The aim of our trips is to have enjoyably challenging experiences along with other skiers on winter backcountry trips. Since there is inherent risk in what we do, it is the responsibility of each of us to participate in a thoughtful and intelligent way, matching the trips we participate in to our skill level, and using each trip as an opportunity to improve our skiing and navigation skills and our ability to assess snow safety conditions.
Trip descriptions, maps and trip reports are not intended to provide adequate information for independent travel; and the ONC Willamette chapter does not recommend such use of the information on this site. The trails shown are in backcountry areas and are unmarked and unpatrolled. Navigation in winter conditions can be surprisingly difficult. Thoughtful consideration should be given to the advantages of making trips with experienced group leaders who have local knowledge of terrain and snow conditions.
Avalanches occur near Santiam Pass, and it pays to be prepared. For the Santiam region, you will want to visit theSummary Avalanche forecast for the Mt. Hood area, which is the report geographically nearest to Santiam Pass. Always check this resource before your ski tour. If you have any question about the day’s snow safety / avalanche conditions, it is wise to await better conditions. The mountains will always be there.
For further information, see the Safety section.
The tours are of varying length and difficulty. Skill levels applied to touring are:
A – Easy: A need for basic skills and the traversing of a few miles on largely level terrain.
B – Intermediate: Distances extend to 10+ miles, moderate hills are encountered and the accumulated elevation gain for the trip can exceed 1000 feet
C – Advanced: Entering backcountry, C trips add elevation gain, frequent steep terrain and extended time “on the skis”.
D – Expert: Backcountry and high terrain skiing. D is best described as professionally challenging with substantial difficult terrain and long distances entailed.
The Santiam Pass is covered by two National Forests, the Deschutes and the Willamette. Winter recreation maps are available for the Deschutes, and trail descriptions for the Willamette.
Winter Recreation Maps, Deschutes National Forest
Winter Trip Planning, Willamette National Forest
There is also a new 2007 Santiam Pass Winter recreation map at a scale of 1:31,680 for the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. This is completely updated, has UTM coordinate grids for navigation, and is printed on durable plastic material. Cost is $7.00, and it is available now from the Forest Service stations in Mill City and Sweet Home. Copies are also available in some sporting goods and speciality stores. Highly recommended.
The Bachelor Mountain Tour begin by skiing up the Bugaboo Rd (FS 2234), the first road on the west side of Hwy 22 as you head south from Marion Forks. This season’s heavy snowpack left skiable snow right down to the highway at 2558′; but for the first mile there were stretches of bare pavement in open, sunny spots. Above 3100′ it was all great spring snow: smooth, solid, no trailbreaking. At two miles the road forks at a sharp switchback and offers a choice of approaches. Straight ahead FS 280 & 286 climb through dense forest with few views to the south ridge of Bachelor Mtn at 4450′. Here there is a spectacular view of Mt. Jefferson and the option of climbing the south ridge toward the summit. A sharp right at the switchback continues up FS 2234 to open ridges with panoramic views of Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters. Further windings onto FS 260 & 263 will lead the determined skier onto the east ridge of Bachelor Mtn at 4800′. A summer hiking trail buried under deep snow leads up this ridge to the summit. The climbs steepen dramatically, but the views are even more rewarding as you move up the ridges. Both routes to Bachelor are protected by the three C’s: Cliffs, Cornices and Chutes steep enough to avalanche. The summit appeared to be accessible; but only to experienced, well equiped ski mountaineers with a l-o-o-o-ng day to devote to the project. For the rest of us, tours to the ends of these roads are about 4.5 mi. one-way and offer spectacular views with great downhill runs as an added reward for the climb. The east ridge at the end of FS 263 even has a huge clearcut suitable for tele practice.
Difficulty Rating: B for trip distance
Distance: 9 miles round trip
Bachelor Mountain Tour
The Berley Lakes Santiam Lake Tour follows the summer hiking trail, departing Santiam snopark and gradually ascending to the north for 2 miles before jogging west and again north to enter the Lost Lake Creek drainage. It follows this creek 2 miles on a northwesterly course, first passing thru a steep-walled canyon (best route may be east of the hiking trail), then entering the broad windswept valley of Lost Lake Creek Meadow. At this point it is possible to ski .3 mile SW through fairly open terrain to Upper Berley Lake, with good views of Three Fingered Jack. If you wish to continue 1.3 miles on to Santiam Lake, the route continues NW through the meadow before climbing west and north to summit a saddle near an unnamed lake. A descent thru woods near the lake’s outlet stream leads to open slopes south of Santiam Lake. With clear weather, there are memorable views to Three Fingered Jack two miles to the east. Return retraces the route.
Diffculty Rating: B-C for trip distance and terrain
Distance: Round trip distance is 8.5 miles for Berley Lakes, 10 miles for Santiam Lake
Elevation: Total gain and loss is 975′ for Berley Lakes, 1260′ for Santiam Lakes
Berley Lakes Santiam Lake Tour
The Booth and Square Lakes Tour visits two lakes east of the Cascade Crest, and on a clear day provides views of Three Finger Jack to the north and Mt. Washington and the Sisters to the south. The loop can be done in either direction. To travel clockwise, depart Santiam Snopark travelling .65 mile east to the Pacific Crest Trail parking lot (not plowed). Proceed north up the gentle Pacific Crest to a clear area at about 5500′, then gradually descend NE thru meadows for .5 mi, selecting the best location to traverse down to a lower bench and just north to a small pond. Booth Lake is another 1/4 mile downslope from the pond. If snow is heavy, you may wish to return by the same route. Given adequate conditions, continue SSE on the summer trail to Square Lake, which involves a moderate canyon descent. Ski along the west edge of the lake, climb over the pass near the SW corner of the lake, contour the trail around a shoulder and finally parallel the Santiam Pass Highway back down to the PCT Trailhead and Santiam Snopark.
Difficulty Rating: B for distance and skill level
Elevation gain & loss: 1200’
Distance: Round trip 7 miles
Booth and Square Lake Tour
The Clear Lake Traverse traces a one-way route from the south end of the Hoodoo ski area parking lot, climbs the cat track between Hoodoo and Hayrick (Art’s Alley) to about 5050′, then descends a moderately steep slope to the lowland south of the Hoodoo-Hayrick saddle. From there, the route takes you south of Sand Mountain, through a low gap between two unnamed sub-5000′ hills. Just beyond the gap lies a 3+ mile stretch of lava flow, which when covered with snow is a delight to ski. It is best completed in good snow years. The trip ends with a 1 mile hike to the drop point near Clear Lake Lodge. To reach the Clear Lake parking site: from Hwy 22 turn SW (sharp right) at Santiam Jct onto Hwy 20/126. In three miles turn S (left) onto Hwy 126. Continue 3 miles to the south lodge road to Clear Lake, which you will see as a fairly large plowed area on the left side of the road (the actual south lodge road is not plowed into the lodge this winter). This plowed parking area is 5 mile past (south of) the north lodge road (which is plowed into the lodge, but does not have parking space).
Difficulty Rating: C for length and steep downhill sections
Distance: One way trip distance is approximately 10 miles, with a 1 mile hike back to the car
Elevation gain/loss: +760 -2237 = -1477
Warnings: Must have adequate snow cover to ski across the lava field. Do not attempt to ski across Clear Lake.
Don’t Miss: The lava field.
Hoodoo to Clear Lake Traverse
The Four Lakes Tour has become a popular club trip. Starting at Santiam Pass and climbing to over 6000 feet, the trip is approximately 10 miles in length and requires both skill and endurance. It is best completed when there is adequate snow.
Difficulty Rating: C for length and steep downhill sections
Distance: Round trip distance is approximately 10 miles
Elevation gain/loss: 1840′
Warnings: Avalanche Danger: Due to steep lee slopes on the east side of the Cascade Crest, this tour is not recommended when avalanche danger is high or extreme.
Don’t Miss: Spectacular views of Three Fingered Jack and Hoodoo
Four Lakes Tour
The Hoodoo to Little Nash Tour departs the S end of the Hoodoo ski area parking lot, climbs the cat track between Hoodoo and Hayrick (Art’s Alley) to about 5050′, then descends a moderately steep slope to the lowland S of Hoodoo-Hayrick saddle. It contours west around the base of the bench SW of Hoodoo Butte, then gradually descends NW to the junction of roads 814 and 890. It continues NW on 890 to the bench between Nash Crater and Potato Hill, descending the more open part of the slope near Nash Crater. It then follows xc trail markings N and finally W to Little Nash Snopark.
Difficulty Rating: B for distance
Distance: Trip distance is 8.2 miles one way. A shuttle is required for the one way tour.
Elevation gain/loss: Elevation gain is 600′ and loss is 1600′ for the trip
Hoodoo to Little Nash Tour
The Ray Benson to Corbett Snopark (with Blue Lake option) Tour departs Ray Benson Snopark and travels NE on the North Loop trail, turning S on the North Loop trail and continuing to North Blowout Shelter. The route then travels ESE to join the Circle Lake Trail at (unofficially named) Porkchop Lake. Just past the lake, the route turns NE onto the Cottonwood xc trail (constructed in 2006-2007) and descends gradually to the E for ½ mile, then more steeply. It briefly joins spur road 300, then gently descends east to the junction of roads 2076 and 200. The former contours north .6 mile to Corbett Snopark, the latter descends 2.5 miles to Blue Lake. If you choose the Blue Lake option, take care to remain on road 200, avoiding several spur roads. Road 200 ends ¼ mile from Blue Lake. Continue east thru partially burned woods and up to the crater rim for a view of the lake.
Difficulty Rating: B for distance.
Distance 5.5 mi. Blue Lake option adds 5 mi. In either case, a car shuttle is needed.
Elevation gain 100’, loss 800’ to Corbett Snopark
Elevation gain 600’, loss 1300’ with Blue Lake option
NOTE: Corbett Snopark may not be plowed during the 2007-2008 ski season due to ODOT funding constraints and relatively low usage of the snopark.
Ray Benson to Corbett Snopark
The Sand Mountain Tour departs the S end of the Hoodoo ski area parking lot, climbs the cat track between Hoodoo and Hayrick (Art’s Alley) to about 5050′, then descends by a moderately steep slope to the lowland S of Hoodoo-Hayrick saddle. It continues SW to Rd 860 and follows this to the base of Sand Mtn, then ascends the Sand Mtn road 810 to the saddle between the N and S peaks. The remaining climb to the lookout on the S peak is relatively steep and exposed, but with favorable weather and snow conditions, the view from the top makes the climb worth it. Map, compass and GPS are helpful if you are new to this area, or if weather conditions are less than optimal.
Difficulty Rating: C for length and steep sections
Distance: Round trip distance is 11.5 miles
Elevation gain and loss for the trip is about 1650′
Sand Mountain Tour
The Santiam Lake Tour follows the summer hiking trail, departing Santiam snopark and gradually ascending to the north for 2 miles before jogging west and again north to enter the Lost Lake Creek drainage. It follows this creek 2 miles on a northwesterly course, first passing thru a steep-walled canyon, then entering a broad windswept valley. The route again turns west and finally north, summiting a saddle near an unnamed lake and descending thru woods near the lake’s outlet stream to open slopes south of Santiam Lake. With clear weather, there are memorable views to Three Fingered Jack two miles to the east. Return retraces the route.
Diffculty Rating: B for trip distance
Distance: Round trip distance is 9.8 miles
Elevation: Gain and loss is 1260′
Santiam Lake Tour
The Tam McArthur Rim Tour. There are two approach options for this tour, both best done later in the season when road access to Three Creeks Lake becomes possible. If snow cover is very light, a relatively long but straightforward approach can be made by following the summer hiking trail from the lake. With good snow cover, a shorter approach can be made from the campground at the S end of Three Creek Lake, climbing a series of benches in a southwesterly direction to reach the Rim just west of point 7434. By either approach, once on the Rim, travel generally west toward the saddle east of Broken Hand, keeping just to the south side of the Rim, where slopes are moderate and snow cover is better than on the crest of the Rim. For the return, retrace the route in; or drop to the bench at 7600’ for a scenic alternative.
Difficulty Rating: C
Distance: Roundtrip distance 6.5 to 9 miles
Elevation: Elevation gain & loss 1500’
Tam McArthur Rim Tour