This magnificent 5.5 loop trail Canyon Creek Meadows Hike is located in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness of the Deschutes National Forest in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. It has spectacular views of Three Fingered Jacks craggy spires, Black Butte mountain, North Sisters, Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson as well as stunning wildflower meadows in June. The trail goes through beautiful forests, meadows and along bubbling creeks.
This hike takes you through the wilderness that had a fire in 2003. It is fascinating to see the forest regenerate after such a short time. The meadows were spared in that fire, and the views through the burned skeleton trees are better than when you were hiking in the unburned part of the trail.
You’ll hike past silver snags at the start and end of this hike, but you’ll notice that millions of mountain hemlock seedlings have sprouted naturally after the fire. Beargrass, huckleberries, and many other plants that rely on fire are thriving as well.
We hiked this trail in mid-May so did not see as many wildflowers as you will see four weeks later, but it was still a delightful hike. We dodged a bit of rain and hail, but most of the day was cloudy with sun.
We started out with a breakfast at Bronco Billy’s in Sisters early on Mother’s Day. It was a bit busy so we were there longer than we wanted to be, but Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for any restaurant.
Canyon Creek Meadows hike is advertised as an easy hike with 400 feet of elevation gain to the lower meadow, but there are areas where it is steep and other areas with rocks, fallen snags and tree roots in the path.
We were not able to continue to the more difficult 7.5-mile loop with 1400 feet of elevation gain to the upper meadow’s viewpoint because of the snow pack. Most years the upper meadow is not clear until August.
To get there from Sisters, OR go west on US 20 for 12 miles to near milepost 88 where you will see a “Wilderness Trailheads” sign pointing right to Jack Lake Road (FR12). Go north on Jack Lake Road for 4.4 miles to the junction with FR 1230, and then turn left on the one-lane FR 1230 for 1.6 miles to the end of the pavement. At the junction, turn left onto Road 1234. The road becomes gravel here and can be rutted and washboard.
Continue on FR 1234 climbing 6 miles to the trailhead at the primitive Jack Lake campground.
Start hiking on the trail to the right. The trail is smooth and goes past Jack Lake at the beginning.
The path climbs 0.3 mile to a well-marked fork at the Wilderness boundary that is the start of the loop.
To limit the number of people you meet, the Forest Service asks that you hike the loop clockwise. So turn left at this junction. Go left climbing gradually amid thru snags, rocks and skeletal trees, and then descend through unburned woods to the lower meadow.
At 1.7 miles, you come to the lower meadow and the trail divides. To the left is the trail to the high meadows. This is not a well-maintained trail and as mentioned is usually not available for hiking until August because of snow.
The view of 7,841-foot Three Fingered Jack is stunning and the creek running through the meadow adds to the beauty.At the end of July, there is a show of wildflowers including lupine, red-Paintbrush and multiple other blooms. Stay on the main trail to preserve these delicate meadows and picnic or camp only under the trees.
To the right is the trail back to the trailhead. This part of the trail follows Canyon Creek and then through a marsh.
We had a problem following this trail at 0.1 miles because of a fallen tree blocking the trail and a patch of snow.
Once we found the trail, it was easy to follow but had multiple downed trees across the trail and one area where we had to climb over a big snag.
The trail passes through beautiful alpine scenery with stunning views of Mt. Jefferson and Black Butte.
Go 0.9 miles along the creek to the junction with the trail to Wasco Lake. Take the right trail and go 1.5 miles back to Jack Lake. Watch for the waterfalls on the left just past the turn.
Note: The mosquitoes were thick and have been noted to continue being a problem even into the beginning of August, so be prepared.