Many Central Oregonians will spend time during the summer at Lake Billy Chinook enjoying the houseboats and recreational opportunities available at The Cove Palisades State Park. However, hiking during the summer can be very uncomfortable with high temperatures in the area the norm. But in mid December, the cool temperatures can make for a nice hiking experience when a lot of exertion is needed.
Balancing Rocks is a Geological Formation to View Overlooking the Metolius Arm of Lake Billy Chinook
Not really a hike (1/2 a mile round trip), the Balancing Rocks (called hoodoos) can be located by driving all the way through the park past the airport toward the Perry South Campground. When forest service road 64 turns into a dirt road, travel just a short distance until you find the parking lot for the short walk to Balancing Rocks. The rocks were formed when a layer of harder volcanic rock flowed over a softer layer of volcanic rock. Over many thousands of years, the underlying softer rock has eroded at a faster rate than the overlying harder rock, thus forming the balancing rocks we see today. This is worth the extra drive to see such an unusual geological formation.
Tam-a-lau Trailhead is at the Day Use Area of the Cove Palisades State Park
The trail to the top of the plateau between the Deschutes and Crooked River arms of Lake Billy Chinook has a very steep 800 foot elevation gain the first mile. Wooden stairs are built into some tough sections, but we found other areas to be slippery and later muddy as the frozen ground melted once the temperature rose above freezing later in the day. After reaching the top of the plateau, the level 4.5 mile loop around the hilltop provides for wonderful views of the lake and we were fortunate to see a soaring red-tailed hawk during this trek. In certain sections, the trail goes very close to the edge of the plateau and we recommend staying a safe distance from the edge as the drop is very steep and dangerous in some areas.
We have read that the Tam-a-lau trail can be very hot and uncomfortable during the summer and is best done either very early or late in the day when the temperatures are cooler. For our hike mid December, layers were best with us getting quite warm in the first mile, but cooling off a lot during the loop hike at the top of the plateau. We saw just a few people during the entire hike. Original blog can be read at Bend Premier Real Estate's website.