News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Trailgrams: Trail blazin' around Sisters

Jack Lake trails

Jack Lake to Round Lake or Santiam Pass: It's all about options on this stunning Three Finger Jack-area hike. This is a one-way jaunt, mostly downhill, necessitating a car shuttle to one of two possible ends.

Why go? This great hike has it all: spectacular views on a moderate route, with flowers, swimming lakes, and frequently wildlife. It's great from the end of spring (however with more downed trees and colder lakes ) right on into early fall (with more likely wildlife sightings) - as long as the roads are open.

When to go? Now is a good time, whenever temperatures and smoke levels allow. Because this is through the epicenter of the massive B & B fire of 20- some years ago, it's pretty much an open-sky hike so it can get hot - especially on dog paws.

What to expect: This is a one-way hike with two car shuttle options, but the hike begins at Jack Lake Trailhead. At the trailhead kiosk, instead of going right, start walking left/south through the young lodge-pole pine forest. You'll climb a bit, but will soon walk out of the pines and start descending a long traverse along the east side of the Cascade Crest as you go south toward Round Lake or Santiam Pass. After a couple of miles you'll cross First Creek. There are some amazing views now of Three Finger Jack above you to the west.

This is elk habitat, and there are mountain goats on Jack. So if you are feeling frisky and don't mind cross-country route finding, wander up First Creek as far as you want-it's even possible to go right to its source at the huge snowbank at the bottom of the imposing and gorgeous eastern face of Jack. Continuing south, pass through some flowery meadows, and a few ponds, to Booth Lake at about the halfway point.

This makes a great lunch stop because there is still a lovely small stand of trees on the shore. Continue walking south until you come to a junction on the north edge of Square Lake, at which point you need to make your decision: left/east down to Round Lake, or right/southwest onto Santiam Pass. There's swimming to end the hike at Round Lake, but going on to Santiam Pass you score a fabulous view of Mt. Washington. All in all, you'll walk 9-10 miles or so. Decisions, decisions!

Getting there: Find a hiking buddy to carpool with. You will be leaving one car either at the Santiam Pass PCT trailhead or at the Round Lake trailhead, taking the other up to Jack Lake. Head west on US 20 from Sisters, watching for Forest Road 12/Jack Lake on the right shortly before Suttle Lake. For Santiam Pass, continue and drop a car at the PCT trailhead, then return and turn left on Forest Road 12.

For Round Lake, turn right on Road 12. After about a mile, cross the Suttle Lake/Camp Sherman Road, and continue another mile or so to the Y. Turn left here for Round Lake, or, to get to Jack Lake, at the Y go right on Road 12 and follow signs on it all the way up to the Jack Lake Trailhead - a rough washboard but drivable by most cars. (Bring a USFS map!)

What you'll need: the usual - water, sunscreen, and a hat; a recreation pass. Compass advisable. Dogs welcome.


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