Sparks Lake in Central Oregon Is Simply Breathtaking

Looking for stunning mountain and lake views, a great place to paddle, high desert forest bathing, abundant wildlife and an escape into the wilderness? This is the place.

Sparks Lake Oregon near Sunriver and Bend. Photo by Bill Devlin via Flickr CC2.

Last updated on December 23rd, 2021 at 11:30 am

Along the Cascade Lakes Highway near Bend, Oregon sits Sparks Lake with a view of three mountains, plentiful wildlife, and endless opportunities for breathtaking photos.  Oregon’s high desert really doesn’t get more spectacular than this.  If you’re looking for a place to get away from everyone, the perfect place to paddle, or an amazing lake to get away with friends, Sparks Lake, Oregon is it.

Your Guide to Sparks Lake, Oregon

Aside from the usually calm waters which draw paddlers from across the state, it’s easy to see why Sparks Lake is a destination all by itself with the incredible mountain views.


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South Sister towers over the lake at over ten thousand feet.  Broken top and Mount Bachelor also rise above the lake at just over nine thousand feet and give spectacular reflections in the lake’s still waters.


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Photographers come to Sparks Lake for the incredible sunrise and sunset photos this lake lends itself to.  This is also the perfect secluded place to get star shots.

Forest Bathing At Sparks Lake, Oregon


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Many people come to Sunriver and Bend (both about 25 miles away), to get away from big city life and experience Oregon’s high desert.  With Sparks Lake so close and located in the Deschutes National Forest, this is the perfect place to get out and forest bathe.


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The lake is surrounded by forests and green meadows, and if you go at the right time of year, yellow flowers can be found in abundance in the small ponds at the meadow’s northwest corner.


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Sparks Lake boasts 370 acres of lake and wetland surrounded by another 360 acres of meadows, marshes, and stream wetlands, so there’s a lot to explore on your visit.

Those looking for an easy trail through the forest will enjoy the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail, which is an easy 2.3 mile loop best used from April to October.  Part of the trail has views of the mountains and the lake while the rest is in the forest.

Hikers looking for a longer, more challenging trail will want to try the Sparks Lake Trail, which starts near the Cascade Lakes Highway, and goes all the way to Lava Lake.  This is a moderate trail that is 19.5 miles out and back.  The Sparks Lake Trail has a 1,591-foot elevation gain.  It should be noted that this trail does not have views of Sparks Lake, and is mostly wooded until you get to Lava Lake.

What To Expect At Sparks Lake

If you’re visiting in spring or early summer (the best time to paddle as there’s more water than later in the year), bring good bug repellent to keep the biting flies and mosquitoes at bay.

When walking through the meadow’s tall grasses, watch your steps so you don’t accidentally fall into narrow concealed water channels.


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If you’re going to view wildlife, Sparks Lake is a great place to do it.  It’s common to see mule deer, black-tailed dear, northern harriers, osprey, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, golden eagles, and night hawks.  River otters might be spotted in the streams that flow into the lake.  Learn what other animals and birds you can see at Sparks Lake here.

The water in this lake is fairly shallow, and as with many lakes in Oregon, there are leeches.  Blow up kayaks and paddleboards are not recommended.


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If you’d like to camp, there are 22 campsites around the shore of Sparks Lake that are accessible via watercraft or hiking.  There are no reservations.  There are campgrounds available at other nearby lakes.  Your best bet to get a campsite is to go during the week and not on weekends.  Our favorite place to stay in the area is in Sunriver in these awesome cabins.

Have you been to Sparks Lake?  Tag the friends and family you want to go on an amazing Oregon high desert adventure with!