Erma Bell Lakes Trail #3563


This wide flat trail traverses a Douglas-fir slope, with slight grades, to Lower Erma Bell Lake within Waldo Lake Wilderness.

Although this section of the trail, from Skookum Creek Campground to the Lower Erma Bell Lake, is designed to be wheelchair accessible, it is a Wilderness trail. Wilderness trails are challenging and often require extra time and effort to traverse. Wilderness rules prohibit the use of wheeled or motorized equipment. However, visitors are welcome to use mobility devices designed solely for use by a mobility impaired person for locomotion and that are suitable for use in an indoor pedestrian area.  Quads are not allowed. 

There is a moderate climb up to Middle Erma Bell Lake, and then it's flat for a ways. The trail climbs again to reach Upper Erma Bell Lake. The grade varies before a final uphill trek through small meadows and ends at the Williams Lake Trail #3589, 0.3 mile from Taylor Burn Road 5897-514.

This trail passes below a canopy of mature forest most of the way, with ridge views from Taylor Burn. This is one of the most heavily used wilderness trails on the district.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Starting in 2021, visitors to the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness Areas may need a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit for overnight and day use. Learn more.
Fees $5/vehicle/day or a valid recreation pass. No payment accepted onsite.
Permit Info: Wilderness Permits required for visitors to the Three Sisters Wilderness. Overnight visitors:
  • Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the last Friday of September: Central Cascades Wilderness Permit required; reserve at or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Learn more.
  • After Central Cascade Wilderness permit season (usually last Saturday in September) to October 31: free, unlimited Wilderness self-issue permit required (available at trailhead).
Day users:
  • Free, unlimited Wilderness self-issue permit required (available at trailhead) from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend to October 31.
Usage: Heavy
Closest Towns: Westfir, OR
Water: Skookum Creek Campground, Otter Creek, Erma Bell Lakes, Taylor Burn Forest Camp
Passes: A valid recreation pass may be used as a form of fee payment at Erma Bell Trailhead at Skookum Creek Campground.
Information Center: Middle Fork Ranger Station

General Information


Access from:

General Notes:

Map of Erma Bell Lakes trail

Be sure to camp 200 feet or more off the shoreline and follow Leave No Trace methods so those after you can enjoy their stay. Mosquitoes go quickly after every warm blooded animal passing through the first half of the season.

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  Area/Length : 
4 miles

  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
4450 feet - 5200 feet