With 72 miles of incredible shoreline, Lake Billy Chinook is undoubtedly the highlight of Cove Palisades State Park. With majestic, tall canyon walls, a variety of day-use areas, numerous hikes, boat launches, and campgrounds, the park really does have it all.
The three day-use areas are all well-equipped to handle the crowds that the summer months have been known to bring. With a large staging area, multi-lane launches, and trailer storage, it really is a boater’s paradise.
Despite summer being the most popular season to visit Cove Palisades, there are things for visitors to enjoy all year round, including bird watching, fishing, and making use of the hiking opportunities.
Exploring Cove Palisades State Park
Hiking Trails in Cove Palisades State Park
(6.5 miles, moderate)
One of the biggest draws to Cove Palisades State Park is the Tam-a-Lau Trail, a 6.5-mile hike up to an incredible lava plateau that is known as The Peninsula. The name roughly translates as ‘place of big rocks on the ground’, which makes sense, as the area is rich in geological curiosities of all shapes and sizes.
This trail will take eager hikers through a mix of steep canyons and strange, verticle basalt columns. The trailhead can be found near the campground, with switchbacks kicking off the hike right from the get-go.
Although the majority of this stretch is uphill, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Lake Billy Chinook and the Cascade Range. When you finally reach the Plateau, the views will widen to also include Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mount Jefferson in the distance.
From this point, the trail makes a 5-mile loop around the area before you connect back to the trail where the loop started, and you can make your way back down.
Crooked River Rim Trail
(2 miles, moderate)
Enjoy some spectacular views of the Cascades and Crooked River on this 2-mile out-and-back trail. This short hike provides the ideal vantage point to view ‘the Island’, which is a 200-acre landform that splits the Crooked arm and the Deschutes arm of the reservoir, making a vital habitat for raptors.
Scout Camp Trail
(2.5 miles, moderate)
The Scout Camp loop trail drops down 660 feet into the Deschutes Canyon, starting in the Crooked River Ranch area. On the way down, be sure to take note of the beautiful sedimentary forming the layers of rock of the Deschutes Formation.
Crooked Creek via Otter Bench
(4.1 miles, moderate)
This is a moderate hike that will take you 4.1 miles out and back along the river. You may feel like you are in Utah or Arizona, as a mini Grand Canyon opens up before you. There are a few viewpoints at the top of the canyon, so be aware of the drop-off.
Camping at Cove Palisades
Cove Palisades is a popular year-round destination for camping thanks to its large, comfortable camping areas. There are 265 campsites available in the 2 campgrounds, 174 of which are suitable for RVs. There are also 3 deluxe log cabins that have beautiful lake views and their own private bathroom if you fancy a bit more of a luxury camping experience.
The Deschutes River Campground is located right in the canyon, within easy reach of the two swimming spots and boating areas, along the Deschutes River arm. The Crooked River Campground is up above the canyon, very near to the park entrance.
Kayak Tour at Cove Palisades
During the summer months, the Crooked and Deschutes Rivers provide 30 miles of stunning flat water, the perfect spot for paddling. The 6-mile Crooked River Water Trail is great for those of all levels of paddling experience.
In the spring and fall, there are guided kayak excursions, where you will be able to hear about the nature and history of the area from an experienced guide. There are a few historical features under the water that helps to keep paddling here very interesting, all of which were submerged after the Round Butte Dam was built in 1964.
More experienced paddlers can enjoy the 2-mile stretch south of the bridge, where not many motorized boats will venture.
Boating at Cove Palisades
From April to October, the Lake Billy Chinook opens its expansive waters for all the water fun! The Cove Palisades Resort and Marina opens and rents boats and a range of water toys that includes water skis and tubes. You could even stay on the lake with a houseboat rental.
You can launch your boat from three day-use areas, Crooked River, Upper Deschutes, and Lower Deschutes, all of which also have swimming beaches. If you don’t have your own boat, the marina has a variety of options to rent, from fishing boats and wake boats to larger pontoon boats.
The waters of the lake are well-stocked for keen anglers, with even opportunities to fish without the need for a boat. Expect to find bull trout, bass, and sockeye salmon.
Nearby Cove Palisades State Park
Bungee Jump at Peter Skene Ogden State Park
Want a bit of a thrill? Look no further than a hair-raising bungee jump over the Crooked River! You’ll be jumping off of the high bridge in the stunning Peter Skene Ogden State Park, and from your lofty vantage point, you’ll have views out over the gorge and the Cascade Mountains.
The gorge is a dramatic 300-foot drop and can be found right off of US Route 97. The bungee jumping site is typically open from May through to October and is an experience you will not be forgetting in a hurry.
Smith Rock State Park is just a short drive away from Cove Palisades State Park and is another great state park to visit when in the area. If you enjoy rock climbing, stunning views, and hikes, then Smith Rock is a must. There are several thousand climbs in the park alone, so it will take you a while to get through them all.
There are also miles of hiking and biking trails if scaling the rocks isn’t for you, most of which end in some incredible vistas of the surrounding landscape. Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that haunts the area which includes golden eagles, mule deer, river otter, beaver, and prairie falcons.
The powerful Deschutes River makes the bustling city of Bend what it is today. The city is famous for its world-class recreation and coupled with award-winning dining and boutique shopping, it’s hardly surprising that Bend is so popular.
Bend is smack dab in the center of the state. Located in the high desert, and right next to the mountains, it provides a unique Oregon experience. When in town, be sure to hit up the many breweries, take a walk around Downtown and check out the nearby Mt Bachelor. It is also a great place to hop on a rafting trip along the river.
I’ve been perpetually traveling and living around the world for years but it’s hard to beat Oregon and the PNW. After years of road-tripping the area, I guess you can say I know it pretty well! When I’m not writing guides for you, you can catch me somewhere petting a dog, attempting to surf, hiking a volcano, or stuffing my face with bread and cheese.