Written by | Derek Carlson

Hiking Todd Lake – The Best Hike for Kids near Bend

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Bend is full of great hikes for families but one of our absolute favorites is the hike around Todd Lake.

Todd Lake is a small lake near Mt. Bachelor that, when the snow finally melts out in the summer, features an easy-to-navigate trail, warm waters for swimming or paddling, wildflowers, and a huge population of tadpoles and frogs to observe (but do not catch!).

We make at least one trip up to Todd Lake every summer and the kids always have a great time!

A paddle boarder paddling on Todd Lake near Bend, Oregon

Todd Lake Details

Todd Lake is a sub-alpine lake that covers 45 acres and remains relatively shallow throughout. The lake is located just past Mt. Bachelor along the Cascade Lakes Highway approximately 23 miles outside of Bend.

Todd Lake is the first of many lakes located along the highway, and also one of the highest in elevation! This means it can melt out much later than many of the other lakes located along the southern end of the highway.

Only non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake so it is the perfect place to go paddle boarding and enjoy a quiet day in nature.

Getting to Todd Lake

To get to Todd Lake take the Cascade Lakes Highway towards Mt. Bachelor. Once you pass the mountain go another two miles before turning off onto FS-4600 on the right. Follow this dirt road for approximately half a mile to the small parking lot for the Todd Lake loop trail.

If you’re arriving on a summer weekend day then you’ll probably see the line of cars parked alongside this road well before you get to the final parking area. In this case, grab the first spot you see or the person coming in behind you might get it by the time you turn around and come back!

The dirt road continues beyond Todd Lake but this road is notorious for its massive potholes so we don't recommend going further unless you have a very high clearance vehicle!

Once you’ve found parking it’s a short 1/4 mile walk along the Todd Lake Loop trail to the lake.

Passes Required at Todd Lake

Parking at Todd Lake requires an NW Forest pass or a $5 day pass.

There are no wilderness passes required for hiking the Todd Lake Loop trail but if you plan on venturing further into the Three Sisters Wilderness then you will need to pick up a day-use or overnight Central Cascades Wilderness permit.

Central Cascades Wilderness permits are only available online and almost always sell out during the summer so keep an eye on the availability schedule ahead of your visit if you want to grab one.

As of 2023, the day-use permits are available on a 10-day and 2-day rolling window before the trip date while overnight permits are available on a 7-day rolling window.

Todd Lake Loop Trail

Todd Lake Loop trail sign

The Todd Lake Loop trail is one of our favorite easy hikes around Bend. The trail is 1.7 miles and has virtually no elevation gain as it just follows the edge of the lake.

There are boardwalks along parts of the trail that pass through the meadows but you may still end up getting your feet wet or muddy if you visit early in the season.

You can go around the lake in either direction although we prefer starting from the south side as that tends to be a bit muddier and buggier than the north side of the lake.

Boardwalks on the todd lake loop trail

The best views from the trail can be found from the meadows on the west end of the lake and the trail on the north side. The west end is also a great spot to relax or have a picnic as the bugs are usually manageable and there is a large shallow area in the water where the kids can play.

meadow at the west end of todd lake

A Note About Frogs and Tadpoles

If you talk to folks who have lived in Bend their whole lives you will probably hear one of them mention going to Todd Lake to catch tadpoles or frogs as a great activity for kids.

While this was something that happened much more frequently in the past (and quite honestly still does happen way too much) it is now very much ILLEGAL!

Rangers patrol the area and the fines for catching frogs or tadpoles are steep, like >$1,000 steep, as they are a protected species. So you can observe but please leave the wildlife alone in the lake.

Camping at Todd Lake

wildflowers at todd lake

Camping at Todd Lake is allowed at the small campground next to the lake. There are three designated sites that all have spectacular views of the lake and are available on a first-come first-serve basis.

We love these sites as a way for families to get into backcountry camping. You are close enough to the car to bail if needed but once all the visitors leave for the day you’ll feel like you’re really out in the woods.

With so much to do around the lake, your kids will be plenty entertained while you set up the tent and prepare dinner.

Fishing is even allowed in the lake so bring a pole and try your luck at catching your own dinner!

Visiting Todd Lake in the Winter

Todd Lake is also an incredibly popular winter destination, although it requires a little more work to get there than in the summer months.

Most visitors arrive by cross-country or backcountry ski by starting at either Mt. Bachelor or Dutchman Sno-Park. From there it is an approximately 2-mile ski through the hemlock forests to the lake. This route is pretty heavily trafficked so route finding should not be much of an issue unless there has been a recent dump of snow.

The trail is relatively flat although there can be a few bumpy up and downs that can be a little tricky on longer nordic skis.

Once you arrive at the lake you can ski the loop trail or make your way up onto the ridges surrounding the lake for some powder turns through the trees.

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