Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge

Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Oregon

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Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge

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  • The beginning of the trail through a forest dominated by noble fir and mountain hemlock.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Fringed grass of Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata).- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • A scree field near the trailhead.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • A panoramic view looking north toward Pyramid Butte (6,059').- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Richardson's penstemon (Penstemon richardsonii).- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Cascade blueberry (Vaccinium deliciosum).- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • View north toward Mount Hood (11,249') and Pyramid Butte (6,059').- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • The Pacific Crest Trail en route to Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Looking northwest from the PCT, just north of Jefferson Ridge.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Looking north from PCT.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • PCT en route to Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Looking west below Jefferson Ridge.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • PCT en route to Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • PCT en route to Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • View south from Jefferson Ridge toward Mount Hood (11,249') and Olallie Butte (7,215').- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495') from Jefferson Ridge.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495') from Jefferson Ridge.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) at top of Jefferson Ridge.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495') en route to Jefferson park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Field of lupine (lupinus) just north of Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Magenta paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora) in Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Jefferson Park wildflowers.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Common red paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) in Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495') from Jefferson Park near Russell Lake.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495') from Jefferson Park near Russell Lake.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Explorer's gentian (Gentiana calycosa) and aster.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495') at sunset from Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Scout Lake sunset.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Bays Lake.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Fall foliage surrounds Shitke Lake.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Morning light on Mount Jefferson from Park Ridge to the north.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
  • Russell Lake just before sunset.- Jefferson Park Hike via Jefferson Ridge
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Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Stunning wildflower meadow. Views of Mount Jefferson.
Cons: 
Rugged, four-wheel drive road access after 16 miles of rough gravel road. Limited seasonal access.
Region:
Mt. Jefferson + Metolius River Area, OR
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
NW Forest Pass
Total Distance: 
11.60 mi (18.67 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
5,500 ft (1,676 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
2,400 ft (732 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Dogs allowed: 
Yes

Current Local Weather

Today

Slight Chance Rain Showers
54°F
42°

Wed

Chance Rain Showers
49°F
36°

Thu

Chance Rain/Snow
43°F
32°

Fri

Slight Chance Rain Showers
41°F
32°

Sat

Partly Sunny
47°F
33°

Sun

Partly Sunny
49°F
38°
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  Backcountry camping within 250 feet of Jefferson Park’s lakes is only permitted at signed, designated campsites. Thirty sites around five lakes are available, and reservations are required between Memorial Day and October 1; these can be made at recreation.gov starting May 1. You may camp in a pre-existing campsite outside of the 250-foot designated area if all campsites are reserved.

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