backpack: Mount Jefferson Wilderness – Hunts Cove

On this four day backpacking trip to Hunts Cove in Mount Jefferson Wilderness, we setup a basecamp at Hanks Lake and day hiked up to the Pacific Crest Trail and Shale Lake.

Day 1 – hike in to Hanks Lake

6 miles 2,230 ft. gain

Note: Limited entry permits are required for the Pamelia Lake, Hunts Cove, and Coyote/Shale Lake areas. Learn more about the permits on the Willamette National Forest website.

The hike in begins in a picturesque forest, with the sound of rushing water in Pamelia Creek not far from the trail. An understory of rhododendrons line the trail in the first two miles before reaching Pamelia Lake.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

At 2.2 miles, we reached Pamelia Lake and the junction with the Hunts Creek Trail. To reach Hunts Cove, we took the Hunts Creek Trail on the right… if you turn left here, the trail goes up to the PCT north of Coyote Lake and bypasses Hunts Cove.

After passing the east end of Pamelia Lake, the trail crosses several small creeks over rustic bridges, including one with a cascading waterfall above the bridge.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

 

At about 3 miles in, cross Hunts Creek on one of the logs, or wade across like I do. : ) The water was halfway up my calf at the deepest part, but the water wasn’t moving very fast so it was easy to cross. I almost always prefer to wade across water crossings instead of teetering on logs or rocks. I don’t mind having wet feet, and with trail runners, the water gets pushed out as you continue to hike so it doesn’t stay sloshy for long.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

 

As we neared Hunts Cove, we were treated to a view of the top of Mount Jefferson with green meadows below us.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

We crossed the outlet of Hanks Lake and began seeing campsites next to the lake. We found a great site with a view of the lake and plenty of room for spreading out.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking tripMount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

Hanks Lake at sunset

It was fairly cold overnight, with a low around 42 degrees. In the middle of the night, we were all awakened by the loud sound of a large tree as it came crashing down in the forest. It wasn’t right near us, but it was startling to hear as we slept under the trees at our camp.

 

Day 2 – day hike to Shale Lake

6 miles 1,055 ft. gain

Starting at the Old Hunts Cove Trail right next to our campsite, we hiked up to the PCT, along a ridge below Cathedral Rocks, and over to Shale Lake.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

steep section of trail through the forest

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

one of many meadows

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

meandering streams in the meadows

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

the scenery kept changing as we hiked through a red cinder section

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

lupine extravaganza with a view of Mount Jefferson

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

I loved the contrast of the red soil and rock next to the wildflowers and green conifers

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

wildflowers at their prime as we hike up

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

one of six talus slopes we passed through

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

views to the west

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

looking down at Hunts Cove, with Hanks Lake and Hunts Lake

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

open ridge with big views

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

Shale Lake and Mount Jefferson

After taking a long break at Shale Lake (and attempting to avoid the swarming mosquitoes), we headed back to our camp at Hanks Lake.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

 

At about 10:30pm, I made use of the full tripod I carried in and shot photos of stars and the Milky Way. Overnight, the wind picked up and gusted off and on all night long, shaking our tents and keeping my campmates from sleeping much. I’m lucky and can sleep through just about anything, so it didn’t affect me.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

the Milky Way over Hanks Lake

Day 3 – explore Hunts Cove

The next day was hot, reaching a high of about 86 degrees so we lounged around all day, going from sitting in our chairs, to napping in our tents, to doing camp laundry. When we were ready to do a bit of exploring, we hiked to Hunts Lake, just under half a mile from our camp. Just before sunset, we had a couple of camp visitors who were not afraid of us at all. We didn’t get close to them and just sat and watched as they walked through our camp and hung out in the meadow. This was the warmest night of our trip, with a low around 60 degrees.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

perfectly still at Hanks Lake with no breeze

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

camp laundry

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

nap time

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

visitor to our camp

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

walking through our camp

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

Hunts Lake

 

Day 4 – hike out to trailhead

6 miles 2,300 ft. loss

On our last day, we hiked all the way out to the trailhead. It was another hot day, and when we reached a talus slope under Lizard Peak, it was like someone turned on the air conditioning so we stood there for several minutes before continuing.

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

air conditioned spot

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

this log is the trail…

Mount Jefferson Wilderness - Hunts Cove backpacking trip

we took a long break at this waterfall… it’s so beautiful!

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