Three Fingered Jack
At 21-25 miles this is a modest trail run that is mostly over 5000' elevation so an excellent training run for even grander adventures, a nice introduction to high elevation running with the satisfaction of going all the way around something. There are various side trips, but the minmum distance is about 23 miles. Add in a view of Alpine Lake and you can get up to 25 miles. Water is rather scarce, Halfmiles PCT maps mark some (included in course file) but when we went by they were dank looking ponds of stagnant water. The Canyon Creek at halfway was great source; on a hot day fill up there, drink a lot, and then fill up more. The final stretch has had a lot of down trees to hurdle, remnants from the 2003 B&B fire but are difficult to clear since this is in the wilderness area and only hand saws can be used.
When To Do This Run
As soon as the snow gets down, unless that’s your thing.
General Route Information
The map below shows the route for the run at the PCT trail head off Santiam highway. Clockwise gets you some shade in the morning, and puts the one good water stop mostly around the loop. Great description of the loop, maps, and photos from this site, which unfortunately closed up in late 2017, the text and images are still available on the Internet Archive.
Maps and Reference Information
This is going to be a long day. Make sure to bring your 10 Essentials along.
For safety’s sake consider bringing a map for this run. At the very least you should get the 589 Three Fingered Jack map an maybe the 557 Mt Jefferson map for the northern section of the loop. The Outdoor Project has downloadable Topo maps.
You probably want to check the weather before heading out. Hoodoo ski area seems to be the closest feature with any weather information. This weather.com link may take you straight to weather info.
Trip Check: https://www.tripcheck.com/ Webcams and weather reports on the highway.
It's a good idea to check if there are any trail closures or other info. The website for Willamette National Forest is https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/willamette/alerts-notices and it has the locations of ranger stations; coming from Portland there is one in Detroit that is on the way to the parking area.
Fees and Regulation
A parking fee is required at the parking lot; Forest Pass will also be accepted. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recreation/recarea/?recid=80280. Nov 1 through April 30 it seems like a sno-park permit is required, https://www.tripcheck.com/Pages/Sno-Parks-Santiam-Pass.
The table below gives split distances
It's about 132 miles from downtown Portland to PCT trailhead of Santiam Hwy. It takes about 2 hour 30 minutes to drive this with a stop at the Maples Rest Area.
Directions to the parking lot: https://www.google.com/maps/dir//Pacific+Crest+Trail+Access,+Sisters,+ORfirstname.lastname@example.org,-121.8901124,13z/data=!4m9!4m8!1m0!1m5!1m1!1s0x54bf6b2bbc8d5329:0xdf1380e64e6b3425!2m2!1d-121.855093!2d44.4226812!3e0
Pete Carleson (creator)