were a few ominous clouds hovering over the lake.
Once the sun ducked behind the trees it became a bit too chilly for me, so I decided to crawl into the tent while the boys continued to chat in the dark.
The Big Storm
Not long after retreating to the tent lightning lit up the entire night sky. Following were huge claps of thunder – deep pounding thunder that you could feel in your chest. This thunderstorm was close – very close – and moving right over top of us.
Finally the rain kicked in. And then the hail – huge chunks of it! I recorded the sound of the hail pelting the rain guard while snuggled in the tent. You can hear Oliver and Nat chatting just outside.
This was the size of the hail! Ok, I’m sure it’s nothing compared to a midwest or east-coast storm, but it surprised us Oregonians. ;]
Eventually the storm passed and we all tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.
The Next Morning
It was difficult to tell if it was still sprinkling or if the water collected in the tree canopy was dripping down. We bundled up as we crawled out of our tents and quickly brewed some hot drinks to savor.
Our tents were covered in water but thankfully we packed all of our rain gear and covers.
The lake looked eerie yet beautiful with the dark clouds covering the sky.
Once we ate breakfast and filtered water, we packed up our wet gear and started our 3 1/2-mile hike back to the car.
The rain settled the dust on the trail and made the underbrush glisten.
Before we knew it we were back at the trailhead. We packed up our cars and headed home.
I would consider Rosary Lakes Trail easy-moderate with its quick 3-mile hike to the first lake and gradual incline. The path is clear from most debris and is easy to see. During the warmer months the path seems to become a bit dusty, but it’s only a minor inconvenience.
Rosary Lakes makes for a family-friendly day hike or fishing trip as well as a great backpacking destination. There are plenty of flat, open spots to set up chairs or make camp. This area of the Deschutes National Forest is beautiful and great to visit any time of the year. Just note that there will be snow during the winter months, so bring your skis!