Summary: Everything you need to know to visit Sparks Lake in Oregon, where to stay, time of day, season, Sparks Lake photography tips and more. *I use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Thanks for your support!
Land Acknowledgement: Tribes of Warm Springs, Klamath, and Molalla. Find what Native Land you are visiting by using the app Native Land!
About Sparks Lake
Sparks Lake is about 25 miles west of Bend, Oregon in the Deschutes National Forest. At Sparks Lake you have incredible views of multiple mountains: South Sister, Broken Top and Bachelor Butte.
Getting to Sparks Lake
- Distance from Seattle: 6.5 hours
- Distance from Portland: 4 hours
- Distance from San Francisco: 8.5 hours
I recommend routing to Sparks Lake Day Use Area. This will route you to a medium sized parking lot off of a forest road that has (in my opinion) the best views for photography.
Parking Pass & Fees
The Northwest Forest pass is required here. If you have the National Park pass – America the Beautiful, this will also cover you!
There was no kiosk to purchase these passes at Sparks Lake. I recommend securing a pass before. You can purchase a day pass for $5 online and print it off HERE.
According to other maps and websites there is one vault toilet here. I have not been able to find it either time I’ve visited here. Make sure you Leave No Trace when visiting!
Best Time of Year and Day to Visit Sparks Lake
Time of Year
I have been to Sparks Lake in early June and October. Both months were perfect for photos and avoiding large crowds. The road typically closes in December-March due to snowfall. The weather can vary around these months. I was lucky both times to have a chilly morning, but overall good weather.
Time of Day
Sunrise. I honestly don’t know if I’d even want to take photos here at sunset after experiencing the stunning colors, light and reflection at sunrise both times. Another perk of going at sunrise is you’ll have way fewer people to have to maneuver around to get your shots.
Sparks Lake Photography Tips
- Get to Sparks Lake right before sunrise. This will allow you to scope out the area and hold a spot before the crowds show up. Good news is there are multiple camping spots along the forest road to get to Sparks Lake, making it for a quick wake up and go. See below for camping info.
- Explore!! This place is stunning and there are so many places to get different angles and perspectives here. We took the photo above to the left of the day use parking and also ventured straight down to the lake from the parking lot for a different perspective.
- Bring hand warmers! Without my hand warmers, I would have had a tough time using my hands to operate my camera, but maybe I’m a wimp haha! Sparks Lake photography is incredible, but can be very chilly.
- Gear we used to get these shots: Sony a6400 with a Sigma 24-70 mm 2.8 Art lens. Having a lens that zooms to 70 mm allowed us to make the mountain appear closer and therefore larger in the photos. This means that the person taking the photo was standing back maybe 20-30 feet away from the person modeling.
- Always invest more money in good lenses vs the newest camera. Lenses hold their value longer and also can make your images look way better even with a cheaper camera.
Where to Stay Near Sparks Lake
Camping near Sparks Lake
If you’re okay with roughing it a little bit, there are so many camping options near Sparks Lake, making that sunrise mission a little less painful in the morning.
- Forest Road – We stayed on a pull off spot on the forest road leading to Sparks Lake. There are around 12 spots here and these tend to fill up on the weekends!
- Sparks Lake Camping – there are 22 campsites around Sparks Lake that are mostly accessible by boat. If you have a canoe or kayak – these are for you. See a map of spots HERE.
- Soda Creek Campground – 10 minutes from the Sparks Lake day use area and $12 per night. You can reserve at recreation.gov HERE. This campground is open May 28 – September 25
Bend, Oregon is 40 minutes away and has many hotels and Airbnb options if camping is not for you!
Get $65 off your first Airbnb by signing up through my link HERE
Pin for Later!!