Russell Lake via Whitewater Trail and Pacific Crest Trail

HARD 30 reviews
#30 of 120 trails in

Russell Lake via Whitewater Trail and Pacific Crest Trail is a 11.6 mile out and back trail located near Idanha, Oregon that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from June until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

11.6 miles
2,109 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash


nature trips





wild flowers


This is a moderate to hard trek to Jefferson Park which sits between Mt Jefferson and Park Butte. The trek is a rather popular hiking spot. You may see many hikers along the trail. This trail also feeds into the Pacific Crest Trail. The Trail first starts out by winding through mature, old growth Douglas Fir, Hemlock trees. It winds along a ridge where you can see spectacular views of Mt Jefferson. Along this ridge, wildflowers may also be in full bloom, depending upon the season. Once up on a rather flat alpine plateau, Jefferson Park, the trial will wind near some lakes,  Bays Lake and Scout Lake, until you finally reach Russell lake. Along this plateau, you may see wildflowers in bloom. If your adventurous you scramble up the rocky, scree slopes of Park Butte. 

1 month ago

Road to trailhead is CLOSE. If you plan to hike this, look for alternative TH.

2 months ago

Came via the Woodpecker Ridge trail further south on the PCT. Once we hit the whitewater trailhead, a consistent 3-5 feet of snow through Russell Lake. Lakes are mostly frozen but peeking out in parts. Still beautiful.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Just cancelled plans for this trail due to USFS alert saying the trail is closed due to active fire.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Went on July 24th and it was beautiful. But I had to be escorted on an alternate route by firefighters due to a fire that took out a good portion of the trail. Last I checked the trail is still closed because of the fire.

Monday, July 24, 2017

What a beautiful place ! It's a steady incline most of the way to the lakes, but so worth it ! There were mosquitos but it was manageable . We will be back !

Friday, July 21, 2017

Such gorgeous views at Jefferson park! The trail is mostly melted out, but there's a bit of snow left that isn't hard to cross. However, the mosquitos came out in full force our second day there! For a day hike, we continued along the PCT and climbed up to a ridge with a gorgeous view of Mt. Hood. There was quite a bit more snow but we were able to navigate and cross easily. There is a glitch in the All Trails gps track for this trail on the way up to Jefferson Park. We ran into someone using Gaia Gpa who had the same issue, so the trail must have been rerouted or something. Before you hit the PCT the app will show you're off course, but you're not. Once you hit the PCT the All Trails app will line up again with the trail.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mosquitos weren't bad last Sunday but things changed over night on Monday... bring bug spray! Beautiful views!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hiked on 7/15. Can't beat these views, wow! Beautiful trail from start to finish. Only went to Scout Lake this time. Still a bit of snow around, but doesn't impact the trail up to that point too much. Also, after all the worry of mosquitoes, there happened to be NO BUGS! Lovely and breezy the whole time, not sure if we just lucked out on the day or what... we were kicking ourselves for not backpacking it. Will definitely be back!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Omg what an amazing hike! First time to Jefferson Park and it was incredible. Unbelievable views, still some snow, mountain lakes were superb.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Amazing July 3rd trip. Two days camping by Scout Lake. Above the creek crossing was covered in snow and completely obscured the trail. Followed tracks and met up with some other intrepid hikers to find our way to the lakes. Camping spots around the lakes were dry. Almost everything else was buried under feet of snow. Mid 70's during the day but would drop to around 34-36 degrees at night. Amazing early season trip for this area. Will go back later the the summer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 24-25, 2017

**lost my cell phone about 4.5-5 miles in from trailhead following the Whitewater trial. Lost it near the river/creek, again about 4.5-5 miles in. It is a black iPhone 5s and it's in a black and white purse phone case with a handle. If you find it, please turn into the Detroit ranger station. Thank you!"

I hiked this trail twice this the second time I attempted to find my phone. I found these reviews very hopefully I provide some nuggets of helpful information here.

Extremely hot this weekend (93-97 degrees). I was very glad I brought lots of water and my trekking poles. Trail is well maintained and easy to follow for the most part. There was snow at the top of the mountain, where in some locations the snow covered large portions of the trail and areas of the mountain. I wore tennis shoes for my hike both days and did fine on both the trail and the snow. I was glad I brought a couple pairs of tennis shoes, as both days I did this hike, My shoes got soaked, so it was nice to have a dry pair for day two of hiking. Also, brought flip flops, which was great to have dry feet for the drive home.

Was surprised to see snow still in June, but didn't hinder the experience, just made the progress slower because I had to follow footsteps in the snow and review this app for gps help, as this was my first time to this hike/trail/area. Views were to the top and my automatic thought was "this was so worth it." Didn't see many people on the trail either day...but I carried bear mace and a taser just in case I ran into trouble.

The trail does pretty much go up at a steady incline up the side of the mountain (think I counted a total of 4 switchbacks before you reach the top). Not too difficult though. Only about 3 logs/trees down over the trail, but they were easy to navigate around or over. I have hiked trails with worse inclines, but considering this is one of my first weekends hiking this summer, this was a perfect training hike and a good way to get great exercise for both legs and arms. The incline isn't horrible...again I've had worse, but it is a trek to the top. I was breathing heavy.

Top of the mountain opens up and doesn't have much coverage or protection from the sun. Definitely bring sunscreen and sunglasses. I would suggest a hat or a wet towel over the head to keep cool...I did the towel my 2nd day and I was glad I did, as it kept me cooler than my first day.

Saturday - left trail head at 1200pm. Carrying a 25lb day pack today. First time on trail, so took lots of pictures, stopped periodically to look around and take water breaks. Amazing view of Mt. Jefferson...clear, beautiful day - 97 degrees. Went about 6 miles into the trail before I turned around to come back. Large areas where snow covered trail and I had to pick my way through, trying to follow footsteps of others and my gps. Last 1.5-2 miles going in was completely snow...couldn't see trail at all and followed footsteps....had to pick footing careful as trees were weighed down by snow and I didn't want to fall in a pocket.

Lost my cell phone on the way out. Crossed the river/creek headed home and had to bush whack for a bit to relocate trail...think phone fell out near that area....but only noticed I lost it about 2 miles later. Decided too late to try to turn around and locate the phone, as I didn't really want to hike out in the dark.

Saw lots of mountain flowers and only a couple groups of people at the top trail today.
Made it back to car at 12 miles in about 5 hours. Decent day!

Sunday - mission = try to find cell phone
I hiked the blue pool trail earlier in the morning and therefore left whitewater trailhead later today - about 1430 and it was 93 degrees out. Noticed a big difference in the "heat" of the trail as I was hiking - it was cooler even in the shaded woody parts.

Mission today meant I was not stopping to take many pictures and attempted to take less breaks. Day pack was slightly lighter, about 20lbs today, and I made really great time up the mountain. Got 4.6 miles done in about an hour and 35 minutes.
I made it back to the river area, but the snow had melted so much within the last 24 hours it made it really hard to be sure exactly where I crossed the river when I lost my phone...landmarks were different and more vegetation was exposed.

I did search for my phone for about a 1/2 hour before I threw in the towel and started the journey back to my car. Still...great hike and great views:) not as clear today but at least white clouds in the sky. Saw some dogs on the trail and saw fresh horseshoe prints in the dirt, so I know both did fine on the trail. Both days I was drinking water like a make sure you have extra water in your car too.

Made it back to my car at 6pm. So...about 9.5 miles down in 3.5 hours. Again, I was moving. I actually did some trail running/jogging on the way out, so made awesome time.

Hope you found this helpful!!

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Saturday, July 30, 2016

wonderful hike! Not difficult but is uphill all the way there. Views are beautiful. The three small lakes in Jefferson Park are great to take a dip in!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The hike was beautiful. Not too difficult...all uphill there, all downhill back. We ran out of time so only hiked just west of Sentinel Hill. Great photo area where we turned back

Sunday, September 08, 2013

I almost don't want to tell people how awesome the park is so I can have it all to myself.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

We used the Whitewater Trail as an access to Jefferson Park and the PCT. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It is over 5 miles of climbing that will get the heart pumping. The trailhead is a well maintained parking lot with a good, well marked, road of the Santiam Highway. I highly recommend this trail as access to Jefferson Park.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I gave this trail 4 stars for the view of Mt Jefferson and the destination to Jefferson park. A little Rocky and dusty at times but not to bad. Mild up hill climb 5.5 miles about 2000 feet gain. or less depending on how for you go into the park once your there. I used about a 45 pound pack with random stops for pictures, water and viewing and took about 5 hours. Walking sticks would be good to have for a creek crossing but rocks are walkable with balance. heavy water season it might be a little difficult. the trail wasn't to busy in mid week. I don't remember seeing anyone till I got there. Weekend was busy.

1 month ago

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015