whitewater fire

Out of the Frying Pan…

First it was the snow. Then it was the bugs and blowdown. Now it’s the wildfires. Oregon’s PCT hikers are having a rough season this year. Right about now wouldn’t be a bad time for some of Oregon’s signature rain. Now with several significant stretches of trail closed and continuing warm, smoky weather, it’s looking like the challenges will also be continuing for a while. On the flip side, the Diamond Peak and Sisters areas should be pleasantly snow-free and good hiking right now. Stay safe, and try to find the silver linings out there.

The Whitewater Fire has closed the PCT from Minto Pass to Breitenbush Lake. Photo courtesy of InciWeb.

Trail Conditions

Last winter’s snowpack is almost gone. You may find lingering patches in shaded, high-elevation forests and on north-facing aspects, but the trail is generally clear thru most of the state now. Skirting blowdown continues to be challenging in some areas, including the Sky Lakes Wilderness and in portions of the Mt. Hood Wilderness. The PCTA will be getting into the Sky Lakes area with two logout crews to help clear the mess. If you’re not hiking, experienced in logout and crosscut work, and interested in joining one of these crews to help clear the trail for fellow hikers, check out these trips here:

Whitewater Fire

The Whitewater Fire, currently burning on the west side of Mt. Jefferson, now covers more than 5,400 acres. Jefferson Park is completely inaccessible and the Forest Service has expanded the area closure (Map 1). The following trails/areas are now closed:

  • PCT from Minto Pass to Breitenbush Lake (OR mile 320–348; PCT mile 2,009–2,037)
  • Trails: Bingham Ridge, Minto Mountain, Pamelia Lake, Woodpecker, Whitewater
  • Jefferson Park, Cheat Creek, Triangulation Peak, Leone Lake, South Breitenbush, Crown Lake, Bear Valley/Rockpile Lake, Cabot Lake, Jefferson Lake, Brush Creek

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around this closure. If you’re thru-hiking and need to get around this area, here are two options:

  • RECOMMENDED: Exit the PCT at Santiam Pass (Hwy 20) and find transport north to Breitenbush Lake or Olallie Lake.
  • Exit the PCT at Minto Pass and hike west to Marion Lake and the following trailhead. Walk Marion Lake Road to Hwy 22 and find transport north.

The Forest Service is currently estimating full containment on this fire in October—UGH! This could keep this area closed for the remainder of the season—including during the upcoming solar eclipse. We’ll have more info on that in a few days.

whitewater fire closure
MAP 1: With 28 miles of the PCT now closed, there’s no easy way around Mt. Jefferson’s Whitewater Fire, now at 5,400 acres. Click map for larger version. Map courtesy of InciWeb.

Spruce Lake & Blanket Creek Fires

At Crater Lake National Park, the Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake Fires—double whammy!—just blew up over the weekend. They now cover a combined area of more than 10,000 acres and have rendered most of the west side of the park closed (Map 2). The following trails/roads/areas are now 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, West Rim (Discovery Point to N Junction), Discovery Point, Lightning Springs, Boundary Springs, Bald Crater Loop, Bert Creek
  • West Rim Drive; Rim Village is currently under evacuation warning

With the southern park boundary closed, NOBO PCT thru-hikers can’t access Mazama Village and don’t have many great options for exiting the trail in the Sky Lakes area.

  • RECOMMENDED: Exit the PCT at Fish Lake/Hwy 140 and find transport north to Mazama Village, then walk East Rim Road; or transport to Cascade Crest/North Crater Trailhead at Hwy 138.
spruce lake map
MAP 2: The Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake fires have closed much of the west side of Crater Lake National Park, including most of the PCT thru the area. Click map for larger version. Map courtesy of NPS.

Indian Creek Fire

The small Indian Creek Fire in the upper Eagle Creek Canyon continues to smolder and burn in steep underbrush, and has expanded slightly to 84 acres. The Forest Service recently expanded the closure to include nearby camp areas (Map 3). The PCT remains open, and water can be obtained at Indian Springs. The following trails/areas are closed

  • Trails: Eagle Creek (south of Wy’East Camp), Indian Springs, Chinidere Cutoff, Eagle Benson, Tanner Butte and the eastern portion of Eagle Tanner
  • Indian Springs and Wahtum Lake campgrounds

PCT hikers should proceed through the Wahtum Lake corridor and continue to Cascade Locks by way of the Benson Plateau.

indian creek fire
MAP 3: The Indian Creek Fire remains contained and the PCT open, however the surrounding trails and camp areas have been closed. Click map for larger version. Map courtesy of USFS.

Weather Forecast

Much of the Crest across Oregon this week will experience mild temps, a mix of sun and clouds, and some unsettled weather—with chances of scattered showers (yay!) and thunderstorms (boo!). The southern regions of the state are under a Red Flag Warning for the next couple days. It looks like things will clear a bit going into the weekend. Daytime highs are forecast to hover around 70 in most regions; McKenzie Pass will see 80s, and Cascade Locks will see 90s. Overnight temps will range from the high 50s to low 60s across most areas. Many areas will experience haze and poor air quality from wildfire smoke. Click on the links below for detailed forecasts.

[column-group] [column]
Mt. Ashland
Fish Lake
Crater Lake
[/column] [column]
Willamette Pass
Elk Lake Resort
Santiam Pass
[/column] [column]
Frog Lake
Timberline Lodge
Cascade Locks
[/column] [/column-group]

2017 Solar Eclipse

It’s not looking good for viewing this month’s solar eclipse from the PCT with the current wildfire and trail closure situation. It’s still possible to access a couple of the northern viewpoints from the Timothy Lake area, but prime viewing from Jefferson Park may be out of the question. We’ll be posting more info soon. In the meantime, check out our Eclipse Guide.

On August 21, a full solar eclipse will blanket the PCT from Santiam Pass to Timothy Lake. Photo by Kurt Kulac.

Road Conditions

All highways and secondary roads accessing the PCT’s primary trailheads are open and clear.

• Crater Lake National Park – West Rim Road is currently closed due to the Spruce Lake Fire. Rim Village is currently under evacuation warning. Mazama Village and East Rim Drive remain open.

• Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway (OR-46) – Road is open and trailheads are clear.

• McKenzie Pass Hwy (OR-242) – Road is open and trailheads are clear; Lava Camp Lake is open.

Check Oregon’s road conditions at ODOT.


Our thru-hiker friend Alexa has just arrived in Oregon! She’ll be sending us trail conditions updates as she treks across the state. We’ll be sharing her info soon!

Have you been out on the PCT in Oregon and have trail info to share? Send us an email with your update and a photo and we’ll get your news in the next report. Your fellow hikers will thank you!

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: Smoke plume from the Whitewater Fire near Mt. Jefferson. Photo courtesy of InciWeb.

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