Last summer, I did a weekend bikepacking trip with a friend to four Mt Hood Forest lakes. There is a very thorough run down of the route on Bikepacking.com and RidewithGPS, designed by Molly Sugar. So here’s how we rode the route, some changes we made, where we stayed, and of course pictures! Our route ended up being 46 miles total with 3290′ elevation gain. (32 miles the first day and 14 the second day, with the mileage split evenly!)
Frog Lake Loop Bikepacking Trip
While the route is called the Frog Lake Loop, it’s more descriptively the Timothy Lake Loop or 4 Lakes Loop – hitting up four of the best lakes near Mt Hood! Frog Lake is a very small lake. It makes a good start point since you can leave vehicles overnight at the Pacific Crest Trail Frog Lake Trailhead. The route continues on to Clear Lake, Little Crater Lake (the most amazing little lake in Oregon), and finally Timothy Lake. And even onto the PCT where you must walk your bike for half a mile. But you won’t mind it because you’re walking through such gorgeous scenery.
This route has plenty of easy stopping points for snacking, wading in the water (or swimming!). It then continues on to loop around Timothy Lake, where you can camp lakeside. Then the next morning you continue around the lake and back up to Frog Lake.
What’s great about this route is that it can be done as an overnighter. Since we wanted to get an early start for the first day of riding, we camped at Frog Lake campground on Friday night. Packed up Saturday morning and then parked at the Frog Lake PCT trailhead (NW Forest Pass required!). This was a great way to do it since we wanted to camp two nights. And we couldn’t leave Portland on Friday early enough to get any biking in. We could have also just gotten up early on Saturday and driven out, but this way more fun!
Day 1: Frog Lake to Clear Lake to Little Crater Lake to Timothy Lake – 32 miles (1,665′ elevation)
The first day after packing up we set out on service roads up and around Frog Lake and eventually crossing over 26 to the Clear Lake area. Most of these roads are “double track”, gravel, packed dirt etc. We stopped for lunch at Clear Lake. And then we made pretty good time to Little Crater Lake. We stopped again to take pictures and ahh over the colors of the lake and talk to some PCT hikers taking breaks.
Then it was back on the bikes for a second just in time to walk the bikes through the PCT portion until Timothy Lake. The route then had a little bit of single track until it connected with some of the gravel roads around the lake. If I do this route again, I would opt for continuing on the lake loop single track trails instead of the gravel road, but this also depends on the kind of bike you’re on. We were on fat bikes so any terrain was great. The rest of the Timothy Loop is singletrack multi-use trail. So you’ll come across a lot of other walkers and bikers and ride right by people’s campsites and people playing in the water.
By the time we reached the southern part of the lake (where the reservable campgrounds are) we were feeling a bit like it was a race to secure a spot! The downside of coming out on a Saturday is that many walkup sites are snagged on Friday for the two day weekend. But we continued on all the way around to Meditation Point. We didn’t find any at the start of the point and then realized we had gone passed.
It was getting into late afternoon early evening at this point. And we were feeling tired and just wanting to have a place to set up and jump in the lake! A lot of spots on this side are taken by boat-in access. So one person will hike in and get the spot and then wait for the rest of the group. Finally we found a little spot that ended up being super perfect. We had access to the lake, a spot for the hammock and our tent. Phew!
We set up camp, swam in the lake, had some snacks and drinks and prepped dinner. While we took some pictures on our way out of other possible spots, it was nice to know that there were indeed spots on a Saturday “bike up”. Just very few!
Day 2: Timothy Lake back to Frog Lake – 14 miles (1,625′ elevation)
The next morning after coffee and breakfast and packing up, we set off for our shorter ride day of only 14 miles and a bit more climbing. There had been a fire notice so I had been planning an alternate route. Note: Mt Hood National Forest US Forest Service page is excellent for up-to-date fire closures and announcements. As we rode, we passed a few crews still working on the fire, but the smoke was minimal. Soon enough we were back to Frog Lake and had a tailgate lunch picnic.
Overall this was a great bikepacking trip. The mileage is low enough that if you’re moderately fit you can do it. But it’s not such huge hill climbs or challenging terrain that you’re really suffering. And the reward is the amazing Timothy Lake. This made the perfect ladies weekend bikepacking trip! We went at a chill pace, took lots of snack breaks, had lots of laughs, and brought all the fun extras like a hammock!
I’d like to do this route on a weekday so that we had more choice of the “walk in” campsites and fewer people on the trails!
We both rode fat bikes for bikepacking this route. You can certainly do this route on smaller tires, but fat bikes are super fun for bikepacking! Check out my post on the best fat bikes for women and smaller riders. We met a few people biking the same route who had pretty skinny tires. Although for the gravel section, you’ll probably be happier with a little chunkier tire. For more gear ideas check out my backpacking gear list, backpacking lunch ideas, and backpacking meal planner ideas posts for more camping info.
My Bikepacking setup:
- Bike – Salsa Mukluk XS – still difficult to find in stock (similar REI fat bike or Salsa Beargrease)
- Frame bag – Revelate Designs Timberjack Kids (oh the struggles of an x-small frame triangle)
- Top tube bag – DIY “Make your own bag” that I made from materials of clearance Revelate Designs
- Fork dry bags – Topeak Versa Cage and Sea to Summit Big River 5L Dry Bags
- Rear rack and Dry Bag – Sea to Summit Big River 20L Dry Bag
- Handlebar bag/Feedbag – Moosetreks Bike Bag (was $20)
- Voile straps – so many!
- Hydration – I use an old REI daypack and Platypus 1.5L bladder and Widefoot LiterCage & 32oz Nalgene on downtube for extra water.
- Tent – NEMO Dragonfly Bikepack 2 person (I got this during the 20% off sale and I love it!)
- Sleeping Pad – Sea to Summit Ultralight Air
- Sleeping Bag – Kelty Cosmic 40 (lightweight and affordable, good summer bag)
I hope you enjoyed this look at fat bike bikepacking the Frog Lake Loop in Mt Hood National Forest!