NW Forest Pass
The 5.8-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail into Jefferson Park is one of Oregon’s most coveted hikes. Both the journey and the destination are truly spectacular.
Jefferson Park is a flat basin at the bottom of Mount Jefferson’s north side. It’s a lush valley situated in a protected bowl with the glaciated stratovolcano on one side and the 6,900-foot Jefferson Ridge on the other. Known for its stunning display of wildflowers in late summer and its numerous subalpine lakes, the park captivates outdoor enthusiasts of all types, be they PCT through-hikers, casual explorers, or photographers hoping to snap the perfect shot.
Access into Jefferson Park can be gained either from the north via Jefferson Ridge, the trailhead at Breitenbush Lake, or from the west via Sentinel Hills and NF-2243 (also roughly 5.8 miles one-way).
When accessing the park from the north there are basically two schools of thought:
- The first approach is to hit the trail around late July to experience the peak of the wildflower bloom, with thick meadows of common red paintbrush, the white petals of western pasque flower, and the ubiquitous deep violet bulbs of countless alpine lupine. The downside of this early entry is that snow fields are likely on the top of Jefferson Ridge, making the route along the PCT difficult to navigate. Luckily, tall cairns are strung along the trail above tree line, and you’ll likely need to follow them closely. Once at the top of the ridge, should you lose the trail, simply pick up the trail by descending/traversing east-bound.
- The second approach is to get into Jefferson Park more toward late August/early September to avoid navigating the snowfields of Jefferson Ridge. Timing can vary based on snowfall the previous winter, but typically waiting this long will ensure a nearly ‘dry’ entry. Although most of the lupine will have dropped their flowers and sprouted their pea pods by this point, numerous other wildflower should still be present, including magenta paintbrush, cascade aster, pearly everlasting, white-topped western bistort, and explorer's gentian. You’ll also still find common western monkeyflower and Lewis’s monkeyflower lining the stream banks.
As an alternate route, consider the roughly 2-mile detour that ascends to the top of 6,095-foot Pyramid Butte. The old Skyline Trail can be difficult to find, but views from the top of this jagged outcropping are worth the additional mileage. When considered independently, the climb to the top of Pyramid Butte makes for a relatively easy, 3.4 mile round-trip day hike.
Note: If you are driving in from Olallie Lake, note that the section of road between Horseshoe and Breitenbush Lake (roughly 2 miles) is very rough, and a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is recommend. Further, backcountry camping within 250 feet of Jefferson Park’s lakes is only permitted at signed, designated campsites.