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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Berley and Santiam Lakes- 07/03/2021

For the Fourth of July weekend we had originally planned on a trip to Central Oregon but the drought conditions that were exasperated by the recent heat wave had us reconsidering not being home to guard against rogue illegal fireworks (a house in our neighborhood lost a fence and tree last year on the 4th). Our decision was made final when, following the heat wave, mostly dry thunder storms passed over the Ochoco Mountains where some of our hikes were planned. Lighting caused fires have kept firefighters busy since then as the race to contain the fires that are still cropping up from that storm system. We turned to Plan B, which was in part a modified Plan A, and spent the weekend hiking in the Central Cascades. On Saturday we stuck to our originally planned hike to Berley and Santiam Lakes but instead of continuing on to Bend afterward we drove back home.

This hike is covered in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and provided us an opportunity to revisit some places as well as discover some new ones. The hike starts at the Pacific Crest Trailhead along Highway 20 at Santiam Pass.
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For now this is one of the trailheads where a Central Cascade Wilderness Day Use Permit is not required but a NW Forest Pass ($5/day or $30/annual) is, as well as completing a free self-issue permit. Note that for overnight trips a Central Cascade Wilderness Permit is needed for any visits to the Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters or Mt. Washington Wilderness areas.
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We had started another hike here in October of 2012 when we hiked to the base of Three Fingered Jack then returned on a loop past Martin, Booth, and Square Lakes (post). We were interested to not only see the area during a different season but also to see what had changed in nearly 9 years. This was particularly interesting to us due to the area having been burned badly in the 2003 B&B Complex and this would give us an idea of how the forest was recovering. Given the huge swaths that were burned in the September 2020 wildfires this might give us a small frame of reference for what to expect for some of the areas. The first thing that we noticed was that post fire trees seemed larger than we remembered which was confirmed by comparing some pictures of the Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Old Summit Trail 0.2 miles from the trailhead.
Pacific Crest TrailTrail sign at the junction on 10/13/2012.

IMG_9248Trail sign at the junction on 07/03/2021.

What we didn’t really notice though was just how many of the snags were now missing.
Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness on the Pacific Crest TrailEntering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness in 2012 (0.3 miles from the TH).

IMG_9255Entering the wilderness in 2021.

We followed the PCT a total of 1.2 miles to a junction with the Santiam Lake Trail. The view to the south was as spectacular as we had remembered with several Cascade Mountains in view along with several distinctive lesser peaks.
IMG_9275Cache Mountain, Black Crater (post), Tam McArthur Rim & Broken Top (post), North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, and Hayrick Butte (flat top on the right).

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To the north the top of Three Fingered Jack was occasionally visible.
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There were a few more flowers in bloom now than there had been in October.
IMG_9258A thistle

IMG_9273Penstemon

IMG_9274Bleeding heart

IMG_9281Pussytoes

IMG_9285California stickseed

IMG_9293Another penstemon

Shortly after passing a small unnamed lake we arrived at the junction.
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IMG_9295Mountain bluebird by the lake.

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We turned left onto the Santiam Lake Trail at the junction striking off on new to us trail. The Santiam Lake Trail headed slightly downhill to the north passing a series of small ponds/lakes before making a sweeping turn to the west then meeting up with the now abandoned Santiam Lodge Trail (coming uphill on the left) one mile from the PCT.
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IMG_9304There was a good amount of scarlet gilia blooming along this section of trail.

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IMG_9310Three Fingered Jack

IMG_9313One of the ponds.

IMG_9315Queen’s cup

IMG_9316Another pond with Maxwell Butte (post) behind to the right.

IMG_9319Unnamed lake along the trail with Maxwell Butte behind.

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IMG_9333Lupine

IMG_9340Dark-eyed junco

20210703_075615Sub-alpine mariposa lilies

IMG_9348Woodpecker

IMG_9357The view south.

IMG_9357Seasonal pond

A half mile beyond the abandoned trail (there was part of a sign still hanging, partially hidden on a tree) we came to an unsigned fork.
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We admittedly hadn’t read Matt’s hike description recently and had conveniently forgotten that there were no maintained trails to the Berley Lakes and this unmarked fork was where he would have had us turn. It wasn’t shown on the GPS map and since we hadn’t bothered to re-familiarize ourselves with the hike we continued on the Santiam Lake Trail but were still looking for the trail to Berley Lakes.
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We crossed the nearly dry bed of Lost Lake Creek (There was enough water around to host a healthy population of mosquitos though.) and continued through a meadow filled with lupine into some unburned forest.
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IMG_9374Beargrass

The combined presence of the trees and more water in Lost Lake Creek (which the trail was now following) was a perfect recipe for even more mosquitos. We hustled along as quickly a possible to try and keep as much of our own blood as possible.
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IMG_9381Recent snow melt is another recipe for mosquitos.

IMG_9382Another creek crossing.

IMG_9383Shooting star

IMG_9386Mountain heather. Typically if we see this blooming we expect there to be mosquitos.

Fortunately the creek soon faded out in an open rocky landscape where the heat of the sun kept the buggers away and we were able to slow down a bit.
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IMG_9396A sulphur

IMG_9397Alpine false dandelion

IMG_9406One of several snow patches at the tree line.

IMG_9401Nearing the end of the opening.

IMG_9412More snow in the trees.

IMG_9415A checkerspot

By the time we’d reached the open area it was obvious we had missed our turn and should have taken the fork we’d seen since we were now past the Berley Lakes. That was fine though as the original plan had been to visit those lakes first and hook up with the Santiam Lake Trail beyond Lower Berley Lake then continue on to Santiam Lake and return via the Santiam Lake Trail. Our new plan was to visit Santiam Lake then find the route to Lower Berley Lake, visit it, then check out Upper Berley Lake and return to the Santiam Lake Trail at the fork. Beyond the open plain the trail began a 250′ descent through more unburned forest to Santiam Lake.
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IMG_9419Trees & melting snow = more mosquitos.

IMG_9422Not Santiam Lake but a very pretty unnamed lake just to the left of the trail approximately 0.4 miles from Santiam Lake.

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IMG_9426Not sure what type this is but the orange on the wing was pretty.

We turned off the Santiam Lake Trail at a “No Campfires” sign and followed a familiar path down to the lake.
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It had been almost 11 years since we visited this lake. On our previous visit we had come up the Santiam Lake Trail from the Duffy Lake Trail (post).

IMG_9430Mt. Jefferson behind Red Butte

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IMG_9438Duffy Butte on the left.

IMG_9440Three Fingered Jack

IMG_9442Paintbrush, shooting stars, and buttercups.

We set off to hike around the west side of the lake but we encountered quite a bit of recent blowdown and decided it was a little more trouble than it was worth.
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IMG_9451Just one of several large uprooted trees along the shore.

Taking a break along the shore and enjoying the view would have been nice but the mosquitos weren’t interested in letting us sit peacefully so when we came to the third bunch of downed trees we called it good and headed back for the Santiam Lake Trail. We followed it back to the open plain where the mosquitos hadn’t been bad and stopped to study the map in Reeder’s book (still weren’t smart enough to take the time to re-read it though) and we could see that from this end his track showed him heading for Lower Berley Lake just before a topographic feature. We made our way across the plain where butterflies were busy flying from plant to plant.
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IMG_9471The “topographic feature” ahead on the right where we planned on turning for Lower Berley Lake.

IMG_9473Mountain heather along the trail, it was warm and sunny enough that the mosquitos weren’t as bad this time by.

IMG_9475Threeleaf lewisia

IMG_9478Getting closer to the hill where we planned on turning.

IMG_9479California tortoiseshell butterflies in the bed of Lost Lake Creek.

Later when we finally did read the hike description Reeder mentioned a cairn marking a user trail but we didn’t notice any cairn (and admittedly may have turned too soon) but we spotted what appeared to be faint tread along a hillside above a dry stream bed and took a right onto it.
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The track on the map showed the route on the south side of the lake but this trail was leading to the south side of Lower Berley Lake. It led past a couple of campsites to some rocks above the lake.
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IMG_9484Three Fingered Jack from the rocks.

We picked our way down through the rocks to the lake shore and followed a user trail west until more downed tress forced us to climb back up above the rocks.
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IMG_9493More tortoiseshells

IMG_9495A butterfly photo bomb

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Once we were back above the lake we came across what looked like another user trail leading away from it.
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We thought it might be a side trail to Upper Berley Lake so we turned right on it but soon realized that we were following a dry bed instead of a trail.
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IMG_9505The bed was popular with the butterflies.

A GPS check showed we were heading too much to the NNE and needed to be NNW so we left the bed and used the GPS units to find Upper Berley Lake, but not before startling a doe.
IMG_9508Cross country to Upper Berley Lake, the doe was in this meadow and headed in the direction of the patch of snow at the far end.

IMG_9510Upper Berley Lake

Reeder mentions a view of Three Fingered Jack from this lake as well but we were on the wrong side of it for that. The lake shore where we were was pretty thick with small trees so we would have needed to back track to make our way around for a view but we decided to save that for another time. We took a slightly more direct route back toward Lower Berley Lake and found what seemed to us a bit of a random Day Use Only sign.
IMG_9514We wound up finding the same “user trail” and followed it down to the lower lake.

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What we could see was a clear trail heading south past the lake. We went down to the lake shore to see if we could pick something up since the track in the book showed it at the SW edge of the lake. We couldn’t make out any clear trail but that could have been because it was covered in butterflies.
IMG_9518California tortoiseshell butterflies along Lower Berley Lake.

IMG_9520Three Fingered Jack and about a half dozen butterflies.

We did another comparison of the track in the guidebook and the topographic map on our GPS units and came to the conclusion that we were in the right spot and just needed to hike over a saddle between two hillsides. As we made our way up we found an obvious trail.
IMG_9524The hillside on the right was rocky.

IMG_9525The trail dropping down from the saddle with Mt. Washington and the North Sister ahead.

This trail was at times easy to follow and at others non-existent.
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Just under three quarters of a mile from Lower Berley Lake we ran into three hikers heading for the lake which we took as a good sign. Just a short distance later we came to the dry channel of Lost Lake Creek.
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It was hard to tell where the “trail” crossed or where it was on the far side. Reeder’s track showed the alignment converging with the Santiam Lake Trail at an gradual angle but we could see that we were only about a tenth of a mile from that trail as the crow flies so we abandoned all attempts at following the user trail. We headed straight for the Santiam Lake Trail and found it without much difficulty.
IMG_9534Found it!

We were a tenth or two of a mile from the actual junction which wound up working in our favor. We had rejoined the Santiam Lake Trail just north of the seasonal pond where there were now dozens of butterflies hanging out and this time they weren’t all the same types.
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We made our way back to the PCT then followed it south back to the trailhead but not before stopping at a viewpoint for one last look at the mountains.
IMG_9571Yellow beetle on lupine.

IMG_9572Orange agoseris

IMG_9584Back at the PCT.

IMG_9588Bumble bees on penstemon.

IMG_9589Cicada in the grass.

IMG_9594Black Crater, Broken Top, North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, Hayrick Butte, and Hoodoo Butte from the viewpoint.

Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.

Track for our 12.9 mile, 1300′ elevation gain hike

After a great day of hiking we spent the evening with my Grandma and parents. It was a great start to the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Berley & Santiam Lakes

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Three Fingered Jack

This week’s Throwback Thursday hike is a 13.5 mile loop taken on 10/13/12 partly along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. We started our hike at the Pacific Crest Trailhead near Santiam Pass along Highway 22. Our plan for the day was to follow the PCT to the SW flank of Three Fingered Jack then return on a loop by leaving the PCT on the way back above Martin Lake and hiking cross country past that lake to the Summit Lake Trail.

We arrived just before daylight and were rewarded with some amazing sights as we waited for enough light to start hiking.Three Fingered Jack/PCT trailhead

Morning from the trailhead

Mt. Washington in the morning from the trailhead

Mt. Washington

The trailhead is located in the fire scar of the 2003 B & B Fire. One of those B’s is for Booth Lake which we planned on visiting as we returned on the Summit Trail.Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

A short distance after passing the junction with the Summit Trail the PCT entered the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail

From the wilderness boundary Three Fingered Jack was only about 3 miles away but was hidden behind the rise of the land. There were plenty of views to be had to the south though.Hayrick Butte and Hoodoo

Hayrick Butte and the Hoodo Ski Area

View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Washington and the North and Middle Sisters

We spent a lot of time looking over our shoulders as the views only got better as we made the gradual climb toward Three Fingered Jack.Black Crater, Broken Top, the North & Middle Sister and Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

North and Middle Sister

North and Middle Sister

Broken Top

Broken Top

Three Fingered Jack finally came into view when the trail leveled out on a plateau.Three Fingered Jack

Three Fingered Jack

At the 1.25 mile mark we arrived at a junction with the Santiam Lake Trail.Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Santiam Lake Trail

We continued on the PCT through the silver snags of the B & B Fire which were a surprisingly nice contrast to the bright red Fall huckleberry leaves.Pacific Crest Trail

Contrasting colors in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Another impressive view came two miles from the Santiam Trail junction.Three Fingered Jack

Three Fingered Jack

View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Looking south

The PCT had steepened a bit as it climbed to this view on a ridge which it now followed into green trees.Three Fingered Jack

Pacific Crest Trail

The ridge passed above Booth and Martin Lakes which lay to the east.Martin and Booth Lakes and Black Butte

Black Butte (post) beyond Martin and Booth Lakes

Just under a half mile from the viewpoint we passed a spot along the ridge where we would head cross-country on the way back. We were still gaining elevation which gave us a view of Diamond Peak even further south.View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Diamond Peak

We also noticed that the stubborn Pole Creek Fire was still putting up a smoke column from the Three Sisters Wilderness.Black Crater, Broken Top, smoke from the Pole Creek Fire, Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, The Husband, Big Lake, Hayrick Butte, Scott Mountain, and Diamond Peak

Broken Top and the Pole Creek Fire

To the west we spotted Lower Berley Lake.Lower Berley Lake

Three Fingered Jack disappeared again for a bit but not long after crossing a rocky section of the ridge the PCT rounded a corner and Three Fingered Jack came back into view.Three Fingered Jack

Continuing on just a couple tenths of a mile more brought us to even better views of the volcano’s western face.Three Fingered Jack

A climbers trail was clearly visible heading up toward the summit.Three Fingered Jack

We followed the PCT to the junction with the climbers trail which was approximately 5.5 miles from the trailhead.Three Fingered Jack

It was tempting to head up the path but apparently only for me. Heather and Dominique were good turning around here so they took a short break as I went up a very short distance. The trail was fairly steep and the loose rock made it more effort than I was willing to expend so I quickly returned and we began our hike back.

On the way back along the PCT we spotted a trail heading off to the right (SW) just over half a mile from the climbers trail. This short spur led to a rock outcrop with spectacular view.View from the Pacific Crest Trail

From here we could see at least a part of 7 Cascade Peaks: Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, All three of the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Diamond Peak.Black Crater, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington

From left to right: Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, North Sister, the summit of South Sister, Middle Sister, and Mt. Washington.

Scott Mountain and Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

After a nice long break soaking in the view we continued south on the PCT past the rock section along the ridge.Pacific Crest Trail

Shortly after the rocks we headed downhill at a low point along the ridge into the least steep looking gully we had seen on the way by earlier.Off-trail route to Martin Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail

The route was fairly steep but the good news was that the lake was at the bottom of a bowl so we basically just needed to stay heading downhill and we would by default find Martin Lake. The trees were sparse enough to make travel easy and we soon found ourselves along a fern covered hillside.Cross country route from the Pacific  Crest Trail to Martin Lake

Fern covered hillside near Martin Lake

This was our first real foray into off-trail travel but between the map, GPS and knowing that the lake was at the bottom of the bowl we had no trouble finding the water after traveling approximately .4 miles.Martin Lake

Several deer had been on the far side of Martin Lake but ran as we emerged from the trees. They had been in the area of an old trail that ran from the Summit Trail to Martin Lake but had not been maintained since the B & B Fire.Martin Lake

Martin Lake

We made our way around the south shore of the lake to its east end hoping to pick up the trail we had seen from the west end.Martin Lake

The trail was basically non-existent though.Cross country route to the Summit Trail

The good news was we knew that the Summit Trail was due east from Martin Lake and to make things easier so was Black Butte. We used the 6436′ butte as our guide as we traveled the half mile from Martin Lake to the Summit Lake Trail.Black Butte

We were a little concerned that the Summit Lake Trail might be hard to spot so I occasionally checked the GPS to make sure it wasn’t showing that we’d crossed it. We wound up having no problem identifying the dusty Summit Lake Trail though and turned right onto it. After a quarter mile we took a short spur to the right to Booth Lake.Booth Lake

We were joined by an eagle who landed in the snags on the far side of the lake.Eagle on the far side of Booth Lake

From the shore Three Fingered Jack was visible peaking over a ridge.Three Fingered Jack from Booth Lake

There was a decent breeze which created some eerie sounds as it passed through the dead trees. We left Booth Lake and continued south on the Summit Lake trail which remained in the B & B scar for the rest of the hike.Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness along the Summit Trail

Colorful hillside along the Summit Trail

The trail climbed gradually for 3/4 of a mile to a saddle before descending more steeply for a little over a mile to Square Lake.Square Lake, Broken Top, North & Middle Sister and Mt. Washington

As we began descending the clouds over the North Sister formed into an interesting shape.Cool cloud formation passing over the North Sister

We took another short break at the lake where the only view we had was east to Black Butte.Square Lake

Square Lake

We followed a pointer for the Santiam Pass Trailhead at the junction with the Round Lake Trail.Trail sign for the Santiam Pass Trailhead

It was roughly 2.2 miles back to the PCT from Square Lake. The trail climbed away from the lake gaining a final view of Three Fingered Jack to the north.Three Fingered Jack and Square Lake

We then passed along a hillside covered in golden ferns with decent views of Mt. Washington but an increase in clouds and slight drizzle began obscuring the views of the other mountains.On the way back to the Santaim Pass Trailhead

Mt. Washington

After completing the loop and arriving back at the trailhead we drove to my parents house near Bend. They were away for the weekend but the house was being watched carefully by their guard owl.Owl in Central Oregon after the hike

We had another hike planned for the next day in the Three Sisters Wilderness so we spent the night at their house and set off the next day on what would become known as “The hike that shall not be named“. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Three Fingered Jack

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Duffy Lake

We’re going all the way back to July 28, 2010 for this weeks throwback hike. This was our first visit to the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness as well as the first time we attempted an off-trail scramble. We started at the Duffy Lake Trailhead taking the Duffy Lake Trail toward Duffy Lake.

Duffy Lake Trail

The trail followed along the North Santiam River which was running real low but not yet dry for the season.

Wildflowers along the North Santiam River

North Santiam River

We passed the a junction with the Turpentine Trail at the 1.5 mile mark and crossed the river just over a mile later before reaching another junction in a meadow near Duffy Lake. Although we couldn’t see the lake from there Duffy Butte rose above the trees.

Duffy Butte

A number of trails were present in the Duffy Lake area. The first junction after crossing the river was with the Maxwell Butte Trail which forked to the right. Before reaching Duffy Lakes outlet creek we took the next fork to thw right which was a short connector trail to the Santiam Lake Trail which we then turned right on following it for about 3/4 of a mile through wildflower meadows to Santiam Lake and a great view of Three Fingered Jack.

Santiam Lake Trail

Three Fingered Jack and Santiam Lake

Three Fingered Jack from Santiam Lake

After visiting the lake shore we headed back the way we had come for .6 miles then turning right on the Dixie Lakes Trail at a pointer for the Eight Lakes Basin.

Trail sign at the Dixie Lakes Trail

This 1.8 mile trail would lead us pass the small Dixie Lakes before joining the Blue Lake Trail. Much of the trail passed through forest burned in the massive 2003 B&B Fire.

A Dixie Lake

South Dixie Lake

A Dixie Lake

North Dixie Lake

Beargrass

Junction with the Blue Lake Trail

The trail junction was near Alice Lake which was where our off-trail scramble up Red Butte would start.

Red Butte

Red Butte

Alice Lake

Alice Lake

Being our first off-trail experience we weren’t exactly sure what we were supposed to be looking for but we knew that the route started on the west side of the lake and headed up the butte. It was quite the adventure. Just when we thought we might be following a use trail we’d lose it. Some of the butte had been burned in the fire so there was plenty of downed trees and limbs to navigate. The good news with that was we knew we could follow the edge of the burn downhill and we’d wind up back on the trail near Alice Lake so we weren’t too concerned with getting lost. As we neared the summit of Red Butte the vegetation began to give way to more and more cinder where it was much easier to pick out the use trail.

Snow on Red Butte

Looking down from the summit we could see little Alice Lake below.

Alice Lake from Red Butte

To the south we had a great view of Three Fingered Jack and beyond that loomed Mt. Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, and The Husband.

Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters and The Husband

The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington in front of the North & Middle Sister (with the summit of South Sister behind them all)

Around to the north was Mt. Jefferson.

Mt. Jefferson

Just to the SW of Red Butte was Duffy Butte and Mowich Lake.

Mowich Lake and Duffy Butte

Mowich Lake

We had a much easier time following the use path on the way down and successfully completed our first scramble. We turned right when we arrived back at the Blue Lake Trail and followed it for a mile to the southern end of Mowich Lake where we could look back across the water to Red Butte.

Mowich Lake

Another 3/4 miles along the trail brought us a junction with the Santiam Lake and Duffy Lake Trails.

Trail junction near Duffy Lake

We took a moment to visit Duffy Lake and Duffy Butte.

Duffy Butte from Duffy Lake

We walked along the lake to its outlet where we picked up the Duffy Lake Trail and headed back toward the trailhead. A nice lollipop loop with a couple of side trips to Santiam Lake and up Red Butte the total distance was a little over 13 miles with approx 2000′ elevation gain. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157632953676368