If you regularly travel between Eugene or Salem and the Cascades, chances are you've sped past this nondescript sno-park on your way across Santiam Pass without stopping to check it out. The next time you're headed over the pass, throw some snowshoes in your car and stop here for a quick viewpoint jaunt. A couple of well-marked trails lead out from the Potato Hill Sno-Park. Take the Hash Brown Loop for a pleasant, well-marked 3-mile walk through the woods.
If it's views you're after, then venture off on Jack Pine Road. This route goes straight to a dead end at a lovely viewpoint of Three Fingered Jack. Or keep walking beyond the viewpoint up the ridge to the summit of Potato Hill. There you'll see everything from Mount Jefferson to Black Butte and the Three Sisters.
Potato Hill lies at the southern end of the B&B Complex fires that burned over 90,000 acres of forest in 2003. As you climb up toward the summit ridge beyond the end of Jack Pine Road you'll enter an eerie post-burn landscape. In winter, the blackened tree skeletons contrast beautifully with the sparkling white snow. Take your time to weave your own path through the sparse trees and identify all the volcanoes in the distance.
For a fun adventure, snowshoe the ridge to the summit of Potato Hill, then backtrack to the western edge of the ridge. Hike south down the hill to intersect the Hash Brown Loop Trail. Finish the loop and return to the sno-park.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.