• Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    17 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2900 Feet

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Swimming Hole

Big views of Mount Jefferson and Oregon's western Cascades are accompanied by several backcountry lakes and cascading creeks along this stunning loop.

This loop through the Pamelia Lake Limited Entry Area is one of the premier backpacking trips in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. The trail offers sustained up-close views of Mount Jefferson and several lookout points provide panoramic views of the western Oregon Cascades. The several large backcountry lakes that the loop accesses are also destinations in their own right, offering swimming, fishing, and solitude. While the loop can be done in two days (or even one!), splitting it into three allows the most time for side adventures and enjoying the lakes.

Before starting, note that all trips into the Pamelia Lake Limited Entry Area (including day hikes) require a special entry permit in addition to a Northwest Forest Pass. This special entry permit is first-come first-serve, costs $6, and may be reserved online or purchased at the Detroit Ranger Station on the way to the trailhead. To start the hike, drive about 14 miles east of the Detroit Ranger Station on OR-22, then turn left onto Pamelia Creek Road and follow the road 5 miles to its end at a signed trailhead parking lot.

The hike starts out following Pamelia Creek, climbing gradually through Douglas Fir forest for 2.3 miles before reaching the shore of Pamelia Lake. The lake is an extremely popular backcountry fishing hole and base camp, and for good reason! At this point, it is also possible to add an additional 6.4-mile out-and-back to summit Grizzly Peak (see this hike described on The Outbound).Once finished exploring the area around Pamelia Lake, continue the loop by turning left at the trail junction that you encounter upon reaching the lake from the trailhead. This will lead you away from the lake for 1 mile before reaching the Pacific Crest Trail. Turn right and follow the PCT as it climbs gradually uphill to a series of lakes about 4 miles later. Shale Lake, which is recognizable by the rock chips along its shores, makes a great campsite for your first night as it offers tremendous views of Mount Jefferson and there is a panoramic viewpoint that includes Hunt's Cove only 0.1 miles further down the trail.

The next day, continue following the PCT another 3 miles, then continue straight at the trail junction to loop back towards Hunt's Cove and Pamelia Lake. Follow the trail for another mile, then turn right to head steeply downhill towards Hank's and Hunt's Lakes within Hunt's Cove. If planning to camp a second night, there are plenty of options for tent sites along the shores of these two beautiful and sheltered lakes.

Climb back to the trail to Pamelia Lake by following a small trail that crosses the outflow of Hank's Lake. Once you reach the main trail again, it is an easy 3 miles to Pamelia Lake and another 2.3 to the trailhead.

Pack List

  • Permit - a special permit is required for all trips into the Pamelia Lake Limited Entry Area, including day hikes. The permit is first-come first-serve, costs $6, and may be reserved online at recreation.govor purchased at the Detroit Ranger Station
  • Northwest Forest Pass - Required in addition to the special entry permit. May be purchased online or at stores throughout Oregon and Washington
  • Backpacking gear, including devices for water filtration.
  • Area map and compass
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Michael Graw Explorer

I'm a landscape and adventure photographer based out of Corvallis, Oregon. Backpacker, triathlete, and skiier - always with a camera in hand. Look for me in the mountains or online @WanderingSolePhotography.

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