Salt Creek Falls Sno-Park is on Hwy 58 just east of the tunnel, about 20 mi. from Oakridge, on the south side of the road. It is fairly low elevation (3500 ft.) so it is only an option when the snowlines are quite low. It does offer access to a number of scenic vistas, not the least of which is Salt Creek Falls itself. This 180 ft. waterfall is impressive any time of the year but is especially beautiful in the winter. It is accessible by foot from the Sno-Park. With skis or snowshoes you can reach Diamond Creek Falls, on a tributary of Salt Creek that flows from the Diamond Peak Wilderness. From the Sno-Park you ski south across a bridge over Salt Creek and connect with Willamette Nat'l Forest Trail 3662. This trail is marked for skiing and it is about 1.5 mi. to Diamond Creek Falls. This is a moderately difficult route and the low elevation usually creates marginal snow conditions so ski carefully. The falls are quite beautiful, cascading down a black basalt uplift fault. These photos were taken sometime in Feb., 1996
Gold Lake Sno-Park is on Hwy 58 just west of Willamette Pass, on the south side of the road. It is at a higher elevation (5000 ft) than Salt Crk Falls and the snow is usually better. This snow park leads to several trail options. You can carry your skis across the highway and ski the Gold Lk Trail, actually the snow covered road into Gold Lake. This is an excellent novice route.
We usually ski south out of the Sno-park on the Pengra Pass trail. This is also a snow covered road and a popular access point for a wide range of folks wanting to enjoy the snow. We often ski the Midnight Lake Loop trail. We tend to ski the loop clockwise. You ski 1.2 mi. on the Pengra Pass trail and then south (right) on the Pacific Crest Trail into the Diamond Peak Wilderness. This is a fairly steep and twisty route and can be quite difficult when conditions are bad. You are rewarded on your climb up by occasional views of distant snow covered peaks. After 1.2 mi. you reach the junction with the loop trail going back to the Sno-park. Continue on the PCT for another .25 mi. to the spur trail on your left leading to Midnight Lake. This trail isn't marked but is usually easy to find. It is only a short distance into the lake. This is a good place to grab a snack and visit with the Grey Jays that live year-round in the Cascades. These hardy birds, sometimes known as "camp robbers", are very bold and will come quite close to grab a tasty morsel. To return you back-track to the PCT then go right to the loop junction. Go left here and ski 1.8 mi. back to the Pengra Pass trail. You'll pass the Bechtel Creek Shelter on your left at about .75 mi. This is a nice wide open gentle down-hill run much of the way and when snow conditions are right can be a real blast. It's about .8 mi. back to the Sno-park. There are maps at the trail head and most of the trail junctions are signed. The Imus Graphics Willamette Pass Cross-Country Ski Trails map is a good one to have and is available at local ski shops. These photos taken Dec. 1996 and Jan 1997.
Another route uses the PCT going north of the intersection with the Pengra Pass trail. This trail eventually crosses HWY 58 at Willamette Pass and becomes the Rosary Lakes trail. We often ski in from the trail junction about 0.9 mi. to a rocky bluff overlooking Odell Lake with an excellent view of Lakeview Mtn. This is also a nice lunch spot if the winds blowing off the lake aren't too frigid. We often spot raptors soaring above the lake even in the middle of winter. To return to the Sno-Park we ski back south on the PCT a short distance until reaching a junction the the Westview Loop trails. From here you can ski west (right) to the Westview Shelter and then back to the Pengra Pass trail. There are several loop options in the Westview Loop trails and maps are usually posted at some of the intersections. The PCT and Westview trails are rated difficult to most difficult and are very twisty. When conditions are icy they can be very tricky to negotiate. Photo taken Feb. 1998.
Three Creeks Lake Sno Park consists of two separate areas, lower and upper. We skied out of the upper sno-park. To get there you travel south from the center of Sisters on FS 16, the Three Creeks Lake Rd. The route is well signed. The lower sno-park is about 10 mi. from Sisters, the upper about another mile+ further. The road is gated and unplowed just past the upper sno-park. If the skies are clear the views west towards the Three Sisters and other peaks make for an enjoyable drive to the sno-park. We skied the Three Creek Lakes Trail, which follows a snowed-in roadbed into the lake. The trail eventually connects with the Snow Creek Trail to make a loop. We didn't ski near that far, only going out about 3 mi. before returning to the Jefferson View Shelter. This shelter is about 2 mi. from the trailhead and is on an open hillside with incredible views. To the north we could see Mt.Hood and Mt.Jefferson, and continuing north to south, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters and Broken Top. This was a great place to stop for a lunch with North and Middle Sisters looming close at hand.
The trail rises steadily going out which made the glide back in quite exciting. We made detours to explore Warren's Loop and Nancy's Loop trails on the way back down. They both offer short side trips to scenic vistas. On the day we were there the temperature reached 60 degrees, so the snow was slushy and the downhill glide a bit messy but fast. The trailhead starts in Ponderosa Pine country but quickly changes to Lodgepole Pine/ true fir mix as the altitude increases. This means the forest canopy is open and the views often. The sno-parks are popular with snowmobiler's, who use the Three Creeks Lake Rd. above the gate to head into the lake. The trail is well marked and there are maps at various junctions. Photos taken 2/15/97.
The Ray Benson Sno-Park is south of Santiam Pass off of HWY 20/126. The route is well signed and very popular. There is a diverse system of trails; get the Imus Graphics map of the Santiam Pass Winter Recreation area for complete information. The trails in the area are generally well marked and there are maps at the trailhead. We have skied here several times in the past, but always on snowy or overcast days. This time (2/16/97)the day started clear and gradually became cloudy as a storm front moved in. The views of Mt. Washington to the south and Three Fingered Jack in the north are great. The forest is mostly young Lodgepole Pines, so the views are open and the snow can pile up very deep (6'+ this outing). This area is popular with the snow mobile crowd but you can ski away from their noise and odor. We caught a rare warm day with excellent snow conditions, t-shirts were all we needed for this outing. We skied south on the South Loop Trail and made a loop using the Pacific Crest Trail. Many other trails and combinations are possible. Photos taken 2/16/97.
The Rosary Lakes Trail is another marked XC trail that makes use of the Pacific Creat Trail. It can be reached from the east end of the Willamette Pass Ski Area off of HWY 58. The trail rises steadily to the NE, traversing the south face of the mountain for almost 2 mi. The trail is easy to ski when conditions are good but with the southern exposure it can often be icy due to freeze/thaw cycles. We try to catch fresh snow when we ski this trail. Eventually you drop over the NE side of the mountain and into the Lower Rosary Lake basin. The snow almost always gets better on this portion of the trail, being colder and deeper. You can ski slightly further to Middle and North Rosary Lakes and the more adventurous can connect up with various backcountry trails. The Imus Graphics Willamette Pass Cross-Country Ski Trails map is a good one to have and is available at local ski shops. Pulpit Rock looms over the lakes. This view is across Middle Rosary Lakes and was taken 2/22/97. This can be a very enjoyable trail. When it is clear it offers views of Odell Lake and after you climb out of the lakes' basins great views of Diamond Pk./Mt.Yoran. The glide back is usually thrilling or if conditions are icy down right scary. The forest here is a diverse mix of Douglas Fir, Mountain Hemlock, true firs, Engleman Spruce and an occasional Ponderosa Pine thrown in. As elevation is gained it switches to a Mt. Hemlock/Lodgepole pine mix. This is one of our favorite trails, at least when conditions are right.