Lillian Falls

  • Easy (to Lillian Falls)
  • 2.6 miles round trip
  • 600 feet elevation gain
  • Open mid-April through November
  • Use: hikers, horses

  • Difficult (to Klovdahl Bay)
  • 7.6 miles round trip
  • 2200 feet elevation gain
  • Open mid-June through October

A vast glacier capped the Cascade crest during the Ice Age, gouging Waldo Lake’s basin and spilling long, snake-like streams of ice down half a dozen valleys to the north and west. When the glacier melted from its mile-high plateau, Waldo Lake was left to choose a single outlet. It opted for a rugged and remote valley to the north. But the huge lake also nearly overflows to the west, into Black Creek’s 2000-foot-deep canyon.

In 1912, engineer Simon Klovdahl set out to exploit this coincidence for hydroelectric power and irrigation. He spent two years blasting a diversion tunnel from Waldo Lake to the headwaters of Black Creek. When his tunnel didn’t work, the project was abandoned to the wilderness. Today the Black Creek Trail climbs up this dramatic, unspoiled canyon amid old-growth trees 6 feet in diameter. For an easy hike, stop at Lillian Falls’ 150-foot series of mossy cascades. For a more challenging trip, continue up to Waldo Lake and the headgates of Klovdahl’s failed tunnel.

To start, drive …

The trail begins in …

Follow the shoreline trail half a mile to the right to view the rotting headgates of Klovdahl’s tunnel, which nearly succeeded in reducing this mighty lake to a reservoir. Then return as you came.

This chapter is an excerpt from 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Central Oregon Cascades.