Oregon is super well-known for its beautiful ocean landscapes and lush green forests along the coast – but did you know that central Oregon is a whole separate world of beauty?! Sooo many people underestimate the beauty of central Oregon, since most tourists visit the Oregon Coast or Portland when they take a trip here. But y’all, some of my FAVORITE places in the entire state are located in the Bend area of central Oregon, including the 14 (!!) spectacular Cascade Lakes. To keep it simple, this is a guide to specifically planning a Sparks Lake elopement – trust me when I say you’ll be sooo pleasantly surprised at the beauty that central Oregon has to offer!!
I’m obsessed with Sparks Lake not only because it has jaw-dropping mountain views, but because it ALSO has golden grassy fields and deep green forests that you can explore. So you can really get such a variety of landscapes for your elopement, all at one location!
Sparks Lake is a natural lake located about 40 minutes (27 miles) west of Bend, Oregon, just off the Cascade Lakes Highway – one of the true hidden gems of central Oregon. It’s a must-visit if you’re spending any time in the Bend area, especially since it’s close to the rest of the Cascade Lakes that you can visit all in one day!
The Cascade Lakes are a series of 14 lakes in central Oregon located off of the aptly-named Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. So not only can you take a trip from Bend to see the gorgeous Sparks Lake – you can also drive around and admire the rest of the stunning Cascade Lakes, where you’ll get a collection of breathtaking views of Mt. Bachelor and the rest of the Cascade Mountain Range, wildflower meadows, reflective lakes, and lush forests.
A few of my fave lakes that are a part of the Cascade Lakes are Sparks Lake, Todd Lake, & Devils Lake, but ALL of them are super beautiful. The “first” lake in the chain, the lake furthest north, is Sparks Lake, and the southmost lake is Davis Lake. For reference, they’re just under 3 hours apart!
Here’s a full list of all the Cascade Lakes if you wanna check ‘em all out:
The best time of year to visit Sparks Lake is summer through early fall, I’d say from around June through November. These months will give you the warmest temperatures, which can be annoying if you don’t want to be sweaty, but will give you the opportunity to cool off in the lake if you want to go paddle boarding, boating, or swimming! You’ll get long days with lots of light during the summer, which is epic if you & your elopement guests want to spend a day at the lake, enjoying the sunshine and stunning views.
You definitely won’t want to elope at Sparks Lake in the winter, since it’ll be pretty chilly and snowy.
Just keep in mind that summer is when Sparks Lake will be the busiest, so try eloping on a weekday if you’re able to!
Sunrise at Sparks Lake is STUNNING if you’re down to have an early start to your elopement day – I highly recommend eloping at sunrise if your schedule allows, because the crowds won’t be there quite yet, and you’ll hopefully get an amazing sunrise! Seriously, nothing beats a lake as the sun comes up, with dew on the leaves around you and fresh views of the mountains.
If you want to elope at Sparks Lake at sunset, or in the afternoon, just be aware that there may be crowds – especially on weekends, so you may have to walk around a bit to find a spot that isn’t as busy.
Yes you can! The water doesn’t get any deeper than 10 feet, so it’s safe for both boating and swimming. Y’all – just imagine wrapping up your summertime Sparks Lake elopement with an afternoon charcuterie board picnic by the beach, stripping down to your swimsuit, and going for a swim in the lake with breathtaking mountain views right in front of you. Sounds pretty epic to me!
Because Sparks Lake is part of the Deschutes National Forest, you’ll need a day-use recreation pass from the National Forest Service. You’ll need either an annual Northwest Forest Pass ($30) or a day-use pass ($5/vehicle/day), which you can purchase in person once you get there or online here.
Hell yeah you can! If you want to go stand-up paddle boarding on Sparks Lake you can rent SUP’s from a company like Northwest SUP & Fitness. It would be sooo much fun renting SUP’s for you and your guests and spending some time out on the water the morning of your Sparks Lake elopement!
Yes! You can take either Sparks Lake Loop or the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail. Sparks Lake Loop is a super easy 1.4-mile round trip trail doable for all ages, with only 40 feet of elevation gain. You can bring your whole fam to see the stunning Cascade Mountains from this short trail, or you can take the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail, which is a 2.4-mile loop that’s also super easy and takes under an hour. Both trails are dog-friendly (leashed), wheelchair-friendly, and kid-friendly, and will provide you with breathtaking views, with minimal effort!
Yes, leashed dogs are allowed at Sparks Lake!
Unfortunately you can’t camp at the day use area or the boat ramp at Sparks Lake.
You’ll def want to take advantage of the many gorgeous places to stay in the Bend area for your Sparks Lake elopement – there are TONS of beautifully-decorated Airbnbs in the desert and even luxurious resorts + spas. So whether you want to rent a huge cabin to stay in with your guests or you want to stay in a 5-star resort where you and your boo can get a post-elopement couples massage, you’ve got plenty of options!
Two of my personal favorite places to stay near Sparks Lake are Suttle Lake Lodge & FivePine Lodge in Sisters, OR. Both of these happen to ALSO be epic wedding venues – so if you’re looking for a place to stay that can double as an elopement/wedding location, definitely check out those two specifically!
*Ash + Mac stayed at this freaking INCREDIBLE lookout tower for their Bohemian Airbnb Elopement – check it out here for real-life Terrebonne elopement inspo!
Y’all know I’m a big food lover over here and would never let you leave without some bomb food reccs 😉 Here are some of the best restaurants near Sparks Lake to eat at on your elopement day, or just during your time in the area in general!
If you know for sure you want to elope in the amazing Bend area (maybe at one of the Cascade Lakes, or at Smith Rock State Park), I created a whole separate Bend Elopement Guide just for you with EVERYTHING you should know about eloping in Bend. Check it out here – I promise y’all won’t want to miss it!
Not quite sure you want to elope at Sparks Lake, but know you want to elope in central Oregon? I got you covered – here are some bonus guides to a few more of my favorite central Oregon elopement locations, plus a couple real-life elopements to inspire your big day!