Trail History: Mt. Jefferson to Santiam Pass zone


Brush Creek Trail (BCT), version one: 1940? to circa 1974. When this author hiked it in 1973, it did not appear well-maintained. The bottom one mile of it was rather difficult to find because of logging disruptions and debris. Signage up at its top was at THE TREE, seen on the previous page. In 1973, author could not locate any signage at the trailhead at the bottom.

BCT, version two: The BCT was "rehabed" sometime after 1982 and before the B&B Fire hit the area... This rehab greatly affected the upper part of the BCT---- seemingly as part of the opening of the modern PCT along the crest, the Summit Trail was abandoned. As part of this trail work, the upper part of the BCT was re-routed and re-signed, by-passing THE TREE, and now joining the PCT about 0.4 miles north of Rockpile Lake. (the Summit Trail going from THE TREE directly south to Rockpile Lake is abandoned, as is the portion going up from THE TREE to the ridgetop at the South Cinder Peak saddle). .All three images compliments of Ranger Jeffrey September 2010. Latest update: Sept. 2014. Ranger Jeffrey hiked the trails again, finding these two wooden signs still in good shape, but lying on the ground, so he propped them up at an appropriate locaton. Note that the BCT had been officially re-named #4004.

BCT, version three: 2003 to present-- apparently, the BCT is now on the "endangered trails" list-- not maintained, in danger of fading into history for good..... In the picture below, the photographer is standing on the PCT, about 0.4 miles north of Rockpile Lake. You are standing beside a rough cairn of rocks that holds up the "pole" that in better days had the Brush Creek sign bolted onto it. Now the sign lies at the base of the pole, and has been lying there for at least three years. At the top of the pole someone has attached a strip of orange marking tape. The tip of the pole points downhill to the northeast, where the BCT ascends to meet the PCT. If you follow the aqua dots I have added to mark the old trail tread, you see some text I added. This is the "Trail Unsafe for Livestock" sign see in image above; it is about 100 yards downhill from the PCT. The main reason the trail is unsafe for horses is really not due to anything about the B&B fire damage and debris. The trail was unsafe even before the B&B, and that is due to one short section of the BCT about 1.5 miles north of this junction. It's a very steep, narrow, rocky place where the BCT ascends to a small saddle as it heads east along the 6200 foot high crest of the Brush Creek Ridge. This saddle is VERY SCENIC and highly recommended, with great views both north toward Carl Lake and Mt. Jefferson, and south toward Three-Fingered Jack and beyond.

Summit Trail, version one: it was perhaps in existence as early as the original blazed Oregon Skyline Trail of 1921 (eg., the section of the Summit Trail from Rockpile Lake northward a few miles may have coincided with the actual route of the original Oregon Skyline Trail, as shown on the 1921 map of the same name).

Summit Trail, version two: 1931 to unkn, estimate the 1950s, this was the major access route to the entire area from .. to... , before the modern PCT was completed circa 1974. On some old maps, this version of the trail may have been named "the Little Lake Trail."

Summit Trail, version three, this version carried the official trail number of #65... Its route was much like version two, but parts rerouted, and of special note, much-lengthed at its Northern end to access Hole in the Wall Park. The origin of that unique place name is brimming with colorful Old West history, the "Hole in the Wall Gang," a loosely knit confederation of outlaw gangs that used a place in the mountains of Wyoming (Johnson County) for some 40-50 years, an easily defended "Hole" that was their impenetrable stronghold, never successfully breached by lawmen. The famed Butch Cassidy had a cabin here, which is now on display in Cody, Wyoming! The Sundance Kid was also affiliated. Thus, Oregon's deep Hole must have reminded someone of an impenetrable spot for a great outlaw hide-out. Note: the BCT trail was renamed to #4004, probably in the 80s, although later basically abandoned and left without maintainance.

The Skyline Trail: 1921 to unkn. At some point, the name was changed, to "Oregon Skyline Trail No. 2000." It had also undergone several major reroutings.

The Oregon Skyline Trail No. 2000

The modern PCT, circa 1973 to the present. (apparently not re-routed in this region, although it has suffered various stages of disrepair since the 2003 B&B Fire).

For further exploration is the old John Swallow Trail which takes off from the PCT and runs along the south side of South Cinder Peak, leading to Swallow Lake, and then downward a couple miles to the "John Swallow Grave," then downward another couple miles to Marion Lake. Before the modern PCT came into existence, one could hike up the Brush Creek Trail No. 69 to BIG TREE junction, where then you'd follow trail #65 uphill a short distance to the crest of the Cascades. There, you would meet the John Swallow Trail No. 3488 and descend, as just decribed, to Marion Lake. In the old days, a road went to the lake (elev. 4,100 ft). There was a FS Guard Station, and cabins there, some probably for rent in the summertimes. What a great connection route this was between the Camp Sherman/Metolious area and the Marion Lake area on the west side of the Cascades!

--- by Bruce B. Johnson M.A., November 21, 2012, with partial update November 2015 and reviewed 1/14/2023