Russell Lake via Whitewater Trail and Pacific Crest Trail [CLOSED]

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Willamette National Forest

Russell Lake via Whitewater Trail and Pacific Crest Trail [CLOSED] is a 11.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Idanha, Oregon that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking 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.

Length11.6 miElevation gain2,109 ftRoute typeOut & back
Dogs on leashHikingNature tripsForestLakeViewsWildflowersClosed
Description
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FIRE CLOSURE: From Sep 25, 2020 - May 15, 2021 there are closures in this park or area due to wildfire. For more information, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/mthood/alerts-notices This is a moderate to hard trek to Jefferson Park which sits between Mt Jefferson and Park Butte. The trek is moderately popular for hiking and backpacking and feeds into the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail once started out by winding through mature, old growth Douglas Fir and Hemlock forest but since the 2017 Whitewater Creek Fire much of this area has burned, leaving the trail exposed. The path 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. After reaching the alpine plateau, Jefferson Park, the trail will wind near Bays Lake, Scout Lake, and Russell Lake. Along this plateau, you may see wildflowers in bloom. If you're adventurous you can scramble up the rocky, scree slopes of Park Butte.

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Reviews (210)
Photos (331)
Activities (165)
Completed (332)
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Allison Newton
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CampingGreat!

I did my first solo backpacking trip to Russel lake on August 21st 2020. I fell I love and am now super concerned about the area due to the devastating fires. Anyone have any updates?

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Elizabeth Landau
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BackpackingGreat!

I hiked August 15-17. The warmest weekend up there. I grew up coming here often. So I’m not sure if my favorite place can let me down. I’m so SO thankful that I took tons of photos before the deviation from September fires! Trail was highly maintained and easy to hike. The old-burnt area is starting to show new life. After 3 days in a tank top and shorts i only had 12 mosquito bites. Swam all three days and it was glorious.

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Dylan Matier
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Hiked this trail 2 weeks ago just before the fire broke out. A parking lot was pretty crowded but over all the trail was well maintained and clear of brush. There was a lot of blow down off the trail and pretty much the forest was entirely dead and burned from the fire in 2017. With the current wild fire on going I am scared that this whole area is now completely destroyed which would be devastating because it was so beautiful. stay away until official notice

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Neil Banman
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HikingGreat!

As of this writing, the Lionshead fire has entered Jefferson Park. Make sure to call ahead and ensure that the area is safe and available to visit. I hiked in late August. Skeeters were all but gone. The trail is not as spectacular as the PCT over Park Ridge, but it's in good shape and an easy way to get to the park. Note that it's by far the most popular way into the park, and you will cross many other hikers breathing hard and not wearing masks. We camped at Bays (my favorite of the lakes). My buddy caught a good sized trout with a fly rig, and just barely lost a giant one. We also got some bites with crickets and a moth; the fish were utterly uninterested in powerbait or spinners.

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Nic Mcmahon
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HikingRocky

This is a beautiful hike, it was full of amazing view. The hike to Russell lake is uphill and very rocky, but coming back is very nice. We got lucky with the bugs, there were little to no bugs, even at night. The lakes were beautiful, Bays lake was our favorite. The wind picked up at night, and was rather loud. The smoke had blow out before we left. Overall a great hike!

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Richard Schenker
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Backpacking

Lots of smoke and ash today, had to turn around

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Natalia D
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Backpacking

Super dusty. Really crowded. Otherwise the views and lakes are amazing.

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Blake Miller
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Hiking

Beautiful exposed trail the first few miles despite the burnt trees. Tons of wildflowers (fireweed I think) were in bloom to add to the views. I recommend checking out each of Russell, Bays, and Scout lake. Despite being fairly busy, we still found a good spot (not on the vegetation) to camp near Russell Lake.

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Natalia D
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BackpackingNo shade

Pretty exposed most of the trail due to the fire burn area. Finding a campsite is really hard, seems way too crowded. Otherwise the views of Jefferson from Scout Lake are amazing.

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Bryan Chong
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HikingGreat!

Went early August on a Sunday morning, found a campground no problem with unclaimed campsites still left. Most of the wild flowers had died up in Jefferson Park and many of the streams and small pools were dried up. However the campsites were beautiful and it's a great place for overnighting and first time backpackers. Beautiful lakes and an impressive mountain.

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Ashley Lopez
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BackpackingFeeRocky

Parking: There is a NW Forest Pass needed to park at this trailhead. We arrived 9:30am on a Saturday and all official parking spaces were taken so we were one of ten cars that parked alongside the road. Trail: Honestly didn’t expect so much of the trail to be burned forest. I thought it was maybe the first mile but it’s actually the first four miles. For a day hike, I don’t think it’s worth it. But DEFINITELY worth it if ur backpacking. The “creek” crossing was pretty wide and was more intense than we expected. Luckily all of us had waterproof boots and we were fine to dunk our feet in for a few seconds. It is completely uphill the way there. It took us 3.5 miles to reach camp but only 2 hours to get back to the car. Not very many bugs, except for maybe 2 hours before the sun goes down. The trail is VERY rocky. We were mostly looking down cause otherwise we would trip. Campsites: We got lucky and we were able to stay at the first one we saw since the party was packing up. I would definitely recommend printing the campsite map from USFS website since the campgrounds were difficult to find even with the map.

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Weldon Richardson
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BackpackingGreat!

My family’s first time in Jefferson Park and it was just as beautiful as everyone says. We spent 2 nights at Bays Lake and loved swimming in the lake and exploring the area. Also discovered that the Thermarest NeoAir sleeping pads make great floats! We were pretty lazy about bug spray and ended up with maybe 10 bites each but as mosquito magnets that’s not bad. Most campsites filled up while we were there (Sun-Tue) but people are coming and going at all different times so if you don’t find one at first, be patient and keep looking.

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Kurt S
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Hiking
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Hannah O'Donnell
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CampingBugsGreat!No shadeRocky

We did this hike the weekend of 8/15. the first half of the hike is really dusty and exposed because of the fire so prepare to little shade when its hot AF out there. Once you pass the water crossing its shady and beautiful forrest. take a left at the PCT fork and you will make it to the lakes. we did not make it to Russel lake because of our late start but we made it to the first lake with an amazing view. also note*** we walked about 6.5 mile here and still did not make it to Russell lake, so I don't feel that the miles on here were accurate for this trail. we think it's more like 8 miles out form the trail head.

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jojo potatoes
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BackpackingGreat!
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Chris Liles
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BackpackingGreat!

#natureporn . Only way to describe it. Stunningly beautiful and well worth the visit. We arrived at the trailhead on Friday 14 August around 9:30am and found a mostly full parking lot. Knowing the popularity we hiked pretty fast to attempt and pass as many group as possible to allow a choice of sites. When we arrived. Arriving to Scout/Bay Lake we found approx 6 empty campsites around the lake and decided on #19. Most worth it. Great views of Mt Jeff and while the park was full, we were far enough away from others to not feel crowded. I think even with a permit system its still going to be just as busy. Beautiful place, found the end of the meteor shower from this week. Just a perfect weekend with swimming, fishing and more. Our first day we fished both Bay Lake and Scout Lake and found nothing. No bites, no fish jumping, nada. Day 2 we walked over to Russel lake and in the morning caught 7 and evening caught another 5. It was a fantastic weekend.

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Amanda Brewster
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BackpackingGreat!No shadeRocky

Beautiful! Very crowded, but still worth seeing the area. Come early - and on a weekday if you want a spot to camp. But for a day hike there is plenty of space around the lakes to get some solitude. Lots of passing people on the trail. Bugs were present, but very manageable. Road in is rough in spots... doable for my small lame sedan, but i was nervous... someday I will get a better car for these types of trips :)

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Clark Roe
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BackpackingGreat!

I completely understand why this area is continually regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Oregon. It absolutely lives up to the hype! I went with fellow AllTrails user Jojo Potatoes, and we had an absolutely top-shelf one-night adventure with incredible views, some of the brightest shooting starts, and cold plunges into the crystal clear waters of Scout Lake. The road up to the trailhead is a nicely maintained gravel road until about the last mile and a half, then it becomes somewhat treacherous. I drive a 2WD Honda Accord and was able to make it up to the trailhead with only a moderate amount of anxiety, but there were several Priuses (Prii?) parked at the top so I assume you could make it in just about any vehicle. Was concerned the bugs would be a problem from the reviews below, but wore some deet and didn't get bitten once. Best advice I could give is to try to camp at one of the sites a little further from the water if bugs are a giant issue for you. 10/10 highly recommend. Usually avoid high-traffic trails but this is popular for very good reasons.

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m °
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Hiking
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Big Daddy Bananas
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Hiking
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tim _
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tuesday 8/8/20 parking lot full. trail was packed. too many people. needs a permit system. i want nature not 30+ people

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Casey Lohrman
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Backpacking

Perfect conditions & weather Aug 9-11. Bugs present but not horrible. I used bug repellent regularly and got 1 bite in 3 days. My son was pretty lax about the repellent despite my encouragement and got over 20 bites. Really beautiful spot!

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Larry Work
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Hiking
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J W
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HikingGreat!No shade

Gorgeous! The destination is stunning, with views of Mt. Jefferson, pristine and peaceful lakes, and wildflowers galore. It's important to know that the first 2/3 of the hike (almost until the junction with the PCT) are burned out and very exposed, but the destination makes it worth it. In mid-week in early August, it was hard to find an open campsite (I spent about an hour looking). Next time I would head straight to Bays lake. I agree with an earlier review that those campsites are the nicest. Also, I would be sure to get an earlier start next time. All that said, I would do this trip again in a heartbeat. It was stunning and memorable. Also, bugs were not an issue.

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