With great anticipation,
every year we go on an autumn colors road trip. Established when the kids were very young, we
carry on the family tradition now they are grown and gone. Sometimes they
join us for a local autumn day trip. Sometimes we extend the pleasure
over a long weekend, taking the scenic route, an off road trip venturing to wild places.
At the foot of Olallie Butte is almost inconceivable beauty, Olallie Lake Scenic
Area. This gem of the Mt.
Hood National Forest, borders the fascinating
Warm Springs Indian Reservation to the east, Mt. Hood to the north, the West Cascades Scenic Byway to the west, and Mt. Jefferson to the south.
Over 200 dazzling alpine lakes set in a monumental landscape make for a spectacular
From Portland, Oregon, take I-205 south. Take
Exit 12A and merge onto OR 212E/OR 224E toward Clackamas. Turn right onto
OR 224 E/Clackamas Hwy. Continue on OR 224-E through Estacada,
At the south end of town begins the OR-224/West Cascades National Scenic Byway/OR 224, which follows along
the left bank of the Clackamas Wild and Scenic River. About 25 miles from
Estacada, take a right onto NF-46 and travel about 28.1 miles. Turn left
onto NF-4220 and travel about 7.2 miles. Turn right into Breitenbush Lake
To continue to Olallie Lake from Breitenbush Lake Campground,
turn right on to NF-4220 and travel about 4.5 miles. The road is especially
bad in this section between Breitenbush Lake and Olallie Lake.
complete the scenic loop, continue north on NF-4220, passing Head Lake and Fish
Lake on the left and travel about .9 miles. Turn left onto 42/NF-4230 and
travel about 4.3 miles. Turn right onto NF-46 and travel about 14.8
Continue north on the West Cascades National Scenic
Byway/OR 244, until you arrive in Estacada,
Spring chases the snow
from these higher elevations usually by the end of June, with snow returning
again in mid-October.
Because the area is so
remote and there are no nearby services or conveniences off road trip contingency planning is imperative. Come with a full tank
of fuel, warm clothing, extra food, and plenty of drinking water as none is
available. The mosquitoes can be fierce so wear long-sleeves,
pants and a hat, and take mosquito repellent.
Be prepared to pack out
trash and to take care of personal needs in the forest, bring a small hand
shovel and biodegradable
No cell phone signal or
service is available. The nearest public land-line phone is at Ripplebrook
Guard Station with services and fuel in Detroit, Oregon.
Access to the Olallie Scenic Area via the route we took is rough and the gravel road is not well maintained. Use off road trip driving savvy: high-clearance and/or four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. This area is not well traveled after Labor Day weekend in September when the seasonal recreational activities in the scenic area cease to attract visitors.
Help is unlikely in the event of emergency during the off season. Come prepared to be self-sufficient if the unforeseen should happen. We always wear hiking clothes and take backpacks filled with survival gear, including maps, a compass and bear spray, in case we have to hike out.
Serenaded by the music of the forest and ruffled by gentle breezes, we breathed deeply the pristine air and basked in the beauty of the marshy meadows surrounding Breitenbush Lake. We had the place to ourselves, only passing one other brave adventurer the whole off road trip.
High Cascades Mountain, Olallie Butte, dominates this picturesque scenic area. The
distinctive pinnacles at the highest part of the cauldron lend character to
volcano. Unmaintained, yet passable, Olallie Butte Trail leads to the summit where lay the ruins of an old
fire lookout tower. Except for the lower western flank, most of Olallie
Butte lies inside the boundary of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.
While the challenging
road conditions seem daunting, the views of this high lakes basin just off
the switch-backs going down the mountain are awe-inspiring; Horseshoe
Lake against a backdrop of forested
"The Lodgepole Trail, the former alignment of the old Skyline/Pacific Crest Trail, crosses several source creeks of the main branch of the Clackamas River and is little traveled; during the return along the Pacific Crest Trail on the lower slopes of Olallie Butte, you may encounter PCT through hikers towards the end of summer."
"This loop option, mostly within the Olallie Lake Scenic Area, uses the Lodgepole, Red Lake, and Pacific Crest Trails, finishing with a short stretch of the Russ Lake Trail, to visit a series of lakes and meadows in an area once buried under a Pleistocene ice sheet several hundred feet thick. You will get many views of nearby Olallie Butte from various points during the hike, and Mount Jefferson thrusts its ancient volcanic plug to the south."
"The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, travels deep forests, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. The trail symbolizes everything there is to love—and protect—in the Western United States.
Untold thousands of hikers and equestrians enjoy this international treasure each year. Some only travel a few miles, while others complete every mile in a single season . . . "
"The first mile of the trail, you travel through old growth forest, passing vine maple, rhododendron, and beargrass. After climbing that first mile, the trail takes off across a plateau. It suddenly feels a lot more open, with the understory dominated by huckleberries and beargrass . . . "
"The Red Lake Trail #719 crosses the Pacific Crest Trail #2000 at this four-way junction on the south slope of Twin Peaks. Going south, the Red Lake Trail drops to Top Lake. Going north, it descends to Fork Lake and Sheep Lake . . . "
"The Russ Lake Trail, leading past three lakes in the "McQuinn Strip" area of the Warm Springs Reservation, is only 0.9 miles long. This loop extends that short in and out hike a little by heading to Triangle Lake first and then using the short, but unmarked, Lodgepole Tie Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail in order to visit in Russ, Jude, and Brook Lakes. The Russ Lake Trail has not been officially maintained since the transfer to Warm Springs in 1972, but it is an obvious tread all the way to Russ Lake."
"The Red Lake Trail #719 meets the Top Lake Trail #725 here at the northwest corner of Top Lake. Head north to the Pacific Crest Trail. Head south along the Top Lake Trail to make several switchbacks up to the PCT at Cigar Lake . . . "
"Olallie Lake Resort has 10 cabins available, each with a view of the lake. Two yurts are currently located in the Paul Dennis Campground. The cabins are very rustic in nature, no electricity or indoor plumbing. Outside of each cabin is a water spigot with usable water. There are outhouses located throughout the cabin area. Each cabin has a wood stove inside, and wood is provided."
"This historically significant, two-story cabin was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s for the Forest Ranger that patrolled the area. It is a classic example of the Forest Service rustic architectural style of Depression Era administration buildings. The cabin is located on the far south end of the Mt. Hood National Forest. It’s location near the shore of Olallie Lake affords visitors views of the north face of 10,497-foot Mt. Jefferson and 7,215-foot Olallie Butte, in the Cascade Mountains. The facility was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Olallie is Chinook jargon for 'berry.'"
"The historic Olallie Meadows Cabin was built in 1910. This cabin is closed for restoration and should be open for recreation rentals by 2016. Numerous hazard trees in campground making camping dangerous." *No water or restroom.
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