Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
3,213.00 ft (979.32 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
15.10 mi (24.30 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.

This 15-mile hike around Three Fingered Jack makes for a challenging day excursion or an excellent overnight opportunity. The route primarily follows the PCT (Trail #2000) and the Old Summit Lake Trail (trail #4014), but it also goes off-trail for a few miles. It is a good idea to have a topographic map and compass or at least a smart phone with a GPS app to help navigate these short off-trail segments.

The loop starts by following the PCT north from the Santiam Pass Trailhead. You’ll gradually climb through forest burned by the B&B Complex Fire in 2003. As you near Three Fingered Jack, the views start to get better. You’ll pass right beneath the crumbling west face of the mountain before starting to skirt around it. At mile 6.75 of this loop you’ll reach the top of a ridge and be greeted by a stellar view of the Canyon Creek Meadows area below (where you’ll be heading next). This is a great place to pull out a map and orient yourself. Descend the short stretch of switchbacks (the first significant ones of the trail thus far) and keep an eye open for an unmarked but well defined side trail that cuts to the right and toward the meadow. Veer off the PCT and follow this side trail as best you can (it will disappear in places, just keep heading downhill and toward the meadow and stream).

Once at Canyon Creek Meadows, take some time to enjoy this special place. If you're planning on an overnight trip, this is a great spot to spend the night. When you are ready to leave, consult your map and head south (uphill) toward the glacial tarn lake. The lake isn’t visible from the meadow, but there is a rough and steep trail that leads there. Continue to follow this trail past the lake and to the top of the ridge (basically as high as you can go). Be warned - this trail is steep, unmaintained, and rugged - use caution. Once on top of the ridge, enjoy the views and scout out a path down the other side. You’ll want to ultimately head in a southeasterly direction and toward the small green meadow in the distance. There isn’t much of a trail from here on out, so pick a path and have fun! 

Once you’ve descended the steep slope you’ll likely find a small creek that you can follow or, again, just head in a southeasterly direction until you hit the Old Summit Lake Trail. This section of cross country travel is definitely the least enjoyable because you’ll be making your way through a burn area with lots of downed trees to cross. Once back on some real tread, take a right and follow this trail south. You’ll pass Booth Lake and Square Lake (both excellent opportunities for a swim). As you approach Square Lake there is a junction; stay on the Old Summit Lake Trail. From here you’ll skirt the lake and travel about 2 miles until you reach the PCT again. Take a left and you’ll be back at the trailhead in no time at all. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

National or state forest pass

Open Year-round

No

Open from

June 15 to October 15

Pros

Diverse trail with mountains, meadows, and lakes.

Cons

Large burn area. sSome off-trail travel required.

Trailhead Elevation

4,845.00 ft (1,476.76 m)

Highest point

6,520.00 ft (1,987.30 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,675.00 ft (510.54 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Horseback riding
Potable water
Wildflowers
Bird watching
Glacier

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

Yes

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

So, I don't really think I'd advertise this hike as a 15 miler without providing a map to where those 15 miles are accounted for? The description was a little hard to follow and yes, we did have a map with us, but basically we ended up following the PCT and then the Old Summit trail for the whole 24 mile loop around 3FJ as we felt super shifty going off route.

If this is a DIY kinda thing I get it, but I just think I'd provide better details or some GPS tracking.
09/23/2018
Fantastic loop for a weekend 2 night trip.

Leave Santiam Pass trailhead friday night, camp up at summit lake.
Next day grab a site at upper canyon creek meadows, ditch the pack, and explore the ridge and glacial tarn.
Hike out sunday

Not sure I'd recommend the bushwacking down from the ridge to Booth lake.
It's longer but the trail back from the meadows past Jack lake to Booth and Square lakes is really nice.
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.