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Olallie Meadows-Olallie Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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Triangle Lake and Olallie Butte (bobcat)
Mossy pools, headwaters of the Clackamas River (bobcat)
Large noble fir, Lodgepole Trail (bobcat)
Marsh hollyhock (Sidalcea oregana), Cornpatch Meadow (bobcat)
Middle Lake, Olallie Lake Scenic Area (bobcat)
Loop hike from Olallie Meadows to Olallie Lake and back (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Olallie Meadows TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Olallie Lake
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 11.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1895 feet
  • High Point: 5,395 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



This loop option, mostly within the Olallie Lake Scenic Area, uses the Lodgepole, Red Lake, and Pacific Crest Trails, finishing with a short stretch of the Russ Lake Trail, to visit a series of lakes and meadows in an area once buried under a Pleistocene ice sheet several hundred feet thick. You will get many views of nearby Olallie Butte from various points during the hike, and Mount Jefferson thrusts its ancient volcanic plug to the south. The Lodgepole Trail, the former alignment of the old Skyline/Pacific Crest Trail, crosses several source creeks of the main branch of the Clackamas River and is little traveled; during the return along the Pacific Crest Trail on the lower slopes of Olallie Butte, you may encounter PCT through hikers towards the end of summer. The mileage above does not include short side trips to Gifford, Top, Olallie, Russ, and Jude Lakes. Doing all of these would make a hike total of about 14.5 miles.

The trail heads into woods with Olallie Meadows on your left. Come to the Lodgepole-Russ Lake Trail Junction and go right. Where the trail rises, keep right at the unmarked Lodgepole-Lodgepole Tie Trail Junction, where a short connector joins to the Pacific Crest Trail. Reach FR 4220 and cross it. The trail drops into mountain hemlock, silver fir, noble fir, and lodgepole pine woods. Come to a junction and keep right (Left goes to the Triangle Lake Horse Camp). At another junction, go left on the “wet” trail, which takes you to the marshy shores of Triangle Lake and great views of Olallie Butte. A sign says “Triangle Lake 4560’”. You may not be able to continue here through the water, so cut into the woods a few yards to join the “dry” trail. Head around the north shore of Triangle Lake. Sickle-top lousewort blooms everywhere in late summer. The trail veers right and drops in mountain hemlock woods with some grand fir. Rise over a low ridge with western white pine and chinquapin in the mix, and boxwood, Oregon grape, grouseberry and black huckleberry in the understory. The trail undulates in this section. Pass under power lines with a view of Olallie Butte to the left and Sisi Butte to the right. Cross the gravel powerline maintenance road and then drop into lodgepole pine/mountain hemlock forest with some larger Douglas-firs appearing. Drop into a lush depression which holds one of the sources of the Clackamas River. Engelmann spruce grow here. Step across a magical creek with several rock-rimmed mossy pools and shaded by huge Douglas-firs. Rise again under silver firs and mountain hemlocks and cross an old road bed. The trail drops and becomes a rut as it enters Cornpatch Meadows. This lush expanse is a wonderland of blooming cow parsnip, green false hellebore, marsh hollyhock, mountain meadow knotweed, lupine and cinquefoil. Reenter woods and head up under silver firs. The trail levels and you reach the Fish Lake-Lodgepole Trail Junction. A short diversion to the left takes you to the north shore of Lower Lake.

Keep straight at the junction, and come to an unmarked use trail leading left to Gifford Lake. To take this spur, ascend a little and then drop to Gifford Lake at 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 and rock-lined Middle Lake. This small lake gets deep fairly quickly and is a great place to take a dip and then bask on the boulders. From Middle Lake, 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. Two signs state the PCT is 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/2 miles respectively! 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 moraine ridge. The trail rises up to the crest of a ridge and then drops to the 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.

Back at the Pacific Crest-Red Lake Trail Junction, go right and pass below a ridge of jumbled boulders. 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 Mount Jefferson. Pass 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.

To continue, return to the Pacific Crest Trail and hike along shallow Head Lake's east shore. Cross FR 4220 and begin a gradual ascent along this wide track on the lower slopes of Olallie Butte. There are many dead trees in these silver fir, lodgepole pine and mountain hemlock woods. Then drop gradually and enter healthier forest growth where the trees are draped with lichen. Pass a small tarn and keep undulating. Get a glimpse of Mount Hood through the trees and drop to the Pacific Crest-Olallie Butte Trail Junction. Go straight here and pass under powerlines before crossing the powerline access road. Pass under a second set of powerlines. Some noble firs appear and also a few large Douglas-firs. There’s a small lake down to the left. After this, reach the Pacific Crest-Lodgepole Tie Trail Junction, and go straight, rising around rocky outcrops.

Reach the Pacific Crest-Russ Lake Trail Junction. Go left here for half a mile to return to the Olallie Meadows Trailhead. If you want to divert to yet another lake, go right for Russ Lake 1/4 mile away. The trail undulates, passing a water lily-studded tarn down to the left. Come to Russ Lake, where dragonflies buzz and the buckbean blooms in the water. Returning to the Pacific Crest-Russ Lake Trail Junction, you can go right on the wide PCT to Jude Lake, 1/4 mile away. The trail drops and rises to a nice new footbridge crossing the creek spilling out of Jude Lake. Return to the junction one more time, and go right on the Russ Lake Trail. The trail, sometimes rocky, descends. A short spur leads right to Brook Lake. Arrive at the Lodgepole-Russ Lake Trail Junction, but keep straight to the parking area at expansive Olallie Meadows, rimmed with twinberry, spiraea, willow, lodgepole pine, noble fir and mountain hemlock.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Olallie Meadows Campground and the rental cabin here have been closed in recent years because of "hazardous trees."
  • No swimming in Olallie Lake
  • Share some trails with mountain bikers and horses


  • 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

  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder
  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon by Eli Boschetto (PCT section)
  • The Olallie Scenic Area Guidebook by Tony George
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly (not PCT section)
  • Hiking the Oregon Skyline by Charles M. Feris (old Skyline Trail route)

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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