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Oregon Trails

Salem, OR: Duffy and Santiam Lakes

Go for a dayhike or an easy overnight to one of these quiet cascade lakes, both in the shadow of towering volcanic peaks.

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The Santiam Pass, 1.5 hours southeast of Salem, cuts through the heart of Oregon’s Cascade Range, between Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. The area is crisscrossed by an assortment of wilderness trails – including the PCT – and dotted with meadows and pristine sub-alpine lakes, all in the shadows of glacier-carved volcanic peaks and spires. A few miles east of North Santiam Hwy 22, the Duffy Lake trailhead is the kickoff for access to several of these.

From the trailhead at the top of the turnaround and parking area, fill out your wilderness registration slip, and note the camping regs for some of the lake destinations if planning an overnight. Follow the Duffy Lake trail east on a gently sloping track, passing several junctions that branch to the left and right in the shade of old-growth fir and hemlock, with bunchberry and Columbia windflower lining the route. After a couple miles, the tree cover gets thinner and the ground color changes to blue lupine, with spots of paintbrush, columbine, shooting star and cat’s ear. The trail crosses the Santiam River, an easy rock-hop by mid-summer, but more challenging in early season, then comes to a 4-way junction just before Duffy Lake.

At the junction, head left for Duffy Lake, a pretty green lake under Duffy Butte, with several campsites scattered along the southern shore. Duffy Lake can get crowded on weekends, hence the camping limits, so keep heading east past the lake, either along the lakeshore trail or the meadow trail (they’ll meet up again at the opposite end of the lake). Fork right at the next couple of junctions, now heading south to Santiam Lake, through several pocket meadows, and a couple creek crossings via the Santiam Pass trail. Cross the outlet for Santiam Lake and look for the second spur on the left to head for campsites on the northern shore, or continue on another 0.25 mile through a large meadow for another spur that leads to more sheltered campsites on the south shore with peeks of Mt. Jefferson’s snowy summit; either side has spectacular views of Three-Fingered Jack across the lake.
Mapped by Eli Boschetto


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 8.8



Location: 44.4912813, -121.9498141

Duffy Lake trailhead. Register at the signboard before heading in.


Location: 44.4905947, -121.9475348

Junction with Big Meadows horse trail; keep straight.


Location: 44.4950819, -121.9252252

1.7 mi. Junction with Turpentine trail; fork right.


Location: 44.4889581, -121.911439

North Santiam River crossing.


Location: 44.4883598, -121.9043645

3.3 mi. Junction with Maxwell Butte trail; keep straight.


Location: 44.4908902, -121.9002054

3.6 mi. 4-way: turn left for Duffy lakeshore, right for meadow trail, straight for lake trail.


Location: 44.4916533, -121.9011211

West shore of Duffy Lake, below Duffy Butte. Find several campsites with easy lake access.


Location: 44.4910634, -121.893999

4.2 mi. Junction with Mowich Lake trail; fork left toward Santiam Pass.


Location: 44.486575, -121.887077

4.8 mi. Junction with Eight Lakes Basin trail; fork left toward Santiam Pass.


Location: 44.4807251, -121.8870682

Cross the outlet of Santiam Lake.


Location: 44.480441, -121.8870681

5.4 mi. Take second spur on left to campsites on north side of Santiam Lake. For south shore access, avoid the blowdown on lakeside trail and continue 0.25 mi. to meadow spur.


Location: 44.4792993, -121.8860793

Find several campsites along lakeshore.


Location: 44.4765893, -121.8880749

Look for spur on left to south shore campsites on Santiam Lake.


Location: 44.4773704, -121.8864541

Several campsites along south shore of Santiam Lake with great views of Three-Fingered Jack.


Location: 44.4912706, -121.950345

Start the hike to Duffy and Santiam Lakes at the wilderness registration board. © Eli Boschetto

Duffy Trail

Location: 44.4899542, -121.9397879

The first two miles of the Duffy Lake trail climb gradually through stately old-growth. © Eli Boschetto

North Santiam

Location: 44.4888826, -121.9109488

Crossing the North Santiam River at low water. © Eli Boschetto

Cat’s Ear

Location: 44.4876886, -121.906786

Find lots of this fuzzy lily between the river crossing and Duffy Lake. © Eli Boschetto

Duffy Lake

Location: 44.4922196, -121.9018936

Three-Fingered Jack seen from the western shore of Duffy Lake. Look for several campsites in this area. © Eli Boschetto

Duffy Butte

Location: 44.4909951, -121.8964863

Crossing the outlet of Duffy Lake, with Duffy Butte high overhead. © Eli Boschetto

Shooting Star

Location: 44.4881785, -121.8893623

This little pink flower populates several small meadows and creeksides. © Eli Boschetto


Location: 44.4821469, -121.8860579

Several color varieties of paintbrush can be found in the numerous meadows near Santiam Lake. © Eli Boschetto

Trail Fork

Location: 44.4864946, -121.8867445

Follow the trail signs to Santiam Pass for quiet camping at Santiam Lake. © Eli Boschetto

Santiam Lake

Location: 44.4770027, -121.8861866

Sunset lights up Three-Fingered Jack over Santiam Lake. © Eli Boschetto

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