Photo by flowergirl
From Detroit, Oregon, follow Road 46 north of town for 14 miles, past Breitenbush Hot Springs to Forest Service Road 4685. Turn right onto this road and follow it for five miles to a large trailhead on the right, just before a large hairpin turn. The actual trail begins at turn in the road. The trailhead can also be reached from Estacada by taking Highway 224 and connecting up with Forest Road 46, following this south until reaching road 4685.
The Jefferson Park area is one of the most beautiful places in the entire state of Oregon, with pleasant wildflower-filled meadows, pristine lakes, and clear streams, all located under the north face of Mt. Jefferson. During much of the summer months this beauty attracts hordes of people, so make sure your visit occurs on a weekday or during the early or late summer periods if solitude is on your agenda.
There are many different routes leading to Jefferson Park. Many people take the popular route leading from Breitenbush Lake over Jefferson Park Ridge. Another popular route is from Sentinel Creek, and along the Sentinel Ridge. This route follows the South Fork of the Breitenbush River, which seems to attract fewer crowds than the other options.
From the trailhead, the path climbs slowly along the valley wall beneath tall Douglas Firs, maple, and the usual Western Cascade flora and fauna. Near the two-mile mark, a side trail leads directly up the valley wall to Bear Point, offering great views of Mt. Jefferson and the Cascade Range. If you are continuing to Jefferson Park, you might as well save your energy and forgo this side trip, since you will be getting very, very impressive views of the Mountain in just a couple more miles. The trail continues to climb as it crosses several small streams. The terrain also opens up the higher you go, leaving the forest behind and soon these small streams are surrounded by great meadows, filled with lupine and Indian paintbrush. Views of Mt. Jefferson also take over after about the third mile of trail, and is a constant companion for most of the remainder of the hike, getting larger and larger as you approach Jefferson Park.
The trail peaks out at about four and a half miles, before starting its descent into Jefferson Park. In another mile, the trail meets up with the South Fork of the Breitenbush River, a beautifully clear stream, surrounded on both sides by wildflowers. The trail then crosses this stream (this crossing can be moderately difficult, but it is possible to rock hop and stay dry), and rises to meet up with the Pacific Crest Trail. Russell Lake sits to the north, while Park Lake, Rock Lake, Scout Lake, Bays Lake, and a myriad of other small lakes, ponds, and meadows lie to the south. All very beautiful, and you really can’t go wrong with your selection in camping sites.
This is a very fragile area, so camp only in designated sites, and stick to well established, designated trails.
You can return the way you came, but it is also possible to create a loop by hiking the Sentinel Ridge Trail back to the trailhead.
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