A beautiful picture of Mt. Jefferson at Jefferson Park, Oregon. This photo was taken on October 3rd and you can see all of the Salmon berries in the foreground. They are in abundance throughout the entire Jefferson Park area and if you’re lucky you might stumble on a black bear foraging. I never got a chance to see one but I did notice several bear tracks and scat throughout the park and I did hear some rustling in some brush but I never took the time to find out what it was. September and early October is the best time to visit the park if you want to take advantage of getting the opportunity to see some wildlife like bear, elk or deer. However, the days are much shorter and the snow covered peak of Mt. Jefferson is at it’s lowest point of the year. You will have the opportunity to forage around the salmon berry drenched canvas as well as still have the opportunity to swim in one of the many lakes in the park. The weather can actually be warmer and sunnier during the months of September and October as well as maybe even getting a little of dusting of snow in the early mornings. The crowds are also much smaller then the summer months and this can be critical if you’re planning on back packing or hiking on the weekend. However, the summer months offer longer days and more snow at the higher elevations. Summer also brings out the ever so brilliant alpine flowers that canvas the park. You can literally feel like you could get lost in all of the wildflowers throughout the park. Even the lakes and smaller ponds will be at their highest levels and you can also follow some of the small creeks travelling through the lakes and fusing them into one giant water system. The biggest drawbacks about visiting during the summer months is that if you are planning on visiting during the weekend, you can expect to see hundreds of other hikers and back packers. This can really ruin the alpine experience. However, if you visit during the mid week, you are less likely to see as many people. Another drawback is that sometimes the trail will be covered in snow until August and that can really cause a problem unless you come prepared. The last time I visited was in early July and I couldn’t hike past the 1/2 mile mark without having to put on my snow shoe gear and I eventually ended up just finding a ledge and taking photos from there. I basically ended up losing out on a great hiking trip but at least I brought some snow shoe gear to get me about 3 miles up the trail. You also really want to check the weather and even contact to ranger station to see if the forest road is open. Sometimes it doesn’t open until later in the summer or there may have been a washout or fallen trees blocking the road. This can really ruin your day if you make the 100 plus mile drive and then only find out that the road is closed. You will need to purchase a Northwest Forest pass in order to park at the trail head and I would also recommend that you store your dinner in your car for your return since you will be pretty hungry, thirsty and very tired and dirty once you get back to your car. The hike to the park is 5.1 miles one way and it’s very steep. The elevation gain is 2400 feet and that’s only to the park. There is another 1000 feet of elevation gain available if you decide to continue past the park. That also doesn’t include the 3 or 4 miles of trails that winds it’s way around the area. If you plan on doing a day hike I would plan on hiking over 15 miles round trip since you won’t want to just hike to the park and then sit around. There is way too much to do and see once you get to the park. In fact, the real views and fun doesn’t even start until you get to the entrance of Jefferson Park and believe me you will know when you get there. About a few years ago, I was taking some photos of Mt. Jefferson when all of a sudden a snow owl leaped from a tree branch and quickly flew away. I never had a chance to even take my camera off the tripod to get a shot. There are even some waterfalls that you can take photos of as well as several snow bridges along the higher elevations that you may be able to cross.
[/caption] A birds eye view of Mt. Jefferson and Jefferson Park with Russell lake looming smack dab in the middle of the Wilderness. Late July, August and September are the best times to visit the Jefferson Park wilderness. In fact, any other days of the year will be either covered in snow and impassable or you will find yourself trudging through steep slopes that are too dangerous to cross. The forest road that you need to drive is about 7.5 miles and once the snow level drops, the entire road will be closed and that will make your journey that much more demanding. I couldn’t imagine snow-shoeing or cross country skiing to the Park but I assume that people can and have done it. However, the best thing about visiting during the summer months is that you can swim in the lakes, view the wildlife, photograph some of the creeks and waterfalls and most importantly, you can view the hundreds of wildflowers that grow throughout the wilderness. If the day is sunny when you visit, you’re pretty much guaranteed some of the best photographic opportunities. So, I would plan on bringing your tripod and as many lenses that you can carry. I actually saw a snow owl leaping from a tree and flying away as I was taking a photo of the mountain with my wide angle lens. Unfortunately, my camera was on my tripod and I didn’t have a telephoto to get a shot but the owl was gone before I was even able to see where it flew off to. I took this shot from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which can be seen in the photo in the lower right hand corner.
[/caption] Park Butte offers a great vantage spot to view Mt. Jefferson as well as the rest of the Oregon Cascades. However, you can also get some great views looking north from Russell Lake and Park Butte is a great photo subject with the vast forest lingering below. Russell lake looks like a refreshing swimming hole with dozens of beaches lining the alpine lake. This photo was taken from the south side of Russell Lake with Mt. Jefferson directly behind me. The sun was also behind me and the glare was pretty strong so I decided to get some photos looking away from the sun where there was less glare. If you’re only doing a day hike and you decide to hike towards the summit of Park Butte, you want to make sure and bring plenty of extra water and food since it demands and additional 1000 feet of elevation gain and an additional grueling 3 miles of switchback trails. The view is absolutely amazing but you will have to pay the price to get there unless you are backpacking and camp somewhere in Jefferson Park.
[/caption] This is a view of Mt. Jefferson and its summit as viewed from Jefferson Park. With the elevation of the Park being so high, the forest that spans the area offers some great views with the mountain in the background. You can’t ask form anything better than photographing a 10,000 foot volcano with a hanging alpine glacier and nothing but blue sky in the background and an amazing forest of trees in the foreground.
[/caption] Early Fall at Jefferson Park is sure to provide the best photography opportunities since the late Summer wildflowers are still in bloom as well as the red huckleberry leaves blanketing the alpine carpet. Since many of the trails have been closed in order to try and restore the park, you have to really look for opportunities to photograph Mt. Jefferson with the foliage in the foreground. There are still dozens of trails to suite your needs but you do want to stay focused since its easy to miss a terrific photo opportunity. It’s especially true since you will find yourself immersed in the sheer beauty of the area. I almost missed the opportunity to take this photo since I was heading towards the opposite part of the park in order to hike above the alpine lakes and I was worrying about running out of daylight. This photo was taken between Russell Lake and the mountain and I really liked the view of Mt. Jefferson with the foliage, trees and rocks in the foreground. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch but placed it low to the ground in order to get as much foliage in the photo without reducing the field of view. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get a panoramic shot so I could include as much of the mountain and foliage as I could. Since I had attached my CIR-PL and warming filter as well as set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -1.3 the aperture was at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second since the camera mode was in Program/Normal. The photo was taken at about 1:20pm and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle above the mountain so the saturation was nice.
[/caption] Russell lake is the largest and most predominant alpine lake in Jefferson Park. If you hike up the PCT that summits near Park Butte, Russell lake stands out like a soar thumb and creates a fantastic image in the Park below. Even if you only have the energy or time to hike just above the Park you can get some awesome photos of Mt. Jefferson and Russell lake. However, you really need to make sure that you are at the lake at the right time if you’re wanting to get a good shot with Mt. Jefferson and the lake. The late afternoon or early evening seems to be the best time since the sun is lower and at about a 90 degree angle. This is especially true if you are there during Fall. You are more likely to have some shadows around the mountain and the lake will create a better reflection. I took this shot using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo as possible as well as ensure the largest field of view. I was standing right at the lakes edge and made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. It was about 2:45pm and the sun was at a 90 degree angle and the water was fairly calm. However, I still wasn’t able to get a reflection of the mountain in the lake. But at least the glare from the sun created a great color in the right side of the lake. Since I had the camera mode in Program/Normal the aperture was at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter and set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7.
[/caption] Jefferson Park is considered one of the best areas to hike in the state of Oregon and I can pretty much attest to that. This is my second trip, in the last two years, to hike into Jefferson Park during the month of September and I have never been to a more magical place than this. Early fall guarantees small crowds, beautiful fall foliage, the chance to see some wildlife and some truly amazing peace and quiet. After arriving at the Park I spent the rest of the day hiking throughout the park boundaries as I photographed everything and anything that I could. I hiked around Russel lake twice and crouched along the vegetation in order to photograph the fall foliage with Mt. Jefferson in the background. There is such an abundance of water, even in late September, that you have ample enough water to cool yourself off. One of the best places to hike, in order to get some amazing panoramic shots of the park, is to hike up the PCT towards Park Butte which is north and overlooks the park. Unless you’re planning on camping, you will find it difficult to hike to the top since it will make it a 15 mile round trip hike and over 2300 feet of elevation gain. I ended up hiking about 1/16th of a mile which put me just high enough to get some awesome photos looking down on the park with Russel lake and Mt. Jefferson. You can hike around the many small alpine ponds and lakes that dot the park and you will be lucky enough to see the numerous bear, elk and deer prints imprinted in the soft mud near the water. I was lucky enough to even spot a very rare and otherwise nonexistent SNOW OWL. I had to do a double take and even questioned what I think I saw but after I got home my wife went online and verified that there have been rare sightings in Oregon. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a photo and only got a quick view of it. I took this particular shot while using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo as possible as well as get a large field of view so there wouldn’t be any blur. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. The camera was in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was set at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 due to the glare from the sun and snow on the mountain. I took this photo at 3:48pm and the saturation and brightness of the sun was perfect. The sun was at about a 90 degree angle and the sky was saturated perfectly. Fall always offers the best pictures late in the afternoon and this was no exception.
[/caption] The views along the Jefferson trail, which ultimately leads you to Jefferson Park and Russel Lake is one of the most scenic and beautiful areas found in the Oregon Cascades. Once you reach the alpine valley in Jefferson Park you will be met with dozens of small alpine ponds as well as some fantastic flowering vegetation that can only be found in the alpine wilderness of the Cascades. Because Mt. Jefferson is so remote, you will need to drive on a road that is less traveled and either gravel or dirt, so be prepared to get your car a little dirty. I took this photo while standing near one of the alpine ponds and Mt. Jefferson can be seen behind it. I wanted to get a shot with the trees in the photo along with the snow capped mountain and the pond. You can really see just how pristine and picturesque the setting is in Jefferson Park. Depending on the time of year you visit, you will be able to see dozens of alpine flowers dotting the park. Since I wanted to get the most panoramic photo as possible I used my Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I attached my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to reduce the sun glare and warm the natural tones. The sun was at about a 90 degree angle on the right but the glare was still pretty intense. I spent most of my time trying to find the best spots that weren’t overexposed due to the intense glare from the sun. I had the camera mode in Normal/Program so the aperture was at F-6.3 and the shutter speed at 1/99 second since I did have the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3. I also made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch to avoid any camera shake or blur.
[/caption] I waited for over 2 hours to get this shot of Mt. Jefferson while hiking towards Jefferson Park. I had already hiked for over 2 hours before finally deciding to stop along a narrow and steep trailhead in order to patiently wait for the mountain to emerge from behind the storm clouds. A storm the day before brought a dusting of snow in the higher elevations as well as the low and rainy clouds the morning I set out for this hike. By the later part of the day the snow had mostly melted with the exception of the higher elevations of the volcano. I took this shot on 9/10/10 and you can read about my trip that I posted in my article on 9/13/10. I was using my Canon EOS T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm lens. I set the focal length at 40mm in order to zoom in to the mountain as much as possible without losing too much of the forested foreground. I attached my warming filter as well as my CIR-PL in order to capture the deep contrasts of the sky as well as the snow capped mountain. The warming filter brought out the warm colors of the vegetation and the volcanic soil. This photo truly emulates the need for both of these filters in order to really capture the personality of the scene. The camera mode was in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-8 and the shutter speed was at 1/100 second. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -1. I took this photo at 2:40pm so the sunlight was pretty intense and the glare from the snow was bright. There are several creeks and small waterfalls that you cross while hiking along the park. There are a few rumbling waterfalls coming from the mountain itself as you can see in the lower left of this photo. There are dozens of different species of wildflowers found along the trail as well as along the many alpine lakes that dot the Park. Herds of elk also visit the park in the evenings and early mornings while most campers are sleeping.
[/caption] The best place by far to really enjoy the scenic wonders of Mt. Jefferson is at Jefferson Park, which is about a 10.2 mile hike with 1800 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts on the west facing side of Mt. Jefferson and the last 8 miles of the drive are on a well maintained gravel road. The entire hike is loaded with amazing scenery and it’s probably the most pristine place in the state of Oregon. I never saw any clear cut, heard any automobiles, nor did I hear or see any planes flying overhead. The only thing I saw was an awesome forest with miles of trees, dozens of views of Mt. Jefferson, as well as dozens of different types of wildflowers and alpine lakes within Jefferson Park. You also hike over several small creeks that make for a perfect spot to rest and soak in the pristine cold water. The trail is well maintained but it’s not as clearly marked as I would have expected. With Jefferson Park being hailed as one of the busiest trails in Oregon I expected it to be more clearly marked. I hiked the trail the day after we had two days of heavy rain showers and the higher elevations of Mt. Jefferson had received a good little dusting of snow. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn near the top of the first 1.5 miles and headed towards Triangulation Peak trail and ended up hiking about 4 miles total in dense forest with the rain water and dew clinging to the shrubs that had lined the narrow trail. Within 1/4 of a mile my socks, shoes and my entire lower body were soaked. I had almost decided to cancel my quest to Jefferson Park but I actually ended up missing the switchback that headed back to the parking lot and then again found myself on the Jefferson Park Trail. I was informed by some backpackers that I was now only about 2 miles from the Park at that point. I will for now on always make a copy of the trail and have it with me. The mountain finally made its appearance later in the afternoon and I was amazed at how close I was to it. I was able to see where the mountain had repeatedly sent an avalanche of snow throughout the years which had created a swath of downed trees that looked like a smooth carpet of grass with trees that looked like snapped twigs on the outer banks. Once you get to Jefferson Park you will see dozens of alpine lakes, wildflowers and thousands of vantage points. I could spend months photographing from within the park. However, there were several closed parts due to heavy traffic that had destroyed many of the Park’s fragile vegetation. The Sentinal Hills and Park Butte surround the outer parts of the Park which really gave it a true alpine atmosphere. I took this shot right in the heart of Jefferson Park and the small pond in the foreground didn’t have a name. You can see the alpine grass in the pond and the Paintbrush wildflowers teaming all along the Park. To get this shot I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I had the ISO set at 100 and the White Balance was at -1. I had the camera on Program Mode which allowed the shutter speed to run at 1/60 of a second. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and my UV filter in order to cut down on the glare and increase the warmth of the setting. I was using my tripod, bubble level and my remote switch in order to avoid any movement since I was concerned about losing some of my photos due to camera shake. I didn’t want to take any chances on this photo trip. I would highly recommend this hike and next time I hope to backpack here so I can have more time to really take in this amazing place. I can only imagine how beautiful the sunrise and sunsets are here.