Backpacking to Martin Lake - Mt Jefferson Wilderness, Oregon

Martin Lake, located in the Southern end of the Mt Jefferson Wilderness at the base of Three Fingered Jack, was our planned backpacking destination over Memorial Day weekend this year. Unfortunately due to lots of snow and poor weather, we never made it. Now that the weather has warmed up and the snow melted, Katie and I decided to backpack to Martin Lake this weekend. It's about a 5 mile hike one-way from the Pacific Crest Trailhead off Hwy 20 just East of Santiam Junction. The easiest route to Martin Lake briefly follows the PCT before turning off onto the Summit Lake trail #4014. The trail passes Square Lake and Booth Lake. Shortly after going by Booth Lake, the route goes off trail to the West, following the draw that comes down from Martin Lake. A map and compass or GPS are helpful for those unfamiliar with the area. It is a fairly easy trail due to an elevation gain of just over 550 feet. Most of the trail is open due to the B&B fire of 2003, so there is plenty of scenery most of the way.

Martin Lake Trail Elevation Profile

We hit the road around 6 AM and were at the trailhead hiking just before 9 AM. There were over a dozen other cars in the parking lot when we arrived. Most of them were probably PCT hikers. When we were here at the end of May, we had to park just off the highway because the road to the trailhead was still blocked by snow. Today it was snow free with warm sunny weather.

Pacific Crest Trailhead     Toad Along the Summit Lake Trail

With no snow in sight, there were plenty of wildflowers along the trail. It was neat to see the difference compared to six weeks ago.

Summit Lake Trail #4014 to Square, Booth, and Martin Lakes     Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax) Beginning to Bloom

There were no clouds in the sky and we had fantastic views of Broken Top, the Three Sisters, and Mt Washington.

Broken Top, Three Sisters, and Mt Washington (from left to right)     Wildflower Along the Trail

As we hiked past Square Lake, we didn't notice anyone camping along the shore. We had passed a couple of other hikers, but otherwise we had complete solitude.

Square Lake     Paintbrush Wildflowers

The brush along the trail was quite thick as we hiked above Square Lake. Hopefully it doesn't completely take over, blocking light to all the young trees trying to take root after the 2003 B&B fire.

Thick Brush Along Trail (9 years after B&B fire)     Square Lake with Broken Top, The Three Sisters, and Mt Washington in the Background

There are several great spots along the trail to see the nearby Cascade volcanoes. Three Fingered Jack is the closest with Mt Washington the next closest.

Closeup of The Three Sisters - South Sister, Middle Sister, and North Sister (front to back/left to right)     Closeup of Mt Washington
Three Fingered Jack from Near Booth Lake     Closeup of Three Fingered Jack

We noticed one tent near the shores of Booth Lake as we hiked by. This is where we turned around over Memorial Day. There had been several feet of snow on the ground at that point.

Booth Lake     Flowering Succulent

We noticed several footprints and at times what appeared to be a trail as we hiked up the draw toward Martin Lake. Mostly it was a mild bushwack through blowdown. When we arrived at Martin Lake, no one else was in sight. There were only a couple small lingering patches of snow. As we were setting up camp, a couple backpackers came down off the ridge from the PCT (the more difficult route to Martin Lake). One of the guys recognized me from Loomis Adventures and it turns he had commented on our post from Memorial Day. What a small world.

Martin Lake     Martin Lake (looking South)

Two more sets of hikers came off the ridge from the PCT later in the day. One set camped away from the lake and the other across the lake. While we were hoping to have the lake to ourselves, everyone was courteous and eager to share such a beautiful spot in Oregon's wilderness.

I tried my hand at fishing, but it was only fair. I tried a spinner (Little Cleo®) and caught a couple small trout. PowerBait® (chartreuse) was not any better.

Jason Fishing Martin Lake     Frog in Martin Lake

While the weather was beautiful, the tradeoff was the mosquitoes. They were horrible, but that is pretty typical for the Mt Jefferson Wilderness. Even with insect repellant on, they attacked us. They even went so far as to bite Katie through two shirts. Luckily I heal quickly, but poor Katie had hundreds of bites visible by the time we got back to the car on Sunday.

After fishing, we decided to try and get away from the mosquitoes by going on a hike/scramble up the ridge to Summit Lake. Instead of heading Northwest straight up the ridge to Summit Lake, we headed around to the Northeast and traversed along the Northeast side of the ridge above the draw out of Summit Lake. The draw out of Summit Lake is much steeper than Martin Lake. As we climbed, we found larger patches of snow and even more mosquitoes. We decided to turn around shy of Summit Lake and head back to camp at Martin Lake where we started a fire to help combat the mosquitoes. After dinner we went to bed early. Unfortunately it didn't get very cold, so we ended up sleeping on top of our sleeping bags much of the night. In the middle of the night I got up and looked at the stars. They were vibrant and filled the entire sky unlike back home near the city.

Martin Lake (looking Northwest)     Broken Top, Three Sisters, and Mt Washington from above Martin Lake

We awoke to another beautiful morning on Sunday. There were a few clouds in the sky, which was nice since it warmed up quickly. After breakfast, we packed up camp and hiked out.

Steps on Summit Lake Trail     Cloud Formations over Three Sisters and Mt Washington

We ran into a couple hikers and two horses on our hike back to the PCT trailhead. The mosquitoes were still bad much of the trip back until we arrived at the car. For some reason they gave us a slight reprieve while we packed up and headed home. The mosquitoes make me wish for the winter snows to come back, but the scenery is just too spectacular to be covered in snow all year.

Trail Junction Near Square Lake     Solar Technology in the Backcountry


Erik, Tue, 07/10/2012 - 20:38

It is a small world. It was nice meeting you and your wife! For being an off trail lake it still remains fairly popular huh?

jloomis, Wed, 07/11/2012 - 04:38

It was nice meeting you and your brother. I was very surprised how popular Martin Lake was. I am curious if last weekend was an anomaly or if that is how Martin is every weekend.

Post new comment

Disclaimer: You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards of backcountry travel and taking the necessary precautions. Loomis Adventures may not be held liable.