For those of you who have older editions of William Sullivan's Book, 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades, you are probably familiar with the very beautiful scene on the cover, promising all kinds of amazing nature experiences if you get out on the hikes in the guide. As it turns out, this completely real place is called Canyon Creek Meadows, and it is every bit as cool as it seems. We've gotten in this really good Sunday hike groove this summer, and since this hike had been enticing me for quite some time, we made it our destination last weekend. I knew we were outside the time window for wildflowers, which is a big part of what this hike is known for, but the heatwave had me craving high mountain meadows and meandering streams and I knew I could find wildflowers another time. I had also been wanting to check out Jack Lake at the trailhead for future camping options, and that too was not disappointing. One could easily camp out there and day hike into the meadows for some leisurely exploring. All around, I have to say this hike is my new favorite spot.
Corey had an old friend visiting from out of town, so there were plenty of entertaining shenanigans and never a dull moment on the trail.
We did our best to re-create the cover of Sullivan's book, but took a little artistic license.
Sitting next to a little stream in a meadow with views of Three Fingered Jack was exactly where I wanted to be. I had heard reports of this area being very popular and crowded, but whether it was the heat, or lack of wildflowers in bloom, we mostly had the trail to ourselves. It was backcountry paradise.
Many of the side channels were dried up for the season, but the main branch of Canyon Creek kept flowing and providing a spot for insects, pollinators and hikers like us to cool down and hydrate. We were a little limited on time, having left later in the day, so we didn't make it the additional two miles to the upper meadow. It will remain an enticing reason to come back.
Although most of the wildflowers were done blooming, we did see some Indian paintbrush and purple asters right along the stream, and patches of pearly everlasting and fireweed along the trail.
To mitigate crowds, the Forest Service will designate a direction for everyone to hike the loop, so we ended up following Canyon Creek for the hike out. I enjoyed seeing the new scenery, and it was amazing how green the riparian zone stayed in contrast to the woods around it.
It's always nice when you go out on a hike and find a new friend. This little fellow had the right idea on a 100 degree afternoon, hanging out in the water and burrowing down in the mud.
While we were up to finding things, we stumbled across ripe huckleberries!
Snacking on the first huckleberries of the year is always a treat, and was the perfect refreshment for our hike out.
And, huckleberries weren't the only treat we found! I spied a little orange beside the trail and ended up finding about a gallon of chanterelle mushrooms. Normally we don't see them until the fall, so this was an added bonus to an already fantastic hiking experience.
The trail begins and ends in the burn from the 2003 B&B forest fire, and there's a lot of regeneration to observe as you hike along. The burn area by contrast makes the creek look like a magical oasis. We passed a waterfall and a side trail to Wasco Lake that I would love to come back and check out (not that I need another reason). It's fun to get out and find a new favorite spot, and I have a feeling there are more out there to be discovered!
Follow Highway 20 east of Santiam Pass 8 miles. At a "Wilderness Trailheads" sign near milepost 88 (1 mile east of Suttle Lake or 12 miles west of Sisters), turn north on paved Jack Lake Road 12 for 4.4 miles. Then turn left on one-lane Road 1230 for 1.6 miles to the end of pavement, and left onto Road 1234 for 6 miles to the Jack Lake campground.
Here's a link to the hike at William Sullivan's Oregon Adventures Page: