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Santiam Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Three Fingered Jack and Santiam Lake (Cheryl Hill)
  • Start point: Santiam Pass TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Santiam Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 10.2 miles
  • High point: 5,250 feet
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: June-November
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

Most hikers choose to reach Santiam Lake via the Duffy Lake Trail. The route described here is about 0.8 miles longer, and more than half the route is through a burn area, but you will encounter fewer hikers than on the Duffy Lake “freeway” and there is plenty of scenery to enjoy.

The trail starts at the east end of the parking lot. After filling out a free self-issue wilderness permit you will hike a few hundred feet and turn left (north) onto the PCT. After 0.2mi you will reach the junction with Summit Lake Trail #4014 on the right. You will stay straight. In another 0.1mi you will pass the wilderness boundary, marked by a sign on a post.

You are hiking through forest burned in the massive 2003 B&B Complex Fire, which burned more than 90,000 acres (including 40,000 acres in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness). Pines, manzanita, beargrass, and other vegetation is growing back in abundance. As you hike this first section be sure to look over your left shoulder for a view of Mt. Washington, part of the Three Sisters, flat-topped Hayrick Butte, and Hoodoo Butte.

After one mile pass a small unnamed snowmelt pond on the right. At 1.3 miles you will reach a junction near a large rocky hill. The PCT continues to the right and you will turn left onto the Santiam Lake Trail.

The trail surface is mostly dust and volcanic ash and hiking here is like walking through beach sand. After passing through a small unburnt patch of forest, you’ll be back in the burn where you will be able to see the top of three fingered Jack through the snags head of you. Pass another snowmelt pond on your left.

At 2.2 miles, you will reach a junction with the old Santiam Lodge Trail #3496 on the left. This unmaintained trail is one of many that were abandoned after the 2003 fire. You will stay on the main trail, which makes a right turn here.

At 2.7 miles, the trail descends a bit and skirts a meadow to the right. The forest here only partially burned, and tall survivor trees are interspersed with burned snags. At 3.1 miles, cross Lost Lake Creek, which is nothing more than a dry rocky creek bed by late summer. The trail ascends and at 3.3 miles you finally leave the burn area behind for good and enter cool shady forest.

The trail crosses a wide flat plain before re-entering the trees and climbing. At 5.2 miles, pass a pond on the left where you will find a few campsites. The trail descends to a junction in a meadow. The main trail heads to the left, but you will take the trail to the right. After 0.2 miles you will reach the southern shore of the lake with nice views of Three Fingered Jack. User trails head off in various directions. You will find campsites here, as well as on the far side of the lake.

Return the way you came.

FURTHER EXPLORATIONS

Visit Duffy Lake and/or Mowich Lake by returning to the main trail and continuing north approximately half a mile to the junction with the Dixie Lakes Trail, which heads off to the right. Stay straight and hike for half a mile to another junction. Stay to the left to reach Duffy Lake, or turn right on the Blue Lake Trail and head to Mowich Lake. The trail passes through a pretty meadow where asters bloom in late summer. The trail starts climbing, enters part of the burn area, then re-enters the forest. One mile from the junction a side trail on the left heads downhill to the southern end of Mowich Lake. Across the lake at the north end is Red Butte. Much of the forest surrounding this lake burned in 2003, but not all of it. Back on the main trail user trails lead to a few campsites in the trees.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 parking fee or Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass)
  • A wilderness self-issue permit (available at trailhead) is required.

Maps


Trip Reports


Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder
  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades (second edition) by William L. Sullivan

More Links


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.

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.