- Trip Name: Three Fingered Jack Loop
- Trip Length: 24.2 mile loop
- Trip Time: 2-3 days
- Best time to visit: Summer to early fall
- Difficulty rating: 5
- Views: 8
- Wilderness experience: 8
- Recommended activities: Backpacking
- Best for: Backpackers
- Restroom: Yes, at trailhead
- Permit: Northwest Forest Pass ($30 annual pass, $5 day use fee; stop at Sisters Ranger Station (or any Ranger Station) to pick up your day use pass, there is no day use fee station at the trailhead - See our Resources page for Ranger Station details)
- Click here to download our FREE topo trail maps
- Click here to purchase the GPS file for this hike ($3)
- Click here to check out our photos from this hike
- Click here to download this Trail Guide as a PDF
Trip Technical Data
- Trailhead: Santiam Pass, Pacific Crest Trail
- Trailhead Elevation: 4,840 feet
- Elevation Gain: 4,890 feet
Driving Directions to trailhead from Bend:
Travel Time: 45 minutes
Head west on Highway 20 through Sisters, Oregon. Once through downtown Sisters continue to follow Highway 20 West for 20 miles to the trailhead on the right. The turn to the trailhead parking area is marked by a sign for the Pacific Crest Trail.
This two or three day backpacking loop starts by following the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) north along the west side of Three Fingered Jack. Once you reach Minto Pass you will leave the PCT for trails leading past several lakes and into Canyon Creek Meadow on the northeast side of Three Fingered Jack. After leaving Canyon Creek Meadow you will again pass several lakes, many are great swimming holes, as you head south with views of Mount Washington and the Three Sisters.
The trailhead is on the east side of the parking area and is marked by a Wilderness Permit station where you must fill out your free Wilderness Permit before continuing into the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. After filling out your permit you will come to the PCT and turn left to head north. The trail in this section is sandy, dusty and very exposed. Much of this hike will lead you through the burn zone from the 2003 B&B Complex Fire which burned over 90,000 acres of forest.
Once on the PCT, in 0.2 mile, there will be a trail intersection with the Summit Lake Trail #4014, which you will follow on your return to the trailhead at the end of the hike. At this intersection go left to stay on the PCT. As you head north, in another mile, the trail intersects the Santiam Lake Trail, and this time head right to stay on the PCT. As you gain elevation and get closer to Three Fingered Jack, you will get some relief at 3.2 miles as you exit the burn zone and reach the shade of the living forest. There are several great spots in this forest to stop for a break or lunch if the time is right for you.
After about 2 miles in the forest you will cross into the scree field that flanks the west slope of Three Fingered Jack affording great close up views of the mountain's summit. After crossing the scree field the trail leads back into the burn zone. One advantage of the burnt forest is some of the views it allows. In a third of a mile after entering the burn zone you will round a bend in the trail and be at one of the best viewpoints of Mount Jefferson anywhere.
The hikes high point, in 0.5 mile, is near Porcupine Peak at 6,510 feet which you reach before descending to Minto Pass. Most of this time will be spent in the burn zone. However, there are some small pockets of forest that were spared from the fire that offer a bit of relief from the sun. On your way to Minto Pass you will pass Koko Lake which is a good spot to top off your water if you're running low, or maybe take a break and soak your feet in the refreshing mountain water. A third of a mile after Koko Lake there is an outlook with views of Wasco Lake below.
In another 0.2 mile you will reach a four way trail intersection at Minto Pass. Here the PCT continues straight, the Minto Pass Trail #3437 leaves to the left and the Summit Lake Trail #4014 leads downhill to the right. You will take the right onto the Summit Lake Trail. In 0.2 mile you will reach Wasco Lake where there is a faint, unmaintained trail to the left. Turn right to hike around the west side of the lake. Wasco Lake is a good spot for a swim if it fits into your day. In 0.9 mile, at the hike's 11.0 mile mark, you come to another trail intersection where the Summit Lake Trail turns left, but you will head right onto the Canyon Glacier Trail #4010. At this intersection you will also arrive at Canyon Creek which is another good water source.
Follow the Canyon Glacier Trail for a mile to an obvious trail on your right that is marked as an unmaintained trail but it is very well traveled. This trail leads you into the heart of Canyon Creek Meadow. In 0.4 mile there is a faint trail to the right which will lead into Canyon Creek Meadow along Canyon Creek. At this point you can continue straight on the trail through the lush meadow or take this right to follow the creek. Both trails are about 0.5 mile long and both lead to the large meadow at the foot of Three Fingered Jack.
Once in the large meadow above the timberline there are endless areas to explore. One great attraction is the small tarn (alpine lake). To get there from the meadow floor, it's about a third of a mile with a 300 foot vertical climb. The tarn is hidden behind a large scree mound on the south side of the meadow. There is a small path that leads you to the top. If doing this hike as a two day one night adventure this meadow is the ideal place to spend the night. There are many private campsites just inside the treeline on the north end of the meadow and, thanks to Canyon Creek, plenty of cold water.
After your time in the meadow follow one of the two options used to enter the meadow to exit and return to Canyon Glacier Trail #4010. At this intersection turn right heading towards Jack Lake. In 0.2 mile there is a split in the trail where you can go either way. In just a few hundred yards these two trails meet up again. In another 0.5 mile at the hike's 14.5 mile mark you leave the thriving forest once again for the burnt forest. From here to the end of the hike the majority of your time will be spent in the burn zone.
In 1.7 miles after leaving the unmaintained trail you will reach another trail intersection. At this point you will be rejoining the Summit Lake Trail by turning right. This will lead you to the Jack Lake Trailhead in 0.4 mile. Jack Lake makes another great swimming hole and also a very reliable water source. For an added bonus, there is a bathroom in the parking area here.
The Summit Lake Trail continues out of the parking area straight from where you entered it. For the next 4.0 miles you will make your way through the burn zone crossing only one reliable water source. After this 4.0 miles you will come to an oasis in the hot forest, Booth Lake. This lovely small alpine lake has some shady spots on its eastern shore with access to its clear blue water which is perfect for an afternoon swim. When you leave Booth Lake, make your way for another 1.8 miles to Square Lake (which isn't square at all). Square Lake is another spectacular swimming hole or even a camp site if you are making this a three day trip. At Square Lake you will stay on Summit Lake Trail by turning right. Round Lake Trail is to you left although it is unmaintained and very faint.
From Square Lake you will gain some elevation as you ascend to the ridge above Highway 20. Follow the Summit Lake Trail from Square Lake to the PCT for 2.2 miles. When you reach the PCT turn left and hike for 0.2 mile to the side trail on your right to the trailhead. This will complete your two or three day trip circling Three Fingered Jack covering 24.2 miles.
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Two day option (camp site):
Day 1: Crater Creek Meadow 13.3 miles
Day 2: Out 10.9 miles
Three day option (camp sites):
Day 1: Wasco Lake Overlook 9.5 miles
(Water at Koko Lake)
Day 2: Square Lake 12.5 miles
Day 3: Out 2.2 miles