a new reservation system was implemented in the spring of 2016 in an attempt to alleviate crowded camping near the lakes. That being said, Jefferson Park is always more than worth the five-to-seven-mile hike it takes to get there. We recommend visiting in the fall; not only is it less crowded, the turning leaves and soft autumn light make for stunning photos. Even better, go midweek if you can, as use is always heavier on the weekends. Just be sure to check the weather forecasts before starting out; at a 5900-foot elevation, Jefferson Park is susceptible to early snow. Regardless of what the weatherman says, take extra clothing and be prepared for a sudden change.
There are three routes to Jefferson Park: the Pacific Crest Trail (6.5 miles one way and very scenic), the South Breitenbush Trail (about 6.5 miles), and the Whitewater Trail (a little over 5 miles). This article will focus on the Whitewater Trail, which gains about 1700 feet through forests and along stony cliffsides.
To find the trailhead, drive 10 miles east of Detroit on OR 22, or 21 miles north from the junction of 20 and 22 in the Santiam pass. Turn east on Whitewater Road, a modest but decent mountain road. Follow this for 7.5 miles to the parking area. You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park here, and you should fill out a free wilderness permit at the trailhead. Look at the sign board for a map of the lake area showing designated camping spots. If someone has not taken it, snap a quick picture of it to help you find the spots; some of them are tough to locate.
|View from Park Butte|
It could be argued that Jefferson Park is overused and should be avoided. I disagree; in fact, I highly recommend the hike. We just need to use this beautiful place wisely. Try to hike during less-busy times, don't build a campfire, pack out everything you bring in, and leave absolutely no trace. This is a place I hope to share with my grandkids someday.