Up close and personal with Mt. Jefferson!
One of my favorite hikes in this area and we make a point to do it every year. Getting to the trail involves driving on a sub-par forest road but it's well worth the effort. Passenger cars should be able to make if they take it slow. This trail traverses a section of the PCT. It starts off in subalpine woods with lots of nice openings. In the summer months, these areas are full of beautiful wildflowers. Fall provides great colors of oranges, yellows and reds. The trail continues to climb gradually. Be sure to stop occasionally and look back for views of three other peaks: Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. All three are visible on clear days. A fire in this area (Summer 2010) has charred some areas in the early sections of the hike but the damage doesn't detract from its beauty. You'll gradually pass the timberline and alpine meadows (full of flowers in late summer) and the trail gives way to a rocky landscape. It seems almost like you're hiking on the moon. Some of the snow patches in this area remain throughout the year but do not present too much of a challenge. The trail can be sketchy in this area so be sure to look for the cairns that lead the way. Upon reaching the ridge, you get a breath-taking view of Mt. Jefferson directly in front of you. Down below lies Jefferson Park, an alpine playground of beautiful lakes and alpine meadows. Don't forget to look back to where you came from for views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. But the main course of this hike is the up close and personal views of Mt. Jefferson. Expect the ridge to be windy but the views more than make up for it. The ridge makes a nice lunch spot and stopping point for most day hikers. However, if you've still got energy and are interested in a longer hike, you can continue along the PCT for 2 more miles down to Russell Lake which is the closest hike in Jefferson Park. This adds 4 miles to your trip and another 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Jefferson Park is considered one of the best backpacking destinations in Oregon.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.