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Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail

Mt. Jefferson + Metolius River Area, Oregon

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Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail

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  • Huckleberries along the Whitewater Trail.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • One of the first views of Mount Jefferson.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Views to the northeast from the ridgeline looking at the South Breitenbush Trail route.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Lupine.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Mount Jefferson from the Whitewater Trail.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Spectacular views along the Whitewater Trail.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens) is one of just a handful of the broadleaf evergreens.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Spearleaf agoseris (Agoseris). Let the wildflowers begin!- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is actually a lily.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • The view about 3 miles from the trailhead. - Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • A wild carrot. Might be a species of angelica, maybe yampa.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Whitewater Creek crossing.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Purple monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii).- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Awesome meadows of wildflowers as you reach Jefferson Park. The red flowers are Indian paintbrush (Castilleja), the yellow are groundsel (Senecio).- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Awesome meadows of wildflowers as you reach Jefferson Park. The red flowers are Indian paintbrush (Castilleja), the yellow are groundsel (Senecio).- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Some type of aster (Erigeron).- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Looking across the meadow after entering Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495 ft).- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • This area receives heavy use.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Looking north along the Pacific Crest Trail toward Russell Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Looking south along the Pacific Crest Trail toward Mount Jefferson.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Trail to Russell Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail junction.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Looking east from Russell Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • :ooking south from Russell Lake to Mount Jefferson.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Partridge-foot (Luetkea pectinata) and butterfly (Polyommatinae).- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Park Butte (6,851 ft).- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Mount Jefferson from Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Best hammock spot ever?- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Mount Jefferson from near Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • National Guard searching for a missing hiker.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • View west from the Whitewater Trail.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Enjoying the views from the Whitewater Trail.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Whitewater Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Mount Jefferson from the Whitewater Trail.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Whitewater Creek in the fall.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • The first view of Mount Jefferson from the Whitewater Trail.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Sunset at Bays Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Milky Way over Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Mount Jefferson from Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Taking a dip in Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Moonlight over a tarn near Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Vibrant sunset over a tarn in Jefferson Park.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Moonlight during blue hour over Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Puffy clouds over Bays Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Vibrant sunset over Russell Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Alpenglow on Mount Jefferson above Scout Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Fall colors and mist along Whitewater Creek.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Golden hour over Russell Lake.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
  • Fall colors along Bays Lakeshore.- Jefferson Park via Whitewater Creek Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Easy access. Wildflowers. Multiple lakes.
Cons: 
Can be crowded. Reservations required to camp. Limited parking.
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Region:
Mt. Jefferson + Metolius River Area, OR
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,880.00 ft (573.02 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
11.25 mi (18.11 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,100.00 ft (1,249.68 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

A common misconception people have is that the Whitewater Trail’s (#3429) sole purpose is for access to Jefferson Park. While that is, of course, the most popular final destination, this trail has ample beauty to justify being worth the trip on its own.    

Your journey starts off with the signing of your free wilderness permit at the trailhead. This is an important detail to aid potential rescuers in the event of an emergency. Follow the rules, sign one of these, be as detailed about your trip plans as possible.   

The trail begins to gain elevation quickly from the parking area, and much of your 1,800 feet of climbing is completed in the first three miles of trail. This will feel like a blessing to some and a curse to others. Several switchbacks keep the grade manageable as you climb through old-growth forest. At 1.5 miles from the trailhead, turn right at the junction with Triangulation Trail (#3373), which leads to Triangulation Peak.

Around 2 miles from the trailhead you will emerge on the ridge and be delighted with your first views of Mount Jefferson. As you continue to climb, the forest gives way to a more rocky terrain.  Exposure can be severe in places, so mind your step and your pets  (this trail is a favorite of hikers with dogs).

At four miles from the trailhead you will reach an unaided crossing of Whitewater Creek. Summer and fall water levels are typically low enough to allow you to scramble across boulders without issue. Depending on the time of year the water may appear to be milky from the glacier melt taking place.

The trail joins the Pacific Crest Trail just 0.3 miles later, and from there an easy final mile puts you in the middle of Jefferson Park. Keep left at the PCT, which crosses one or two small creeks and a couple of small meadows. Soon you'll break out of the forest and the trail will level as you enter Jefferson Park.

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. These sites are almost all located to the east of the PCT as it runs through Jefferson Park and the standard fee is still required.

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(56 within a 30 mile radius)

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