With great luck, my sister and I found ourselves with free time, a Santiam Pass hiking permit and both of us at Santiam Pass. She was kind enough to start the hiking at my hour (first light as if we camped at the trailhead), if the hike fit her free time slot – about 3 hours. A two-part hike was planned; part A together going from Santiam Pass to Summit Lake on the west side and back, and part B a solo jaunt going up the east side until I either ran out of time to get back to the car before 3:30, or too wet / cold to continue longer. It basically was hiking the south end of 3 Finger Jack Loop (All Trails Summary) in a “Y” shape in / out day hike.

Obviously, we checked the weather prior to setting out and the day before. Both forecasts were for very light rain off / on during the day and ending early afternoon. Sadly, the weather did not agree to that forecast, and it rained steady, constantly all day (until 2pm when I left), and worse, a steady strong wind from the west (and cold). We both wore rain gear top and bottom on the west side section, and when solo on the east, just tops but came back soaked on bottom, and feet.

NOTE: given the weather, all pics are from iPhone SE2 – poor resolution / quality – no better resolution to click / see.

The west side was on the PCT gradually climbing up just shy of 6000 ft elevation to the Summit Lake junction. About 2/3 of the distance is in old burn with the manzanita in weird blooming mode, hard to tell if flower or leaf.

We walked past the trail first time given the fog and our leaning into the wind / rain. It’s only about .4 miles to Summit Lake and we wound around a bit on the trail, and we both had an idea where the lake was hiding in the fog. We were both wrong and the lake came into view – a beautiful spot that would be spectacular w/ 3 Finger Jack in view (just not today!). There are a few great camp spots here as well.

After my ‘get warm and dry’ stop in the car, I headed back out on the east side. The east side was less of a climb and the rain continued though the cold west wind was less. For the first section, it’s through an old burn in early recovery. All the bushes and undergrowth were wet and helped get me wetter than the rain. The fall colors in the muted grey sky were a surprise.

There were two larger lakes along the trail, Square and Booth.

Both wet and cold, I turned around at Booth Lake and headed back to the car.

Summary: The south end of 3 Finger Jack Loop is a lake-filled walk through recovering burns at Santiam Pass. It’s an easy hike with great water and camping spots less than 5 miles from the trailhead, though on the east side widow-maker safety is important for campsite selection. Summit Lake is a special place, and worth putting on your list to visit – but maybe on a clear day. On the west side (PCT), we met at least 10 other hikers and the trailhead parking lot had ~10 cars mid-day. On the east side section, not 1 other hiker.

GaiaGPS Stats – the track

Caveat: the stopped time does not include a 30 minute ‘get dry, warm’ break between the west and east side sections; tracking was paused

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for including me, and adjusting the start time from 5:45 to 6:30:-) No headlamp needed! Great day rambling thru the burn and into the forest with my big bro.

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