Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,500.00 ft (762.00 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
11.60 mi (18.67 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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 Park 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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

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.

Trailhead Elevation

5,500.00 ft (1,676.40 m)

Net Elevation Gain

2,400.00 ft (731.52 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Big Game Watching

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Comments

10/02/2016
Fall colors were insane! + first snowfall
We did a back pack trip through Jefferson Park beginning at the Pamelia Lake trailhead. We spent the night at Scout Lake before a beautiful walk through Jefferson Park. The stunning views of Jefferson will leave you gasping and asking yourself, "Is this even real?" We ended our journey at Olallie lake the following day after spending another night at Upper Lake. I highly recommend the trip we did though, next time, we will add another day to do it so we have more time to enjoy "park" itself.
I did this at the end of July with my wife, mid-week.

What a beautiful hike. The drive after the Ollalie lake resort is certainly difficult but I was able to make it with a 2010 Subaru Outback without much difficulty, just have to go slow. I would say that I was more concerned about getting a flat than bottoming out and I wish I had brought a full size spare, but thankfully did not need it. Make sure your gas tank is full if you're heading in from Portland - it's a long remote drive.

For the hike itself, route finding was bad this time of year heading into the park and in the middle of the week we actually saw very few people. I would definitely recommend going up to Pyramid Butte as a side hike, it was doable and we enjoyed the view.

*We had great difficulty finding the camp site we reserved - I did not realize there was a reservation system until we saw the sign at the top of the ridge, and I used spotty internet connection from up there to make a reservation then lost signal. I ended up not being able to find the campsite, and pitched up at another site. They are numbered but good luck finding your particular site especially near the cluster of lakes away from Russel lake. Once you are in the park there are many trails, most of which are not labeled and you won't get lost but you also won't find anything. Make sure you take the GPS coordinates for your particular site!!!

Otherwise it's paradise in there. Wander around and enjoy but don't trample the wildflowers.
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