Hiking Henry Hagg After All These Years
Henry Hagg Lake sits an hour west of Portland, where the Coast Range starts to announce itself to travelers. I’d known of the lake for years but had never been there. I’d thought of it as a destination for boaters and triathletes, but it is more than that.
Seeking a new hiking destination on a day off, the lake popped into mind. The drive took about an hour. I parked near a boat ramp in a large parking lot. Boaters were putting in and taking out their craft, variously equipped with flotation toys and coolers. Nearby, families set up in myriad little coves and cute beaches to swim, tan, and eat. Such leisurely pursuits looked enjoyable, but I was here to hike. I headed counter clockwise on the trail that circumnavigates the lake. In total it is somewhere over 13 miles. I wasn’t up for that. To be honest, I didn’t want to put in that much effort when I thought I might be underwhelmed by the results.
The scenery was attractive, if not spectacular. At any rate, it was already close to noon, so I decided to hike a couple hours and turn around if I wasn’t blown away. I was not blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The trail is not particularly well marked, but it was easy to follow as it meandered past the coves and promontories with occasional spur trails to a nearby road. Few people used the trail itself, but I could hear picnickers and boaters and lakeshore splashers much of the time. Once I left the immediate environs of the boat ramp and campground area, however, I saw more mountain bikers than walkers.
I was pleasantly surprised at the environmental variations along the path. There was typical lush western Oregon forest, a nice patch of oaks, as well as some open grassy areas that make me think of “amber waves of grain.” The views were excellent in the open areas. There were also stands of berry trees lining the trail. Currants? I did not recognize them.
The views gradually change after meandering around watery fingers of the lake. On a sunny day, Henry Hagg Lake definitely seemed like the Oregon version of a camping and boating paradise. It is not exactly a wilderness retreat for thru hikers, but it’s a great place to get away from the city. I turned back after hiking a few miles in one direction, and as I left, I felt satisfied with my afternoon.