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Pansy Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pansy Lake, in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness (bobcat)
Salmon polemonium (Polemonium carneum), Pansy Lake Trail (bobcat)
Old growth at the wilderness boundary. (Matt Reeder)
The trail to Pansy Lake in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness - Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Pansy Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Pansy Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 470 feet
  • High point: 4,000 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Late spring-early fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

The short trail to Pansy Lake is hands down the best family hike in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area. The trail climbs steadily, but never steeply, about a mile to a beautiful lake tucked into a basin below Pansy Mountain and the Bull of the Woods Lookout site. For those with more energy, you can continue up to the Bull of the Woods Lookout site, the peak from which the wilderness area derives its name. (The lookout itself was destroyed in the Bull Complex Fire of 2021; the fire did not affect Pansy Lake itself although it burned on the ridges around.)

The trail begins across from the parking area, enters the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, and goes up through old growth Douglas-fir, western hemlock, noble fir and silver fir, crossing a few small creeks. Vine maple, rhododendron, and huckleberry predominate in the understory. At a switchback, you can take a spur leading steeply down to a secluded campsite. From here, you can head into the Pansy Basin’s big meadow, which glows golden in the fall below red vine maple bursts on the scree slopes above. Pansy Creek flows through a bog and down the west side of the basin, which attracts elk in the mornings and evenings. There is no easy bushwhack from here up to the lake, so return to the main trail and switchback up past the Pansy Basin-Dickey Lake Trail Junction. The trail rises gently to the short spur that leads west along shallow Pansy Lake’s north shore where there are a number of campsites. On the slope above the lake’s western shore, you can search for Robert Bagby and Joe Davis’ Pansy Blossom Mine, where they dug for copper in the late 19th century.

While in the area, there is much to do. From the junction at the lake, you can switchback up to the Pansy Basin-Mother Lode Trail Junction and eventually reach the Bull of the Woods Lookout site. You could also return via a loop by heading down into Pansy Basin, though this loop is not recommended unless you are a skilled bushwhacker. Dickey Lake is another possibility. As with any hike, be sure to carry adequate maps or a detailed guidebook if you plan on making any such excursions.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Pansy Lake Trail #551 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Bull of the Woods, OR #524SX
  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • Adventure Maps: Mount Jefferson, Bull of the Woods & Opal Creek Wilderness Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Located in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area; all wilderness restrictions apply.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles by Paul Gerald
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • A Hiker's Guide to Oregon's Hidden Wilderness (Central Cascades Conservation Council)

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.