Jefferson Park in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area is often considered the most beautiful section of the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail. The trails in Jefferson Park are best for running from Memorial Day to Halloween. Late June and early July is the peak bloom of wildflowers like Giant Red Paintbrush, Bear Grass, Lupine, and more. Early October offers peak fall colors of the vine maple and blueberry bushes. A Central Cascades Wilderness Pass is required to access Jefferson Park between June 15 and October 15.
The Whitewater Trailhead, about 10 miles east of Detroit Lake, is the easiest access to Jefferson Park. This lot has been recently closed due to the Lionshead fire. Ascend the trail to the Whitewater Creek Trail for around a mile through remnants of an earlier forest fire. Enjoy views of the foothills of the Central Oregon Cascade Range.
Turn right on Whitewater Creek Trail for another three and a half miles to the PCT junction. The Whitewater Creek Trail runs along the ridge of the Sentinal Hills area with spectacular views of Mt. Jefferson, and wildflowers are aplenty.
Turn left on the PCG to Jefferson Park. Whitewater Creek is just before this intersection. Plan on getting your feet wet here if running before mid-August. The trail flattens out and eventually reaches many small lakes, where Mt. Jefferson’s reflection flickers on a bluebird sky day.
Enjoy Park Ridge and the Jefferson Park area’s old-growth hemlocks, subalpine meadows, and lakes. Jefferson Park is one of the mountain’s five glaciers. The others are Whitewater, Waldo, Milk Creek, and Russell. Head back to the start after appreciating the stunning location. The total route is 10-12 miles, depending on how far you venture through Jefferson Park before turning around.