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Trail Running: Bend and Central Oregon
by Lucas Alberg (Wilderness Press)
Don’t let the frenzy around the Patjens Lakes Trailhead fool you. Though the nearby campgrounds may be full, ATVs and dirtbikes within earshot, and water skiers visible o? in the distance, all the clamor and noise stop and nature takes over within your first half-mile on this scenic and relatively easy loop.The Patjens Lakes Loop hits three alpine lakes in addition to skirting several more ponds and the large and scenic Big Lake. Just south of 4,800-foot Santiam Pass, snow may linger into early summer and mosquitoes can be heavy in July, so be wary of any lakeside stops; better yet, visit in August or September.
Hiking Oregon's Central Cascades
by Bruce Grubbs (Falcon Guides)
This is a day hike to scenic Patjens Lakes in the Mount Washington Wilderness. Though shallow, the lakes are in a fine setting. A broad meadow surrounds both lakes and makes for pleasant walking. There are views of the unnamed ridge the trail just came over, as well as Mount Washington. Permit required for day and overnight hikes; self issue at trailhead.The Patjens Lake Trail goes southwest down a gentle drainage through thick lodgepole-fir forest for about 1 mile, then starts to climb the slope on the left. An unnamed trail comes in from the right as our trail starts to climb. Be sure to stay left here. A short but fairly steep climb leads over a pass. The trail now turns southeast and descends into lower Hidden Valley, then wanders up the valley to the east to reach the first of the Patjens Lakes. The second and third lakes are a short distance farther.
Best Easy Day Hikes: Bend & Central Oregon
by Lizann Dunegan (Falcon Guides)
This fun lake loop takes you on a tour of the Patjens Lakes and Big Lake in the Mount Washington Wilderness.This hike offers nice views of the Three Sisters, Belknap Crater, and Mount Washington. At the trailhead, fill out a wilderness permit before you enter the Mount Washington Wilderness. Begin hiking on the Patjens Lake Trail 3395. The trail passes through a pine forest carpeted with clumps of bear grass and lupine. Early in the season, you’ll pass small snowmelt ponds beginning at 0.8 mile. At 1.2 miles you’ll ford a small creek. At 1.5 miles, stay left and continue on the main trail as it begins climbing over a low pass. As you ascend, you’ll have views over the trees of the Three Sisters and Belknap Crater.
Maybe it's unfair, but I really thought with a trail that has "Lakes" in the title that I would be seeing a bit more water than is present on this trail--but that's only one of the reasons I found this trail somewhat disappointing. It is quite a drive (10 minutes off the highway at the top of Santiam Pass) from wherever you are, unless you're camping at Big Lake, but despite the altitude and "lakes" is not much for views, but sticks to being a forest wilderness trail for most of the length. The actual Patjens Lakes are small, unremarkable, and mostly not even visible from the trail. Big Lake, which borders the last leg, is beautiful and an awesome spot to relax, but that just means you'd be better off coming there for recreation than a hike. Also early-season hikers be warned--there was all kinds of snow on the trail in mid-June still; best to save this one for August or later with the high altitudes. Every guidebook has this one so it's important for completists--but Suttle Lake and Echo Basin are both within 15 minutes and are vastly superior hikes.
Great overnight backpack. Started the trail along the edge of Big Lake and stopped at the easternmost lake. Lots of ducks. Elk, deer, and mountain lion tracks. Numerous wildflowers and butterflies. The hike on the west part of the loop is where all of the elevation change is. Brutal leg burner with a heavy pack.
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