Carter Lake and Taylor Lake

This pair of lesser-known central Oregon coast lakes reside near Carter Lake Campground, decorating the periphery of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  Taylor Lake, a lop-sided horseshoe tucked between the highway and the dunes within a thick swath of trees, is viewed by traversing a well-defined trail.  Carter Lake offers less walking, but takes you to the water’s edge along a sandy shore.  You can choose which is most appealing for the day, or visit both on the same outing.

Taylor Lake view

200+ Steps


The first leg of Taylor Dunes Trail #1335 ends at a bench that allows a glimpse of Taylor Lake.  At around 400 steps, it is farther to reach than most 100 Steps destinations, but since deemed ADA accessible, it may be an appropriate trek for folks who need solid terrain yet are less concerned with distance.

Botanists may delight in the bounty of greenery.  Definitely not my area of expertise, during our early fall walk I spied the leaves of berry bushes (salmon, thimble, and huckle, I believe) and noticed mushrooms sprouting amongst the tree roots and pine needles.  Plentiful rhododendrons are interspersed within the undergrowth, and I imagine they provide beautiful patches of delicate pink in Spring, making this path worth exploring at various times of year.

The full route to the dunes viewing deck is a half-mile, and after the lake-view bench described here, gets steeper.  With no benches for resting, and at least double the length of the first leg, the second span is beyond the scope of 100 Steps destinations, so is not covered.

Terrain: Slight downhill at the start of the trail, on packed dirt layered with pine needles. Last portion is on level decking.
Seating: One picnic table in the parking lot. One bench on the deck.
Fee: Day pass or recreation pass
Restrooms: In the parking lot, at the start of the trail
Directions: South of Florence, follow the signs to the Carter Lake Campground turnoff from Highway 101. An immediate left lands you at the parking lot. The trailhead is on the north side of the lot, and starts by crossing over the campground entry road.

Carter Lake beach

75 Steps


Access to a lake-side beach and even swimming are close to parking at Carter Lake.  Fifty steps let you wet your hand or toes, but requires negotiating a steep pavement drop-off.   I chose the slightly longer route along the south side of the fallen tree, which is more gradual.

This is a lake to share with coastal wildlife.  On our visit we startled a snake sunning itself on the sand.  It slithered away in entertaining undulations, allowing us to pass once the show was complete.  Raccoon prints dotted the wet sand.  Faded descriptive signs around the parking lot explain the lake’s formation and annotate beneficial human and animal features.

Terrain: Rough pavement and loose sand. Potentially a steep step with no handrail support, but this can be avoided if you take the longer route along the fallen tree. Sand to water has downward slope.
Seating: No, although the long log along one side of the parking lot could be a make-shift bench.
Fee: Day pass or recreation pass
Restrooms: No. Nearest are in the campground. Also in the parking lot for Taylor Dunes trail (see above).
Directions: South of Florence, follow the signs to the Carter Lake Campground turnoff from Highway 101. Proceed past the entrance gate through the campground until you see the lake. The campground is seasonal. Parking near the lake is available only when the campground is open.

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