The beautiful Olallie Lake Scenic Area is located in a remote area of Central Oregon, on a mile-high plateau at the crest of the Cascade Range. The Olallie backcountry is a fine hiking destination in its own right, with hundreds of mountain lakes and tarns to explore. But it is also the northern approach to the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, and the exceptionally scenic alpine garden at the foot of Mount Jefferson called Jefferson Park.

The trail to Jefferson Park climbs over the humbly named Park Ridge, the focus of these pages. The view from the ridge is quite simply one of the most spectacular in the American West. Though the trail to the ridge viewpoint is rugged and remote, the view from the crest, overlooking Jefferson Park and across to the glacier-covered north face of 10,497 foot Mt. Jefferson, is a familiar from scenic calendars and advertisements. The trail itself is a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, the national scenic route that extends for 2,000 miles along the crest of the Cascades and Sierras from Canada to Mexico.

The Olallie Lake Resort makes a memorable base camp for exploring the area. There are rustic cabins, yurts, boats and canoes for rent and a mountain store with essential supplies. Visitors come to the lake for fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and above all, the scenery. Olallie Lake is roughly three hours from Portland, 40 miles from the nearest sign of "civilization." The gravel Skyline Road is the final grade into the Olallie Scenic Area and the resort.

From Olallie Lake, the Skyline Road grows increasingly rough, passing many smaller lakes on the way to the Jefferson Park trailhead at Breitenbush Lake. The Northwest Trail Pass program is in effect here, and the passes are not sold at the Olallie Lake store - so be sure to pick one up before you park your car here. The final two miles of road to Breitenbush Lake are also quite rough, and should only be attempted in a truck or sport utility vehicle with ample clearance.

From the Breitenbush trailhead, the Pacific Crest Trail climbs steadily for 3.7 miles to the 7,010 foot crest of Park Ridge, one thousand feet above Jefferson Park, and seemingly within arm's reach of Mount Jefferson. The trail begins as an easy forest hike, with frequent views of the buttes and volcanic cones that dot the Olallie Basin. As the trail ascends into alpine meadows, the hike becomes more rugged, and the final two miles are over a rocky, tundra terrain that is snow-free for only two or three months each year. This final climb to the ridge is too rocky for small children but is no more than a vigorous outing for older kids and adults.

From Park Ridge, you can decide whether you have the energy (and time) to continue down the opposite grade into Jefferson Park. There, a half dozen lakes and sprawling meadows make the trip a favorite overnight trek for backpackers.

Image Gallery
~ Trail Map ~ Links

All images are © Tom Kloster 2001 and may only be used by permission. Send comments or questions to