Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

The Three Pyramids and Parrish, Riggs & Daly Lakes – 07/18/2020

When we scheduled our vacation weeks back, in January, we had no idea the issues that Covid-19 would create. We’ve been doing our best to socially distance and wear masks when that isn’t possible, but was going on a trip different? Fortunately for us we’ve stayed healthy and our plans for this vacation had been a trip to the Lakeview, OR area where the number of Covid-19 cases has been low and the likelihood of encountering many (if any) other hikers was low. Before heading to Lakeview we planned on stopping to visit Heather’s parents in Bend. On our way to Bend we stopped for three short hikes.

Our first stop was at the Pyramids Trailhead to check off one more featured hike from William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades”.

We had been to this trailhead once before but that was for a backpacking trip to the Middle Santiam Wilderness (post) when we took the South Pyramid Creek Trail. This time after we crossed Park Creek we turned right on the Pyramids Trail.


The trail climbed along Park Creek passing a series of small falls before crossing the creek.




The trail then passed a meadow filled cirque.

The trail climbed from the cirque via a series of switchbacks to a ridge where the trail turned left heading for the Middle Pyramid. There were several nice wildflower displays along the climb.


IMG_9413Death camas





20200718_091211Larkspur and penstemon



The trail followed the ridge to the cliffs of the Middle Pyramid and wrapped around its north side to a junction 2 miles from the trailhead. Several mountains could be seen from this stretch of trail.
IMG_9465Middle Pyramid from the ridge.

IMG_9477Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters



IMG_9501Mt. Jefferson

IMG_9506Valerian and columbine

IMG_9507Mountain bluebells

The junction was with the Old Cascade Crest Trail coming up from the North Pyramid Trailhead three and a half miles away.

We turned left continuing toward the Middle Pyramid climbing to a saddle just below it’s summit which was to the right.

IMG_9529Looking up toward the summit from the saddle.

We clambered up a rocky path to the former lookout site atop the peak where a 360 degree view awaited.
IMG_9535Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

IMG_9538South Pyramid with snowy Diamond Peak to the left in the distance.

IMG_9568Cone Peak and Iron Mountain (post)

IMG_9545Mt. Hood framed between Coffin Mountain and Bachelor Mountain (post) and Mt. Jefferson.

IMG_9562A faint Mt. Adams to the left of Mt. Hood

IMG_9555Meadow from the summit.

We returned the way we’d come and headed for our second stop of the day which was originally going to be the Riggs Lake Trailhead. We had planned on making three more including Riggs Lake (Parrish and Daly Lakes being the other 2) but FR 2266 had a number trees over it beyond the Parrish Lake Trailhead so we decided to park there and walk the 1.2 miles up FR 2266 to the Riggs Lake Trailhead.

Since we were already at the Parrish Lake Trailhead we started by hiking down the Parrish Lake Trail .6 miles to the lake.

IMG_9604North Pyramid


IMG_9608Rough skinned newts

After visiting Parrish Lake we headed down FR 2266 to the Riggs Lake Trailhead. It wasn’t too bad as far as road walks go. It appeared that someone had attempted to do some road maintenance at some point.


The trailhead was well signed including what appeared to be a fairly new trail sign.

The condition of the trail left much to be desired. It was only a half mile to the lake, and after having walked the 1.2 miles on FR 2266 we weren’t about to let some blowdown stop us (it almost did though).




We managed to make it to Riggs Lake which was actually pretty nice.

IMG_9655Crab spider on prince’s pine

Once upon a time the trail continued uphill to Don Lake but has been abandoned for some time. Given the condition of the trail up to Riggs Lake we had no thoughts of trying to continue on.
IMG_9663The trail used to continue on the other side of the inlet creek.

We picked our way back through the blowdown and along FR 2266 to the Parrish Lake Trailhead then drove to the nearby Daly Lake Trailhead.

We had seen three mountain bikers on the Pyramids Trail and four hikers on the Parrish Lake Trail and no one along the Riggs Lake Trail, but there were plenty of people at Daly Lake. We readied our masks as we set off on the short loop around the lake.

There were a number of tents set up and quite a few people floating on the lake but we didn’t encounter anyone along the loop except for at the end when the trail passed through the campsites.

IMG_9685Washington lilies

The trail was in need of some maintenance but nowhere near as bad as the Riggs Lake Trail had been.

IMG_9690Crossing on the outlet creek.

IMG_9691Marsh at the outlet creek.

IMG_9693Bog orchid

Most of the trail lacked views and with the best being closest to the campsites.

IMG_0019The North Pyramid from Daly Lake

After completing the loop we drove on to Bend and had a nice visit with Heather’s parents before getting up early the next morning to continue our trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Three Pyramids and Parrish, Riggs & Daly Lakes

Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Scar Mountain

We’ve developed a tradition of using the day off of work provided by the 4th of July holiday to take a hike. One of our go to areas in the first part of July is the Old (Western) Cascades. The Old Cascades are older than the volcanic peaks of the High Cascades and rise only half as high meaning they melt out much sooner than their younger companions. These highly eroded volcanoes are home to old growth forests and top notch wildflower meadows.

This year we decided to visit the Scar Mountain Trail. The hike is listed in our usual guidebook, William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” as hike #111. Due to it not being a featured hike the description in that book is brief so we turned to another excellent resource, “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” by Matt Reeder.

We followed his directions to the North Pyramid Trailhead where we parked then crossed Forest Road 2266 to the signed Scar Mountain Trail.

North Pyramid Trailhead

Scar Mountain Trail

The Scar Mountain Trail is part of the approximately 30 mile long Old Cascades Loop. We had done another section of this loop in 2014 when we started at the Pyramids Trailhead and hiked to Donaca Lake for an overnight stay.

The trail climbed through a nice forest,gradually at first then more steeply as it switchbacked up toward a ridge top.

Scar Mountain Trail

The switchbacks ended after just over a mile and the trail began to traverse along the hillside below the ridge. There were occasional glimpses of the Three Pyramids to the south and Daly Lake in the valley below.

Daly Lake below the Three Pyramids

Daly Lake

For the next mile and a half the trail continued to gain elevation via a series of ups and downs as it gained the ridge top and alternated between its west and east sides providing views of several of the High Cascades to the SE, Mt. Jefferson to the NE, and Coffin & Bachelor Mountains to the north.

Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and the Husband Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters and the Husband

Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

Coffin and Bachelor MountainsCoffin and Bachelor Mountains

A few small patches of snow lingered on and along the trail.

Snow on the Scar Mountain Trail

The trial began to climb steeply again at the 2.5 mile mark as it headed up Trappers Butte. The forested summit offered some similar views to what we had seen on the way up but one big difference was the presence of some non-white wildflowers near the top.



The trail then descended roughly 400′ in .8 miles to a saddle where it crossed an old roadbed in a clearing with blooming beargrass and rhododendron and view of the Three Pyramids.

The Three Pyramids

Another one and three quarter miles of ups and downs had us nearing our goal, a dramatic rock pinnacle on Scar Mountain. The trail had been in reasonably good shape with some minor blowdown and a few brushy spots which became a bit more frequent as we climbed Scar Mountain.

Scar Mountain Trail

Rock pinnacle on Scar Mountain

The flowers on and around the pinnacle might not have been as impressive as the meadows on some of the other nearby peaks but there were still some nice displays.

Valerian along the Scar Mountain Trail

Wildflower on Scar Mountain

Yellowleaf iris

Paintbrush along the Scar Mountain Trail


Wildflowers along the Scar Mountain Trail

Stonecrop and penstemon

The real reward for this hike were the views from Scar Mountains cliffs.

Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams peaking over a ridge and Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson from Scar MountainMt. Jefferson

Three Fingered JackThree Fingered Jack

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

The Three Sisters and the HusbandThe Three Sisters and the Husband

The Husband and the Three PyramidsThe Husband behind the Three Pyramids

Crescent Mountain, North Peak, Echo Mountian and South PeakCrescent Mountain, North Peak, Echo Mountain, and South Peak

North Peak, Echo Mountain, South Peak, Cone Peak, and Iron MountainNorth Peak, Echo Mountain, South Peak, Cone Peak, and Iron Mountain.

We took a nice break near the pinnacle where there seemed to be less mosquitoes. They hadn’t been too noticeable but with the snow still melting there were more around than we realized given the number of bites we discovered later.

Rock pinnacle along the Scar Mountain Trail

Looking down from cliffs along the Scar Mountain Trail

We returned the way we’d come passing the time on the ups and downs by admiring the many different flowers in the forest including large numbers of coralroots.

Caterpillar on coralroot





Round trip was just under 12 miles with a good amount of elevation gain overall but broken up enough to never feel too daunting. Like many of the trails in the Old Cascades the Scar Mountain Trail offered a good dose of solitude. We neither spotted nor heard another person during the hike. Instead we listened for the calls of sooty grouse, the singing of birds, and “meeps” of hidden pikas. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Scar Mountain