High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon

Bear Point – 7/22/2019

We had passed the Bear Point Trail twice when hiking into Jefferson Park on the South Breitenbush Trail, most recently last August. (post) It was finally time to tackle that trail which gains almost 1700′ in just over one and three quarters of a mile to the site of a former fire lookout.

We set off from the South Breitenbush Trailhead a little after 6am hoping to get the climb over before the day heated up too much.


We followed the familiar South Breitenbush Trail for 2.2 miles to a signed junction.
IMG_3870Lots of spent beargrass along the trail.


At the junction we went left on the Bear Point Trail.

At first this trail continued the gradual climb that we’d been making on the South Breitenbush Trail as we passed around a spring set in a green forest.

IMG_3886Thimbleberry bushes near the spring.

20190722_072357Washington lily

IMG_4179Spring near the trail.

Shortly after passing the spring the trail began to climb in earnest via a series of swithbacks. The hillside below Bear Point was covered in talus slopes, the perfect spot to see a pika.


IMG_3901Spotted the first pika of the day at this switchback (it’s on one of the red rocks)

The hillside was pretty dry and the trees began to give way to manzanita, chinquapin and snowbush which allowed for some excellent views of Mt. Jefferson and the surrounding area as we trudged up the switchbacks.


IMG_3921The Three Pyramids, Bachelor Mountain, and Coffin Mountain in the distance with Triangulation Peak in a cloud shadow along the near ridge to the right.

IMG_3928Mt. Jefferson with Three Fingered Jack now fully visible.

IMG_3935Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4169Grouse in the brush to the left of the trail.



As we neared the top the trees began to reappear in larger numbers and the beargrass was still blooming.


We spotted the second pika of the day in a talus slope just below the summit.

Despite the 3000′ of elevation gain to reach the summit the climb wasn’t particularly steep until the final 100 yards or so.

IMG_3981Almost to the top.

IMG_3989Bear Point summit.

The views from the summit were amazing and there were a few wildflowers scattered about. We would have loved to have spent quite a bit of time relaxing there but the mosquitoes were a nuisance and there was no breeze to keep them at bay.

IMG_4018The Three Sisters and Three Fingered Jack


IMG_4013Park Ridge (post)

IMG_3991Bear Lake, Dinah-Mo Peak, and Park Ridge

IMG_4146Triangulation Peak and Devils Peak

IMG_4148Boca Cave below Triangulation Peak (post)

IMG_4147Devils Peak (high point to the right of the ridge), which we had just hiked to a couple of weeks earlier (post)

IMG_4152Mt. Hood and Olallie Butte (The Breitenbush Cascades are also out there amid the trees.)

IMG_4137Mt. Hood with Slideout and Mildred Lakes in the forest below.


IMG_3996Columbine and fleabane with Bear Lake in the background.

IMG_4022Snow patch near the summit.

The round trip to Bear Point is just 7.6 miles so we had some energy left and with the early start coupled with not stopping for very long due to the bugs we also had some time so we decided to tackle another challenge and visit an off trail lake. Due to the lake being off-trail I’m not going to go into much detail although it probably wouldn’t take a lot of detective work to figure it out. This was a challenge to reach and required route finding and navigational skills.
IMG_4031Typical terrain, it’s hard to tell here but this was a steep hillside.

IMG_4023There were tons of these butterflies around.


IMG_4045Crossing a talus slope.

IMG_4050More typical conditions.

IMG_4053Pond near the lake.

IMG_4055Bird at the pond.

IMG_4058The lake

IMG_4076Spirea and shooting stars

20190722_094856Crab spider with a bee

IMG_4080The lake


IMG_4104Lupine and beargrass

There were of course mosquitoes here too, being July and near water, so we didn’t linger and were soon attempting to follow our route back. It was slow going but we managed to get back just fine. It was a fun and challenging day and it felt good to be able to practice our off-trail skills a bit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bear Point

High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon

Breitenbush Cascades & Devil’s Ridge Trail – 7/13/2019

We were looking for a relatively short, nearby hike so that we could get back to Salem early. It was Salem Summit Companys (our favorite local outdoor store)7th anniversary so they were having a sale, raffle, and free pizza. We turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mt. Jefferson Region” for inspiration and chose a pair of hikes not far outside of Detroit, OR.

Our first stop was at the Breitenbush Cascades. The trailhead for this short (a third of a mile) hike is located on one of the worst Forest Service roads in NW Oregon, FR 4220 aka Skyline Road. We had braved this road once before on a hike to Jefferson Park Ridge (post). That had been a much longer drive on this road than the 3.5 miles we had to endure to reach the pullout on the right shortly before the the road crossed North Fork Breitenbush River. A very small temporary Forest Service sign was all that marked the trailhead where a pair of paths led into the forest. In hindsight we should have taken the path leaving to the left of the parking area, but instead we took the path straight ahead.

As we would discover in a few minutes the trail to the left went straight to the river then turned right along the water to meet up with the path we’d taken. The path we took descended a bit and also brought us to the river near a small cascade.


There was also a view here to Bear Point across the valley, a hike that we are hoping to do later this month.

The trail switchbacked down to what Reeder describes as the top tier of the Breitenbush Cascades.


The river almost immediately spills over the lip of another cascade.

This second tier is reachable via another switchback although the trail down is steeper and there is a bit of an awkward drop down some exposed rock.


Slick rocks and moss make caution here important as the river plunges downhill yet again beyond the second tier.
IMG_3294The river below the second tier.

The river actually loses over 1200′ from this second tier as it cascades down to join the South Fork North Fork Breitenbush River. By all accounts this is likely the tallest waterfall in Oregon if the cascades are considered a single feature, but the steepness of the terrain make this second tier the final tier that is safely reachable, at least without special equipment.

We headed back uphill to the small cascade above the first tier where we stayed right along the water. This led us back to the parking area via that left hand trail and past another nice little cascade on the river.


We drove back down FR 4220 and wound up passing what appeared to be a brand new Mercedes SUV (complete with dealer plates) coming up the rocky, rutted road. I guess that’s one way to break a new car in.

Once we’d finished with the 3.5 miles of FR 4220 we turned left on paved FR 46 and drove 5.6 miles to FR 50 (11 miles from Highway 22 at Detroit). After .2 miles of potholes on this gravel road we parked at a pullout on the left at the remains of a guard station that burned in 2000.

From the pullout we walked down the road to a gate for the Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort and turned left onto the signed Gorge Trail.


We had been on this trail before in 2013 (post). This time we planned on the more strenuous hike to Devil’s Peak.

Even thought we’d been on this first section of trail there had been some changes. Namely the footbridges that lead across the North Fork Breitenbush River which need to be repaired or replaced routinely.




After crossing the river the trail climbed gradually through the forest where we spotted our first blooming Washington lily and prince’s pine of the year.



Just over a mile from the parking area we passed a spur trail on the left joining from South Breitenbush Gorge Trailhead.

At the 1.5 mile mark we arrived at the signed junction with the Emerald Forest Trail.


While the South Breitenbush Gorge Trail is maintained by the Forest Service a network of trails including the Emerald Forest and Devil’s Ridge Trails are maintained by the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center.

We turned onto the Emerald Forest Trail which descended for 100 yards to a footbridge over the South Fork Breitenbush River. A previous version of the bridge could be seen to the left.


Beyond the river the trail steadily climbed for nearly a mile to a junction with the Spotted Owl Trail. Here we turned left following pointers for the Cliff Trail and Devil’s Lookout.





This trail also climbed as it transitioned from unburned forest to the fire scar of the 2017 Little Devil Fire.


Just over a quarter mile from the trail junction we arrived at a second junction along a ridge where the Devil’s Ridge Trail continued climbing to the left while the Cliff Trail dropped to the right.


We turned left and as we started what would be a fairly intense climb a woodpecker tapped away at the trees.


A little less than a quarter mile from the junction we came to a somewhat ominous sign.

While “at your own risk” gave us something to think about at least the trail wasn’t closed so we ducked under the sign and continued. We were ready to turn back if either of us felt uncomfortable but in the meantime we continued to climb.

Because the trail follows the spine of a ridge there isn’t a lot of room for it to zigzag up so at times it was brutally steep. We tried to entertain ourselves with the remaining flowers which included our first fireweed, diamond clarkia, scouler’s bluebells (lots), and pearly everlasting of the year.

IMG_3399A clump of fireweed.


IMG_3408Scouler’s bluebells

IMG_3411Diamond clarkia

IMG_3416Cat’s ear lily


IMG_3429Pearly everlasting

A little over a half mile from the junction we arrived at the Devil’s Lookout, a rocky viewpoint. Although we had some blue sky overhead clouds seemed to be encircling us.



The trail then dropped a bit as it crossed a somewhat level saddle before launching itself uphill again.


IMG_3442Another Washington lily


After gaining 200′ in a tenth of a mile the trail became more reasonable as it climbed along a much gentler slope. There were some interesting rock formations along this section.


IMG_3455Devil’s Peak ahead

In addition to the rocks we spotted a spectacular Washington Lily with various stages of blooms. It smelled just as good as it looked too.



As the trail neared Devil’s Peak it took a different approach than launching straight uphill and wound around to the left. The tread along the hillside had been damaged by the fire and required a little caution.


The trail wrapped around to the opposite side of Devil’s Peak where there were a few reaming wildflowers from what looked like it had been a decent display.

A trail used to continue along the ridge all the way to Triangulation Peak (post) but that trail had long been abandoned before the fire.

The trail now got back to business and did indeed head basically straight up to the top of Devil’s Peak.

The view had reportedly been great of Mt. Jefferson before the fire and with many trees now burned the view was even more open, but those pesky clouds just weren’t cooperating.
Ironically we had been able to see Mt. Jefferson clear as a bell during our drive to Detroit but the best we could get now that we were closer was a glimpse of the snowy lower flank.


Triangulation Peak was below the clouds though.


We spent some time resting and exploring the summit which had some excellent rocks to sit on.


After a nice break we stared down. The steepness of the descent made it necessary to keep our speed under control and it was tough on the knees.
IMG_3553A typical steep section.

We stopped when we could, breaking for insects and ripe strawberries.




When we arrived back at the trail junction we stayed straight on the Cliff Trail which continued the theme of steep descents. After just 200 feet we veered left at a “Cliffs” pointer.


Short spur trails led out to a couple of cliff top viewpoints which overlooked the forest.






Beyond the cliffs the trail really dropped as it descended into a narrow valley.
IMG_3572Looking back up from the bottom.

IMG_3575Still dropping but much more gradually.

Approximately a half mile from the cliffs the trail ended at the Spotted Owl Trail. Here a right turn takes you back to the Emerald Forest Trail in half a mile where you can then return to the trailhead via the earlier route.


If you have a shuttle car that you left at the Spotted Owl Trailhead or if you are a guest at the resort you can turn left here and follow the Spotted Owl Trail a little over a mile to the visitor parking area at Breitenbush Hot Springs. The description in Reeder’s book has you loop through the resort but the resort has apparently hardened their stance on allowing hikers to pass through the resort itself.

This wasn’t a particularly long hike (9-10 miles) and the roughly 2400′ of elevation gain isn’t all that high a number but the steepness of those gains made this a surprisingly tough hike. It would have been nice to have had a view of Mt. Jefferson but this year seems to be the year of partly cloudy skies so all we can do is keep trying. In any event it was a nice hike and gave us a good excuse to check out the Breitenbush Cascades. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Breitenbush Cascades and Devil’s Ridge Trail

High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Jefferson Park – 2014

The only location we have visited in each of the last three years is Jefferson Park in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. For awhile it looked like that streak might be broken this year, but then Heather accidentally signed up for a 5k race on what was to be our final weekend of hiking in October. We rescheduled our final October hike and I decided to take advantage of the Columbus Day holiday and head to Jefferson Park to keep my streak alive.

We had rotated the trails we used to reach Jefferson Park between the three most popular approaches – The Whitewater Creek Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail from the north, and the South Breitenbush Trail. Since the Whitewater Creek Trail offered the shortest drive and hike I decided to revisit that trail.
It is also the most popular approach but the parking area was nearly empty when I arrived. It was a surprisingly warm morning despite the forecast of snow for the very next day and I was able to leave my hat and gloves in my pack as I set off. I’d dressed for a typically chilly Fall morning and I wound up having to remove my two lower layers before I’d gone a quarter mile, but once I got my clothing situation corrected I was able to set a nice pace as I climbed along the Sentinel Hills.

The trail started off in the trees offering only brief glimpse of the top of Mt. Jefferson. One and a half miles in an unmarked trail joined from the left coming from Triangulation Peak. Another mile from the junction is where the views started unfolding as the trail wound up and around the Sentinel Hills.

The Three Pyramids

Triangulation Peak

Mt. Jefferson

Fall was on display in the wilderness and the forest was full of color.




The trail joined the Pacific Crest Trail at the 4.2 mile mark which I continued North on for another .9 miles to Jefferson Park.

The view of Mt. Jefferson from the park is the main attraction.

There are many other attractions in the park though including five named lakes, the South Fork Breitenbush River, and wildflower meadows (If you time it right). We had visited all the lakes and the river and seen some of the wildflowers, but we had never headed toward the mountain itself. I decided that was what I was going to do on this visit so I took the first well worn trail leading off to the right from the PCT and headed for Mt. Jefferson.

I wasn’t sure where this trail was going to lead as it climbed through a series of meadows.

Eventually I came to the tree line where a series of rock cairns appeared to lead up a ridge of loose rocks.

I kept going following the cairns as best as I could. As I was climbing I noticed a fellow hiker higher up along the ridge. The view behind was getting better by the minute as the elevation gain was allowing for a great look down at Jefferson Park.

Soon I could see Mt. St. Helens with a fresh ring of snow on its upper reaches.

The final push to the crest of the ridge was steep and full of loose footing and the wind was whipping up dust devils.

The wind had been fairly strong but it was nothing compared to the gusts that met me as when I finally gained the ridge crest. It nearly knocked me off balance so I got low and found a nice big rock to sit down on. The other hiker was about 30 yards up the ridge doing the same thing. We were at the foot of the Jefferson Park Glacier staring up at the summit of Mt. Jefferson.

Unfortunately the Sun was also almost directly in front of us making pictures difficult in that direction but the view back toward Jefferson Park did not have that same problem. Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier had joined Mt. St. Helens on the horizon and the entirety of Jefferson Park was spread out below.

Mt. Rainier & Mt. Hood beyond Park Butte


To the northwest I could see Triangulation Peak and Bocca Cave where we had been about a month earlier.

It appeared that it would have been possible to continue east up the ridge along the glacier but the wind was blowing too hard to attempt going any further so I began my descent back down into the park. Once I had made it back down into the meadows I turned right on the first good trail I came to thinking I had hit the PCT already. It was still early enough I had decided to head across the park and visit Russell Lake and hoped to return past the other four named lakes. I quickly realized that I wasn’t on the PCT and I had taken one of the use trails that crisscross through the park. I decided to continue along it as it was leading me in the correct direction for the lake through a series of meadows. I even found some aster still in bloom along the way.






I ended up at the SE end of Russell Lake which was perfect since we had not been to this side of the lake on our previous trips.

Again the Sun was in a position to wash out some of the picture but the the view from the lake was as amazing as ever.


I walked around the north end of the lake and located the PCT which I turned left on and started to head back. Near the South Fork Breitenbush River I was surprised to see a single paintbrush still blooming in the middle of a meadow.

When I reached the South Breitenbush Trail I left the PCT and headed west. As the trail began descending a small hillside toward the river I turned left at a switchback marked with a rock cairn. This trail led to Park Lake.

Staying to the left of Park Lake I followed the path up to Rock Lake.


And then continued on to Bays Lake.

I took a break at Bays Lake and soaked my feet for a bit before heading to the East and Scout Lake.



Just a short distance to the East of Scout Lake I was back on the PCT right where I had left it that morning. It was time to say goodbye to Jefferson Park for another year.

On the way back down to the trailhead I was finally able to get a few pictures of the mountain without interference from the Sun.

The ridge that I had been on earlier.

The only real bummer of the day was not having Heather there to hike with. This was my first solo hike and I have to say I really missed sharing the experience with her. I found it hard to just stop and enjoy the surroundings as much as we normally would. It was an interesting experience but hopefully not one that happens often. Happy Trails!


High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Triangulation Peak & Boca Cave via Cheat Creek

We decided to do something a little different this week and visited Boca Cave in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. We started at the Cheat Creek Trailhead along Whitewater Rd as opposed to beginning at the closer Triangulation Trail Trailhead The later would leave us with a mere 4 mile hike which would mean our driving time would likely be more than our hiking time which is something we try and avoid.

The Cheat Creek Trail is approximately 2.9 miles long gaining 1700′ in elevation and ending at the Triangulation Trail. We arrived at the trailhead a little early but with just enough light to set off.

It is not a heavily used trail and that was evident as there were some downed trees and several areas where the trail was somewhat overgrown.

Around the 2.5 mile mark we arrived at Wild Cheat Meadows. I was hoping we might find deer or elk in the meadows but no luck. There was some nice Fall colors beginning to show along the edge of the meadows though.

After leaving the meadow we climbed to the junction with the Triangulation Peak Trail and hung a left.

From the junction it is just over 2.5 miles to the .6 mile Triangulation Peak Trail. This section of the Triangulation Trail was fairly level but it was also narrow and overgrown in spots. We were now basically heading back the direction we’d come up but were now hiking along the ridge high above the Cheat Creek valley. As we continued on the views started to open up to the South and East.
Mt. Jefferson:
Three Fingered Jack, Middle & South Sister, and Mt. Washington:

There was also one spot along the trail where we could see Boca Cave.

The trail eventually crosses over to the North side of the ridge as it wraps around Triangulation Peak. Once on that side we could see Mt. Hood and Olallie Butte.

A nice newer looking sign announced the Triangulation Peak Trail.

It wasn’t until we were on this final .6 mile climb that we ran into our first other people, a pair of hikers that were on their way down after spending the night. Near the top we passed a rock cairn marking a trail to the left, the unofficial path to Boca Cave. Before checking out the cave we headed up to the summit to take in the views and have a short break. There was a little smoke in the air due to a series of fires near Oakridge, OR but we still had a pretty decent view.
View from Triangulation Peak

We headed back down to the cairn and started our descent down to the cave. The scramble trail was steep, narrow and required caution. Boca Cave was impressive though. The cave is about 60′ back and 80′ wide with a high ceiling. There is a constant drip of water in the back of the cave and the opening frames Mt. Jefferson.
Boca Cave

After thoroughly inspecting the cave we returned to the trail and began our return trip. We passed several more hikers on the way down the Triangulation Peak Trail but once we turned right on the Triangulation Trail we were alone again. We were headed straight toward Mt. Jefferson for awhile on the way back. The Sun had passed overhead and the smoke had lifted some giving us some of the clearest views of the day.

It was sunny in the meadows on the way back but still no deer or elk.
Cheat Meadow

It certainly would have been easier to have started at the Triangulation Trailhead, but there is something to be said for logging miles alone in the forest. Either way Boca Cave is worth the trip and the views from Triangulation Peak are just the cherry on top. Happy Trails!