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Breitenbush Lake

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Jefferson rises over Breitenbush Lake. (Matt Reeder)
Breitenbush Lake from the south end, near the stone shelter. Note Olallie Butte in the background. (Matt Reeder)



Much like Olallie Lake, Breitenbush Lake is a large lake with a grand view of Mount Jefferson. However, unlike its more famous neighbor to the north, Breitenbush Lake is not easily accessible by any stretch of the imagination, the campground on the north end of the lake is not as large or as well-developed as any of the campgrounds that ring Olallie Lake, and Mount Jefferson cannot be seen from the campground. Furthermore, Breitenbush Lake is known for having a truly astonishing mosquito population; any visit to the lake before mid-August will result in at least 20 bites, if not more (June to mid-July, you will be absolutely swarmed). However, much like Olallie Lake, the scenery is grand and the lake perfect for boating and fishing.

To arrive at Breitenbush Lake, drive southeast from Portland on State Hwy 224 to Ripplebrook, some 25 miles from Estacada. From Ripplebrook continue straight on 224, which turns into paved FR46, passing signs for Olallie Lake. At Breitenbush Pass where FR46 begins its descent into the Breitenbush River canyon, turn left onto FR4220, following signs for Breitenbush Lake. After one mile of good gravel, FR 4220 turns into a narrow, rocky, and very rutted track more suitable for jeeps than passenger cars. Drive 5.5 miles of worsening road past the Breitenbush Trailhead, and then continue another half-mile to the campground on the right. Along the way you'll enter the Warm Springs Reservation, which maintains the campground. Alternately, you can drive to Olallie Lake and continue along FR 4220 (Skyline Road) up one of the worst stretches of road in the state to Breitenbush Lake.

Use of the area is restricted as it became part of tribal territory in 1972 with the implementation of the McQuinn Survey boundaries. Over the years, the tribe has reacted to some abuse of their property by clamping down on certain areas, so you can no longer walk around the lake on a rough trail from the campground to the east end for a view of Mount Jefferson (The picture above was taken when you could still do this). The southwest end of the lake is very marshy; this is where the mosquitoes come from. You can also backtrack half a mile to the Breitenbush Trailhead of the Pacific Crest Trail to hike the Jefferson Park via Park Ridge Hike. You can also walk FR 4220 northeast to take up the Gibson Lake Trail and make a scenic 4 1/2 mile loop back to the lake on the PCT (See the Gibson Lake Loop Hike). DO NOT attempt to hike south from the campground on unofficial trails towards Kuckup Park and Harvey Lake. However tempting it may be to try and access this area, the area around Harvey Lake is closed to nontribal members and they enforce this closure. Stick with the PCT and the lake.

A historic shelter and water fountain still stand in the campground; they were constructed in the days when the property was managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

The lake is on Warm Springs Reservation land, and the campground is run by the Reservation. Consequently, there are many rules governing Breitenbush Lake and others on the Reservation. Swimming in lakes is prohibited as is any huckleberry picking on Warm Springs land. Fishing from the campground area is O.K. Hiking is permitted only on the Pacific Crest and Gibson Lake Trails. Remember - you are on a reservation, and you are subject to their rules.

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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.

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