In Search of Silver Linings
With so much of the PCT closed or inaccessible this summer due to the ongoing wildfires, it’s may seem discouraging. Actually though, only about 20% of Oregon’s PCT is not hikeable right now. That still leaves more than 350 good trail miles of hiking to be enjoyed. Right now, the wild huckleberries are going bonkers in many areas, and late summer wildflowers are splashing the mountains and meadows with lots of color. If you’re looking for longer section-hikes, try incorporating side and connecting trails to make loop trips in some of the accessible areas. Around Diamond Peak you can incorporate the Oregon Skyline Trail for nice, large loops, or take on Mt. Hood’s Timberline Trail to extend your PCT outing.
Coming into the end-of-summer holiday, trail conditions are fairly normal, with few serious issues—except for the fire closures. Most of the snow is gone, water sources are still mostly good, and the forecast is calling for more sunny skies in the days ahead. With the season waning, and most of the thru-hikers come and gone, it’s a good time to get out and find some nice solitude and good camping.
This week, weather conditions will warm and smokey. Daytime temps for the week will start in the mid to high 70s across most of Oregon’s Crest; the northern regions may see low 80s, and 90s in Cascade Locks. Temps will take a dive around midweek, dropping as far as the low 60s in some areas before rebounding back into the high 70s and low 80s going into the weekend. Overnight temps will follow a similar suit, ranging from the low 50s to 60s across most of the Crest.
Conditions for the week will be mostly sunny, however there will be smokey haze across most of the state; poor air condition advisories have been issued (more info here). There is a Red Flag Warning for potential thunderstorms in the northern regions early in the week—stay clear of high, exposed areas. Click on the links below for detailed forecasts.[column-group] [column]
MILLI FIRE: Three Sisters Wilderness — Now at more than 18,000 acres, this fire continues to burn on the east side of the Crest, between North Sister and McKenzie Pass, and is only 32% contained. The closure area continues to affect the PCT and Hwy 242 (see below), and has required evacuations in some nearby communities. The following trails/areas are closed:
- PCT from Elk Lake to McKenzie Pass (OR miles 261–291; PCT miles 1,950–1,980)
- Trails: Black Crater Trail (#4058), Millican Crater Trail (#4066), Scott Pass Trail (#4068), North Matthieu Lake Trail (#4062), Trout Creek Tie Trail (#4067), Chush Falls Trail (#4080), Pole Creek Trail (#4072), Metolius–Windigo Trail (#99) from Hwy 242 to FR 4601, Whychus Overlook Trail, Whychus Creek Trail, Demaris Lake Trail (#4074.1), Camp Lake Trail (#4074), Park Meadow Trail (#4075) and Peterson Ridge trails.
- Trailheads/Camps: Millian Crater TH, Scott Pass TH, Pole Creek TH, Park Meadow TH and Tam McArthur Rim TH, Whispering Pines CG, Trout Creek Swamp, Sisters Cow Camp and Three Creek Lake CG and trails.
DETOUR: This fire and closure, combined with the Three Sisters Fire (below), has made both the west and east sides of the Sisters inaccessible. PCT hikers should avoid the area completely. With the additional closure for the Whitewater Fire near Mt. Jefferson (below), NOBO thru-hikers should exit the trail at Elk Lake and find transport to Olallie Lake or Government Camp; SOBO hikers should exit at Olallie Lake and find transport to Elk Lake.
THREE SISTERS FIRES: Three Sisters Wilderness — Several smaller, lightning-sparked fires continue to burn along the western flanks of the Three Sisters. The Forest Service has closed the PCT between Elk Lake and McKenzie Pass. The following trails/areas are closed:
- PCT from Elk Lake to McKenzie Pass (OR miles 261–291; PCT miles 1,950–1,980)
- Trails: Bear Flat (#3301), Benson Trail (#3502), Blair Lake (#3553), Breezy Point (#3517), Buck Meadows (#3521), Crossing Way (#3307), Deer Butte Trail (#3508), East Fork (#3308), Eileen Lake (#4348), Elk Creek (#3510), Erma Bells (#3563), Foley Ridge (#3511), French Pete (#3311), Glacier Way (#4336), Goose Lake (#3542), Hand Lake Cutoff (#4344), Hand Lake (#3513), Helen Lake (#3577), Horse Creek (#3514), Horse Lake (#3516), Indian Holes (#3524), Irish Mountain (#3588), Jack Pine Way (#3587), James Creek (#3546), Judy Lake (#3575), Lake Side (#3525), Leconte Crater (#12.3), Linton Lake (#3519), Linton Meadows (#3547), Louise Creek (#3520), Lowder Mountain (#3329), Martin Way (#3525.1), Mcbee (#3523), Mink Lake (#3526), Mud Lake (#3518), Nash Lake (#3527), Obsidian (#3528), Olallie (#3529), Olallie Mountain (#4100), Park (#3530), Porky Lake (#4338), Proxy Falls (#3532), Quaking Aspen (#3332), Rainbow Falls (#3543), Rebel Creek (#3323), Rebel Rock (#3324), Red Hill (#3515), Scott (#3531), Scott Mountain (#4339), Scott-Obsidian Tie (#3531.1), Scotty Way (#4345), Separation Lake (#3536), Separation Meadow (#4331), South Fork (#3327), Starwano (#3537), Substitute Point (#4343), Sunset Lake (#3515.1), Tenas Lake (#4340), Walker Creek (#3330), Water Holes (#3538), Wildcat (#3331) and Williams Lake (#3589).
- Trailheads/Camps: Scott Lake CG, Alder Springs CG, Dee Wright Observatory
DETOUR: This fire and closure, combined with the Milli Fire (above), has made both the west and east sides of the Sisters area inaccessible. PCT hikers should avoid the area completely. With the additional closure for the Whitewater Fire near Mt. Jefferson (below), NOBO thru-hikers should exit the trail at Elk Lake and find transport to Olallie Lake or Government Camp; SOBO hikers should exit at Olallie Lake and find transport to Elk Lake.
WHITEWATER FIRE: Mt. Jefferson Wilderness — Now covering nearly 10,500 acres, this fire continues to burn on the west side of Mt. Jefferson, with little containment. The recently sparked Little Devil Fire is also burning in this area. PCT hikers should avoid this section of trail. The following trails/areas are closed:
- PCT from Minto Pass to Breitenbush Lake (OR mile 320–348; PCT mile 2,009–2,037)
- Trails: Bear Point (#3342), Bingham Ridge (#3421), Brush Creek (#4004, Deschutes NF), Cabot Lake (#4003, Deschutes NF), Cheat Creek (#3441), Crag Trail (#3364), Crown Lake (#3362), Grizzly Peak (#3428), Hunts Cove (#3430), Hunts Creek (#3440), Independence Rock (#3431), Independence Rock Summit (#3431.1), Jefferson Lake (#4001, Deschutes NF), Lake Of The Woods (#3493), Leone Lake (#3367), McCoy (#4168), Minto Mountain (#3448), Minto Pass Tie (#3437), Old Hunts Cove (#3451), Pamelia Lake (#3439), Roaring Creek (#3361), Rockpile Lake (#3632), Shirley Lake (#3451), South Breitenbush (#3375), South Breitenbush Gorge (#3366), Sugar Pine Ridge (#4002), Swallow Lake (#3488), Triangulation (#3373), Triangulation Peak (#3374), Whitewater (#3429) and Woodpecker Ridge (#3442).
- Trailheads/Camps: Jefferson Park, Pamelia Lake CG, Cheat Creek, Triangulation Peak, Leone Lake, South Breitenbush, Crown Lake, Bear Valley, Rockpile Lake, Cabot Lake, Jefferson Lake, Brush Creek
DETOUR: There is no easy way around this closure and, combined with the Three Sisters fires, all hikers should avoid the area. NOBO thru-hikers should exit at Elk Lake and find transport north to Olallie Lake or Government Camp; SOBO hikers should exit at Olallie Lake and find transport to Elk Lake.
HIGH CASCADES COMPLEX: Crater Lake — This cluster of wildfires on the west side of Crater Lake National Park now covers more than 16,000 acres, and is approximately 44% contained. Park facilities are still open, however Mazama Village has issued a Level 1 evacuation notice. The following trails/roads/areas are closed:
- PCT from S Park Boundary to Hwy 62/Mazama Village (OR mile 123–129 PCT mile 1,812–1,818)
- PCT from Dutton Creek to N Entrance Road (OR mile 131–147; PCT mile 1,821–1,837)
- Trails: Union Peak, Stuart Falls, Pumice Flat, Discovery Point, Lightning Springs, Boundary Springs, Bald Crater Loop, Bert Creek
- Trailheads/Camps: Lightning Spring CG, Red Cone Spring CG
DETOUR: With the southern park boundary closed, NOBO thru-hikers can’t directly access Mazama Village. Exit the PCT onto the Sevenmile Trail (#3703) and hike approximately 3 miles to the Sevenmile Marsh Trailhead on FR-3334. Walk the forest road east, then south, for 5.4 miles to FR-33/Nicholson Road. Continue east on Nicholson for 4.2 miles to Fort Klamath at OR-62. Put out your thumb and start walking the highway north; Mazama Village is 16 miles ahead. SOBO hikers should exit the trail at Hwy 138 and find transportation to Fort Klamath or Fish Lake.
INDIAN CREEK FIRE – Columbia Gorge — After weeks of smoldering, this small fire suddenly sprang to life in the last week and now covers nearly 350 acres in the high, steep terrain at the head of Eagle Creek. The closure area has been expanded north to High Bridge. The following trails/areas are closed
- Trails: Eagle Creek (south of High Bridge), Indian Springs, Chinidere Cutoff, Eagle Benson, Tanner Butte, east Eagle Tanner
- Trailheads/Camps: Indian Springs CG and Wahtum Lake CG
PCT hikers can proceed through the Wahtum Lake corridor and continue to Cascade Locks by way of the Benson Plateau. Water is available at Indian Springs.
ALTERNATE: Use the Herman Creek Trail (#406) as another option for descending to Cascade Locks. On the north side of Wahtum Lake, veer off the PCT and descend thru a comparably lush river canyon, replete with plenty of its own cascading falls. When you reach Herman Creek CG, turn onto the Herman Bridge Trail (#406E) and approximately 2 miles west to reconnect with the PCT.
CAMPFIRES: Most forest agencies have put a complete ban on all campfires—including in developed campgrounds. Hikers are still permitted to use contained-gas stoves for cooking, but extreme caution should be taken to avoid any accidents.
With the season wearing on, many of the smaller springs and water sources along the trail are starting to diminish, but the larger creeks and lakes are still pretty reliable. The following are a few sources that may not be reliable, so you should plan accordingly.
Brown Mtn Shelter (OR mile 72; PCT mile 1761) — Pump handle still has not been replaced; do not count on water here.
Honeymoon Creek (OR mile 110; PCT mile 1800) — Nearly dry.
Lemiti Creek (OR mile 363; PCT mile 2052) — A little discolored, but usable.
Salvation Spring (OR mile 427; PCT mile 2116 — Low flow, but usable.
If you have recent information on water conditions along the PCT in Oregon, please send us an update to share with your fellow hikers.
All highways and secondary roads accessing the PCT’s primary trailheads are open and clear.
• Crater Lake National Park – West Rim Road is periodically closed for construction, but otherwise open again. Park facilities are open, however Mazama Village is under a potential evacuation warning.
• Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway (OR-46) – Road is open and trailheads are clear.
• McKenzie Pass Hwy (OR-242) – Road is closed between Hwy 126 and Sisters; McKenzie Pass is not accessible.
Check Oregon’s road conditions at ODOT.
Trail Food Giveaway!
Need and end-of-season pick-me-up? We’ve got a trail food resupply package for one lucky hiker. Check out the contest page and get your entries in today!
The information on this page is collected from a variety of sources, including NOAA, ODOT, SNOTEL, PCTA, PCT Water and the U.S. Forest Service. For more information on PCT Conditions in Oregon CLICK HERE. This page will be updated on a weekly basis during the summer hiking season.
Main photo: Sunset from Indian Mountain, enhanced by smoke from the Indian Creek Fire. Photo by Jeramy Dietz, courtesy of InciWeb.