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Acker Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Acker Lake (Steve Hart)
Forgotten meadows on the Cascade Crest Trail (Steve Hart)
Signposts (Steve Hart)
Loop route shown in red (bobcat)
  • Start point: Thomas Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Bear Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 10.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 860 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Aug-Nov
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This hike explores an old section of the Cascade Crest Trail, the predecessor of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington.

Start up the Thomas Lake Trail (#111) from the Thomas Lake Trailhead. You’ll climb a short half-mile to a cluster of three lakes. Dee Lake and Heather Lake (on the left) are small ponds, but Thomas Lake, on the right, is a larger lake. Camping in this area is restricted to marked campsites. There’s a signed trail junction 1/10 of a mile farther, where a short spur trail leads to Eunice Lake, where there’s a single campsite.

Next, there’s a short, if rugged, climb to a plateau. The trail passes through a beautiful meadow with a boardwalk and then begins a gentle climb to Naha Lake and Rock Lake. Rock Lake has several beautiful campsites and makes a great rest spot.

There’s a very old trail information sign just before Rock Lake. At one time, this was the end of the Thomas Lake Trail, where it joined the Cascade Crest Trail. South of here, the original alignment of the Cascade Crest Trail now forms the modern, longer Thomas Lake Trail. North of here, the Cascade Crest Trail is no longer maintained and pretty much forgotten. For this hike, forge ahead northward from the sign on the old trail. The trail is faint in the first meadow, but pretty obvious from there on.

You’ll drop through a thin forest, filled with huckleberries. The trail here has been quite eroded by runoff and you’ll need watch for rocks in the tread. Soon the trail drops into a large meadow with a weaving creek. When the creek dries in the late summer, the creekbed becomes a long, irregular pond through the meadow. The path here is clear, but even so, it’s marked with aging yellow poles. The trail continues northward for 1.8 miles through several beautiful meadows. You’ll see a few sections of braided trail and it seems obvious that Forest Service moved the trail to protect these fragile meadows from further damage. The last meadow contains Acker Lake, with a gorgeous campsite. Just north of Acker Lake, there’s a trail junction marked with a red board nailed to a tree. Take the right fork and leave the old Cascade Crest Trail here. Head up a steep path for about 1/10 of a mile, to the crest of the ridge. At the top, you’ll be overlooking Bear Lake from the Elk Lake Trail. There’s a use path down to shore of the lake. You can also head left for 0.4 miles to visit Elk Lake (See the Elk Lake Add-on Hike).

When you’re done at Bear Lake, head south (uphill) on the Elk Lake Trail for a short distance to the modern Pacific Crest Trail. Turn right and head south. The modern PCT is a much better and faster trail than the old CCT. On the other hand, a lot has been sacrificed in views to preserve the meadows below. It’s 2.6 miles on the PCT from Bear Lake to Blue Lake. You’ll pass Junction Lake in about a mile, but other than that, this section of the hike is pretty boring forest stuff.

At Blue Lake, turn right on the Thomas Lake Trail. There are several places to access Blue Lake from the trail. You’ll soon pass Lake Sahalee Tyee, on the right. Stay to the left at a signed trail junction. The Thomas Lake Trail passes a series of meadows and ponds including Lake Umtux. This is one of the prettiest sections of Indian Heaven, but the trail can be boggy. When you get to Rock Lake, you’ll be in familiar territory. Turn left and head down the Thomas Lake Trail back to your car.


Regulations or restrictions, etc

• Northwest Forest Pass required at the trailhead. There is a dropbox for day use. • Wilderness permits are required. There’s a register station at the trailhead.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking the Gifford Pinchot Backcountry by the Columbia Group Sierra Club

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.