Jefferson Park One Night Backpack

12-13 miles out-and-back
2,200 feet
Summer through fall
Central Cascades Overnight Permit, Northwest Forest Pass
Jefferson Park Golden Hour
Hike to Jefferson Park, one of the most stunning backcountry camping aresa in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. Packed with wildflowers, lakes, and mountain views, you'll be treated to a breathtaking sunset display right from your campsite.

Jefferson Park was reopened in 2022, and largely spared from the 2020 Lionshead Fire that scorched the surrounding area. You may notice a few burn scars as you explore the alpine meadow, soaking in the wildflowers and five swimmable lakes.
Beargrass Flowering in Mt. Jefferson Wilderness burn scarSmall Lake on the way to Jefferson Park

Getting There and Parking

For easiest access to Jefferson Park, start your hike at the Woodpecker Trailhead near Detroit, Oregon in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. To camp at Jefferson Park, you'll need a current wildnerness permit - check out the permit information to reserve your trip.
You may also start your hike at Pamelia Lake Trailhead, several miles south off the PCT. If you start from Pamelia Lake, be prepared for a 22+ mile round trip. Jefferson Park was previously accessible from the Whitewater, Triangulation Peak, and Breitenbush trailheads, but these trailheads are unfortunately closed because of the 2020 Lionshead Fire (as of 2023).

Hike Details

From the Woodpecker Trailhead, you'll hike uphill through successive burns, approaching the PCT junction after 1.7 miles. Once you reach the PCT, turn left (north), and continue for 4.1 miles until you reach Scout Lake at Jefferson Park.
There are many campsites scattered around Jefferson Park, but I recommend camping by either Scout Lake, or Russel Lake. Both lakes have unobstructed views of Mt. Jefferson.
Campsite at Russel Lake with mountain views
You'll find Scout Lake immediately off the PCT as you enter Jefferson Park, and Russel Lake being an additional 0.7 miles farther north on the PCT. Social trails and postage signage leads to both lakes. Further exploring of Jefferson Park will lead you to Park, Rock, and Bays Lake. All five named lakes are swimmable, with relatively warm water by midsummer.
Be aware that Oregon's central cascades are prime mosquito country, usually peaking in numbers by mid-July. By August and September, the amount of bugs will have thinned considerably. When visiting Jefferson Park, please remain on the main trails and camp in posted campsites - doing so will help to avoid degradation of the fragile alpine meadow environment.

Permit Info

Backpackers at Jefferson Park are required to carry a Overnight Permit at all times in the Mt. Jefferson wilderness. Permits must be purchased online prior to the date of your trip.

The Mt. Jefferson permit season runs from June 15th to October 15th, becoming highly competitive during peak summer months. 40% of overnight permits are released on April 4th, at 7AM PDT , and another 60% are released on a 7-day rolling window from June through October.

All permits are reservable on a first-come, first-served basis. To increase your odds of getting a permit, log into recreation.gov by 7AM the week before you want to backpack, and select your desired trailhead as soon as it becomes available. Permits sell out quickly for popular trailheads!

You may hike without a permit before June 15th or after October 15th, but please be prepared for the possibly of deep snow and difficult or dangerous weather conditions.
The Pamelia Lake trailhead additionally requires a day use permit.
Sunset on Mt. Jefferson near Russel Lake
Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson Park

What to Pack



Goat Lake Campsite

Camp Kitchen

Oatmeal at Ramona Falls


Backpacking near Jade Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness


Backpacking the Timberline Trail on Mt. Hood


Still have questions? Send me a message over email to connect. Happy Trails!
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About Us

Heart Rock at Joshua Tree
Thanks for visiting our travel blog, Trails And Trekking! We're Lauren and Anders - an adventure loving couple currently stationed in the Pacific Northwest. We're avid hikers, backpackers, and travelers. We're both originally from Oregon, but we've spent the last two years traveling the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We created this blog to share our passion for exploring the outdoors, and to inspire you to get outside.