Photo by William Sullivan
to Canyon Creek Meadows - try one of the easiest routes to the High
Cascades' wildflower meadows, a loop leading to the craggy east
face of Three Fingered Jack..
the Hike: An easy loop visits Canyon Creek's lower meadow, full
of wildflowers. For even better views, energetic hikers can continue
to an upper meadow and a viewpoint beneath Three Fingered Jack's
A moderate 4.5-mile loop with 400 feet of elevation gain to the
lower meadow, or a difficult 7.5-mile loop with 1400 feet of elevation
gain to the upper meadow's viewpoint.
Season: mid-July through October.
There: Drive Highway 20 east of Santiam Pass 8 miles. At a "Wilderness
Trailheads" sign near milepost 88 (1 mile east of Suttle Lake
or 12 miles west of Sisters), turn north on paved Jack Lake Road
12 for 4.4 miles. Then turn left on one-lane Road 1230 for 1.6 miles
to the end of pavement, and finally turn left onto Road 1234, climbing
6 miles to the trailhead at the primitive Jack Lake campground.
A Recreation Fee Pass (Northwest Forest Pass) parking permit is
required at the trailhead. It costs $5 per car per day or $30 per
Tips: The first mile of the hike traverses a stand of silver
snags from a 2003 forest fire. From the Jack Lake campground parking
area, start hiking on the trail to the right, skirting Jack Lake's
shore. This path climbs 0.3 mile to a well-marked fork at the Wilderness
boundary: the start of the loop.
To limit the number of people you meet, the Forest Service asks
that you hike the loop clockwise. So bear left at this junction,
climb gradually amid snags, pass two ponds atop a small ridge, and
descend through unburnt woods to the lower meadow.
Here the view of Three Fingered Jack's snow-clad crags emerges and
the wildflower displays begin in earnest. Do not trample these delicate
alpine gardens. Stay on the main trail and choose a picnic spot
amid trees. Backpackers must camp at least 100 feet from trails
If you still have plenty of energy, continue 0.7 mile up the trail
to the rim of the rock-strewn upper meadow, a glacial outwash plain.
From here the 0.8-mile route to the 6500-foot-elevation viewpoint
becomes less distinct.
Climb south up a steep, rocky moraine to a notch overlooking a stunning,
green cirque lake at the foot of Three Fingered Jack's glacier.
Next the path follows the somewhat precarious crest of the moraine,
scrambling steeply up to a windy saddle, where the view stretches
from Mount Jefferson to the Three Sisters. Sharp eyes can often
spot climbers on the spires of Three Fingered Jack.
via the loop, hike back to the bottom of the lower meadow and turn
left. This path follows Canyon Creek past a fascinating beaver workshop,
where dozens of large pines have been ringed and felled. Rings six
feet above the ground prove the beavers are active even when winter
snowdrifts remain. At this point you'll reenter the zone of snags
left by the 2003 wildfire.
found in Central Oregon
Photo taken by William Sullivan
Sullivan is a veteran Oregon journalist and
author with 12 published books on Oregon travel, history
hike is in the Central
a mile beyond the beaver trees, join the trail from Wasco Lake. But
before turning right to return to the car, follow the sound of falling
water to a footbridge below the first of Canyon Creek Falls' two lovely,
The B&B forest fire burned a third of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
in 2003, but the cliffs surrounding Canyon Creek Meadows served as
a natural fire break, leaving the valley as a "donut hole"
of green in the midst of the burn. You'll hike past silver snags at
the start and end of this hike, but even here you'll notice that millions
of mountain hemlock seedlings have sprouted naturally after the fire.
Beargrass, huckleberries, and many other plants that rely on fire
are thriving as well.
Three Fingered Jack is the heavily eroded plug, or core, of an extinct
100,000-year-old volcano. The colorful stripes you see in the mountain's
cliffs are a cross-section of the yellow ash flows, red cinders, and
black lava that originally built up the peak. A tiny remnant of the
once mighty glacier that carved Canyon Creek's valley remains at the
foot of the mountain's east face.