We kicked off six days of hiking with a visit to Jefferson Park. Since 2011 Jefferson Park had been an annual destination until last year when we were forced to skip our visit due to the Whitewater Fire. For this years visit we started at the South Breitenbush Trailhead.
This was our second time on this trail with our first coming in 2013 (post). We had remembered that the trail was quite rocky, but forgotten how much more of a climb it was than either the Whitewater (post) or Woodpecker Ridge (post) trails. The Whitewater Trail remains closed for now due to the fire while the Woodpecker Ridge Trail is open but undergoing repairs by the Forest Service. The other option to reach Jefferson Park is from the north via the PCT over Park Ridge (post) but one time driving the road to that trailhead was enough for us.
We followed the South Breitenbush Trail uphill through the trees along the increasingly rocky tread.
At the two mile mark we found that the Forest Service had replaced the sign for the Bear Point Trail, a hike that is on our schedule for next year.
Bear Point Trail sign 2013
Bear Point Trail sign 2018
There aren’t many views of Mt. Jefferson along the lower portion of the trail and on this day the mountain was playing peak-a-boo through some clouds.
Just over a half mile from the pond the trail passes over a ridge and descends through a rock field where we spotted one of our favorite animals, a pika.
After the descent the trail levels out somewhat as it passes through wildflower meadows before arriving alongside the South Breitenbush River.
As we neared a junction with a side trail to Park Lake at the six mile mark a break in the clouds finally revealed Mt. Jefferson.
We decided to return via Park Lake so we stuck to the South Breitenbush Trail after crossing the river on rocks and climbed for nearly a half mile to its end at the Pacific Crest Trail.
PCT heading south through Jefferson Park.
We turned left on the PCT and headed north crossing the river again before turning right toward Russell Lake after .2 miles.
Russell Lake never disappoints. We passed around its north end and took a break on some rocks on its SE side.
After a snack we continued around the lake for a bit before veering to the SW and returning to the PCT which we followed south for .3 miles to a sign for Scout and Bays Lakes.
By the time we had reached Scout Lake the clouds had gained the upper hand and Mt. Jefferson had all but vanished.
With the mountain hidden and a five day backpacking trip beginning the next day we decided to skip Bays Lake and turned right at a sign for Rock and Park Lakes.
We likewise skipped Rock Lake this time staying above it and passing Park Lake.
We returned to the South Breitenbush Trail and headed back down to the trailhead. With the clouds rising to overtake Mt. Jefferson there was a better view of the surrounding valleys and ridges which showed the scars of the Whitewater Fire.
Aside from a few trees on hilltops surrounding the park there was no other visible sign of the Whitewater fire in the areas we visited.
We had been a little surprised by the lack of people we encountered in Jefferson Park but we were apparently just a bit early because we passed a lot of people heading up as we were descending. We made it back to our car by 1:30pm after hiking 14.3 miles and headed home to pack. It had been a relatively quick visit to Jefferson Park but we were planning on being on the road by 5am the next morning in hopes of reaching the Elkhorn Crest Trailhead before 11am. Happy Trails!