Backpack Three Fingered Jack

20 miles 2600 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Chad Torkelsen

Take in incredible Mountain Views of Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, and Broken Top.

Begin this 2-3 day backpacking trek at the Santiam Pass trailhead off Highway 20, 31 miles east of Detroit and 21 miles west of Sisters, Oregon. You can begin the loop either north on the PCT or East on trail #4014 towards Square Lake (as it is a loop) I would recommend heading east. It's a 2.2 mile hike through the surreal burned forest with mountain views till you reach square lake, which is the first of at least 4 incredibly beautiful lakes you will encounter on this loop. The trail then shifts north leading you past Booth Lake and continuing 5.6 miles towards Jack Lake.

Campsites can be found anywhere along the trail, I recommend setting up near one of the lakes as their excellent places to refill water and cool off if it's warm. If it happens to be a new moon try and set up camp with a clear view south to take in the vivid Central Oregon milky way at night.

Once past Jack Lake, hike 2 miles into Canyon Creek Meadows; a beautiful green meadow sitting at the foot of the north face of Three Fingered Jack. If you happen to be in meadow at the right time of the summer you will be greeted by millions of wildflowers in bloom. From the meadow you can follow a trail up onto the east ridge of Three Fingered Jack where you find a Glacial Lake along with breathtaking views of 6 mountain peaks to the north and Mt Jefferson to the south. I recommend staying a night in the meadow and being able to catch a sunrise in the meadow.

From the meadow you have two options:

  1. Follow the main trail out of the canyon for nearly 4 miles till it hits the PCT at Wasco lake. Follow the PCT south for 10 miles at which point you find yourself back at the Santiam Pass trailhead.

  2. Cut west cross country following a loosely defined trail up the ridge a 1600' elevation climb to the PCT, this route cuts 4 miles from your trek and can save a couple hours time. Once on the PCT head south 6 miles back to the trailhead.

Some people choose to do the loop in a day but I definitely recommend spending at least one night on the trail in order to give yourself the opportunity to relax and take in this unique Central Oregon landscape.

My Route:
Day 1: Arrived 6:30 PM, hiked roughly 4 miles to Booth Lake and set up camp on its shore at 8:00.
Day 2: Started at 8:50 AM hiked 6-7 miles into Canyon Creek Meadow set up camp by 12:00 PM, spent the afternoon exploring the ridge line.
Day 3: Headed out of the meadow at 8:00 AM, went directly up the ridge to the PCT, reached it by 8:45 and back to the car by 11:45 AM

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Swimming Hole


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🥇Top Contributor

about 4 years ago

Less trees mean better views!

I just completed this as a one-day trail run. Only variation to my route is I skipped the meadow section and continued on Summit Trail #4014 around Wasco Lake, connecting with the PCT, to make one full circumnavigation of the mountain. The section of PCT leading up to Porcupine Peak (mile 12-13) gives you truly vertigo-inducing views and is what I would definitely call the highlight of this route - it’s also your highpoint of the day, at 6,510 ft. It’s too bad to hear that some folks avoid this forest because it’s a serious burn area. Central OR trails need traffic and tourism in order to be maintained, and the 13-year old B&B wildfire that affected this trail gave us one benefit at least - it’s so much easier to see the mountains & appreciate the views now!

Burn Area

Me and my husband started backpacking this and reached booth lake and realized that for miles and miles it would continue to be all burn area. This made it hard to find anywhere to sleep due to winds and nothing to shelter from it. So we found the one patch of green and camped there. The next day we headed back out, not worth the long hike to continue if all we would be seeing. The burn area isn't the best to look at for that long. I would recommend taking another route if your looking to get to those meadows.


over 4 years ago

A must

Ridiculous beauty!! Well worth the effort to get there. I plan to summit it this summer (2016) as I didn't get to last year. I was hiking past it on a 50 mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. From the south(hwy 20) the trail is a gradual incline, but is uphill the entire way, so be prepared. From the North, on the PCT is a great hike along ridgelines and small subalpine lakes. This hike, which ever way you choose to take goes through a recent burn and in the summer will leave you exposed to the sun, so bring sun screen. I recommend this hike to everyone, but expect some effort to hike there, though I met with a group in their 70's. So if they can hike up to it, so can you.

It's such an amazingly beautiful and surreal area! We got a super late start and only had a day and half to explore so only made it to Booth Lake but I'm looking forward to going back in the fall or early spring. It was HOT even though the temp was only 70 out though. The trail is sandy so it retains heat which definitely makes it feel much hotter. Because of the hot sand issue I'd recommend NOT bringing your dog if you're doing this loop when it's hot. Our poor pooch burned her little paws and kept trying to crawl off to hide in the shade to die :( She was miserable! Everyone we met on the trail was having the same issue with their dogs as well.

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