Visit to Three Fingered Jack

The summit of 7,841-foot Three Fingered Jack lies five miles north of Santiam Pass. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the western flanks of the mountain at the 6,000-foot level. Since I was already visiting Black Butte Ranch, it was a short drive to the 4,840-foot PCT trailhead near the top of Pass. The first three miles meandered through the snags left by a large forest fire. It had been almost 10 years since the burn occurred, allowing beargrass, true grasses and wildflowers to brighten the landscape.

After 3 1/2 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain, I entered a healthy forest of hemlocks and sub-alpine firs, deep snowdrifts, and finally an open ridgetop. Clouds had moved in from the west obscuring the top of Three Fingered Jack. The views to the east over Martin and Booth Lakes to Black Butte were hazy due to forest fires in SE Oregon. The melting snow brought out blood-sucking skeets by the thousands. For the first time in 2012 I broke out the insect repellant. For my enjoyment, there were many little frogs hopping about and butterflies by the hundreds.

After an enjoyable brunch of sliced apples and Gatorade, I decided the snow was too deep to continue north on the PCT. I reluctantly turned around and headed back to the trailhead. As it turned out, I made a wise decision. Not long after returning to Black Butte Ranch, thunder and lightning commenced in the higher mountains and lasted the remainder of the day.

Scarlet Gilia (one of my favorite wildflowers)

Beargrass lining the Pacific Crest Trail entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington to the south

A strikingly beautiful Clodius Parnassian Butterfly enjoying some nectar (thanks for the ID Matthew)

A small Cascade Frog (?) by a snow bank

Mountain Spiraea

Small pond near the PCT

Categories: Oregon Cascades HikesTags: , , , , ,


  1. Hi,

    I found your blog while looking for information on trail conditions for a backpacking trip I am hoping to take next week. I plan to hike north on the PCT from Santiam Pass, so your experience would be valuable to me. Can you tell me a bit more about the snow conditions that made you turn back? Feel free to email me at Thanks!

    • The snow is really hanging on this year at the higher elevations. But it’s been over two weeks since I did the hike from Santiam Pass. My guess is that the snow on the trail has receeded significantly in the time since I did the hike. William Sullivan says the hike is usually open to the 6,280-foot viewpoint of Three Fingered Jack by late July. Happy trails.

  2. That butterfly is a trip. Evolution is a grand thing isn’t it?

  3. Note that its wings are semi-transparent. That’s very uncommon outside of the tropics.

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