By Jamie Hale

The Oregonian

This beautiful Oregon summer will soon officially end, but there’s still time to bid it one final farewell.

Before you hang up your swimsuit and stash the kayak in the garage, consider making a last-minute trip out to Waldo Lake, one of Oregon’s premier summer destinations that might well be at its best as the season comes to a close.

Found in the central Cascade Mountains west of La Pine, Waldo Lake is one of several lakes at Willamette Pass — an area that’s perfect for late-summer and early fall travel. The lake is one of the purest in the world, according to the U.S. Forest Service, with crystal-clear water that rivals Crater Lake.

Waldo is also known for its clouds of mosquitoes and big crowds of people, but both usually recede by the end of summer, making it an ideal September destination. Simply sitting and staring out at the water sounds like a great way to spend a day, but there’s actually a lot you can do at the lake.

Boating is probably the best way to explore Waldo, which is popular for kayaks, canoes and sailboats. Motorized boating is limited to electric boats traveling no faster than 10 mph.

The 19.2-mile Jim Weaver Loop Trail (aka Waldo Lake Trail) circles the lake and is open to both hikers and mountain bikers, offering spectacular views and interesting bits of history, like the South Waldo Shelter and the remains of a failed dam project at ­Klovdahl Bay.

It also gives access to the more rugged Waldo Lake Wilderness.

Campers can find sites at the North Waldo Campground (open through Oct. 14). There’s also the Gold Lake Campground down the road (Oct. 14) and the Trapper Creek Campground at nearby Odell Lake (Oct. 27).

The only factor working against you is the weather. Late summer and early fall can be absolutely gorgeous in the central Cascades, but rain (and snow) can arrive suddenly and dampen your day. Make sure you check the weather before making any concrete plans.

If you can, get out and enjoy these last days of summer in Oregon. As the dark and cloudy days return, it can be nice to hold onto a few memories of blue skies and beautiful scenery.

In that regard, Waldo Lake has you covered.

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