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Olallie North Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Lower Lake, Olallie Lake Scenic Area (bobcat)
Gifford Lake and Olallie Butte (bobcat)
Purplish copper (Lycaena helloides), Middle Lake (bobcat)
View to Olallie Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail (bobcat)
Loop route through the northern section of the Olallie Scenic Area (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Lower Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Top Lake
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 955 feet
  • High Point: 5,395 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



This loop begins at the north end of the Olallie Lake Scenic Area and heads around old moraine ridges and lake basins on four different trails. You will pass several lakes, a few of which are eminently swimmable on a warm summer's day. Many of the lakes have campsites. Lesser scaups and pied-billed grebes scoot long on these quiet waters in the summer and there are some great huckleberry patches ("Olallie" is Chinook jargon for huckleberry). A couple of good side trips, totalling about a mile, visit Gifford Lake and Top Lake. The return to the trailhead involves walking about a mile along FR 4220 (Skyline Road).

Take the Fish Lake Trail #717 from the parking area at the Lower Lake Campground. Head up a rise among silver fir, huckleberry, grouseberry, and bear-grass. The trail soon drops under lodgepole pine, silver fir, mountain hemlock and western white pine. Reach Lower Lake and amble along its northern shore. There are campsites at the far end before you cross a creek. At the Fish Lake-Lodgepole Trail Junction, go left on the Lodgepole Trail #706.

Soon come to an unmarked use trail leading left to Gifford Lake. If you want to take this diversion, head up a rise and then down to Gifford Lake, where you will find a campsite and a small peninsula that splits the lake. There's a view to Olallie Butte on the left and Twin Peaks on the right. Back at the main trail, go left up a rocky, eroded path to a crest. Here you can find rocky-shored Middle Lake, more swimmable than some of the other lakes, which have vast expanses of shallow water. Head up over a rocky ridge and reach a small, wet meadow with a tarn on the left. Then descend on a rocky tread down to a shallow lake in a flat area and the Red Lake-Lodgepole Trail Junction: if you want to visit shallow Fork Lake, go 100 yards down the Red Lake Trail.

Return to the junction and keep straight (right) on the Red Lake Trail. The trail follows a rocky path under lodgepole pines and mountain hemlock. Huckleberry and grouseberry predominate in the undergrowth. Make a long ascent, passing a small, shallow lake on the left backed by a rubbly ridge. Tadpoles skitter for cover and alpine asters bloom here. The trail rises up to the crest of a ridge and then drops to the four-way Pacific Crest-Red Lake Trail Junction. Another diversion here is to continue on the Red Lake Trail to see Top Lake 1/4 mile ahead. Drop down, passing a bouldery ridge on the left and then a small tarn. From the Red Lake-Top Lake Trail Junction, go left to explore the lake's north shore, or head south to a meadow at the end of the lake abuzz with bees and flitting with butterflies. Olallie Butte sits in the background. There are a few campsites at Top Lake, but note that mosquitoes are more prevalent here.

Return to the Pacific Crest-Red Lake Trail Junction and go right on the Pacific Crest Trail. Pass below a jumbled, bouldery moraine ridge. Rise somewhat and then drop to get a great view of Mount Jefferson from a rocky rim. Olallie Lake sparkles like a sapphire to the east. The trail drops and Olallie Butte appears straight ahead. There are more great views of Jefferson. Pass rock-lined Scharf Lake on the left. From the rocky bluff, see a dark forest lake below. Drop to Head Lake and the junction with the short connector to the PCT parking. For another diversion, you can go down here to the parking lot, with a tarn below it, and then left to the day-use area and old ranger station at Olallie Lake. There's a great view of Mount Jefferson and you can stop in at the Olallie Lake Resort Store for refreshments.

The rest of the hike takes you up Skyline Road (FR 4220). Past Head Lake, you'll see First Lake to the left and a couple of shallow ponds on the right. Cross a cattle guard and turn left into Lower Lake Campground at a meadow blooming with asters.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Check for fire restrictions if you are camping


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Breitenbush, OR #525
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Olallie Scenic Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain (includes most of this hike)
  • The Olallie Scenic Area Guidebook by Tony George
  • Hiking the Oregon Skyline by Charles M. Feris (old Skyline Trail section)

More Links

Page Contributors

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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