From near Siskiyou Summit (elev. 4,310′) in southern Oregon to the Washington border, this section is both the shortest and the easiest to hike or ride. Oregon’s Cascade Range is a subdued volcanic landscape, with a gentle crest that is fairly constant in elevation. The highest point in Oregon is an unnamed saddle (elev. 7,560′) north of Mount Thielsen. Other volcanoes, including Mount McLoughlin, Mount Mazama (Crater Lake), Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood, punctuate the skyline. The only major elevation change in Oregon is the 3,160 foot drop into the Columbia River Gorge crossing Interstate 84 and the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods (elev. 180′).

The sunrise rises at Elk Lake, OR. Photo by Eric Valentine

The sunrise rises at Elk Lake, OR. Photo by Eric Valentine

Like the prominent volcanoes, many lakes in this section lure travelers onward. There are many opportunities to visit lakes in the Sky Lakes and Diamond Peak Wildernesses. The trail traverses Crater Lake National Park, where a side trail leads to the rim for a spectacular view of this magnificent lake. More small lakes and ponds are found in the Three Sisters Wilderness, Mount Jefferson Wilderness and the adjacent Olallie Lake Scenic Area. In northern Oregon, the PCT has fewer lakes, although it provides views of several sizable reservoirs.

The chief attraction for this stretch is glacier-robed Mount Hood (elev. 11,239′), Oregon’s largest and most active volcano. Heavy precipitation in this section produces dense, shady forests dominated by Douglas, silver and noble fir at lower elevations and subalpine fir nearer treeline. Plants include pinedrops, prince’s pine and Oregon grape in the forested habitat. Pasque flower and fireweed frequent open spaces. Animals include mice, squirrels, beaver, fox, deer and elk. Songbirds pursue insects, while nutcrackers gorge themselves on pine seeds and grouse forage on the ground.

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