Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Fishing · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Marion Creek Road (Forest Service Road 2255) is a well maintained gravel road that should be passable by any passenger car in the summer, but it's best to check conditions before you head out.
This route has a little bit of everything all wrapped in a fairly moderate package. You'll start off in massive old growth on an easy trail up to Lake Ann with it's invisible outflow. You'll get lovely views of Three Fingered Jack across beautiful Marion Lake. Then moderate running through recovering forests, wildflowers, and views of Jefferson on your way up to Marion Mountain. Summit views span from Coffin Mountain, to the tip of Hood, to Jefferson over Marion Lake, and around to Three Fingered Jack. On the way down the route makes a mini-loop to the steep and difficult trail that drops down to impressive Marion and Gatch Falls. The route to Marion Lake can be crowded, but the 2021 permit system may change that. From the bridge over Marion Creek to Marion Mountain is far less crowded.
Need to Know
New for 2021, trails in Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness Areas will require a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit for overnight use and some will require one for day-use.
Requires a NW Forest Pass or equivalent and a self-issued Wilderness Permit. Wilderness regulations apply.
Note that the section of Marion Lake from the small peninsula on Blue Lake Trail #3422
to the bridge over Marion Creek is day use only (no camping) and the entire area around the lake is closed to campfires.
There is enough parking for about 15 vehicles at the primary trailhead which also features a pit toilet and an information kiosk. Additional parking is available along the road before the trailhead gate (don't park along the north edge of the main parking area).
The route begins behind the pit toilet on Marion Lake Trail #3436
which is a wide, well built, and easy trail open to running and horses. You'll enter the Mt Jefferson Wilderness and massive old growth about 2/3 of a mile in. At about 1.5 miles you'll encounter Lake Ann and its interesting outflow: you'll be able to hear the water flowing through the rocks below you but not see it! At about 1.75 miles you'll pass Marion Outlet Trail #3495
which this route will take back. Next pass through a talus field and arrive at Marion Lake.
Turn right on Blue Lake Trail #3422
and head south along the shore. Be sure to head down to Marion Lake for lovely views of the beautiful lake and Three Fingered Jack standing like a Gothic cathedral above. At just under 3 miles from the trailhead you'll encounter a bridge over Marion Creek and see the other end of Marion Outlet Trail #3495
. Continue south on Blue Lake Trail #3422
over another talus field and gain a bit of elevation. Some nice views of Jefferson will open up through the burnt trees and over Marion Lake. Continue gaining elevation through both open, recovering forest and older, un-burned trees until you encounter Pine Ridge Trail #3443
at about 3.9 miles.
Take Pine Ridge Trail #3443
west through both dense old forest and open burned forest along a dusty, easy trail. This trail offers more views of Jefferson and some nice wildflowers in the burned areas. At just under 4.75 miles you'll come to an intersection with Marion Mountain Trail #3435
which heads southwest.
Follow Marion Mountain Trail #3435
as it meanders south and then southeast towards the summit* of Marion Mountain only 400 more feet above you (*more of an outcropping than a true summit as the ridge-line continues south to Saddle Mountain). This trail has some shade, is dusty, and covered in pumice. The "summit" sticks out to the east and has clear views from the northwest to the south. There is a decent amount of space to hangout and enjoy the views - dominated by Jefferson over Marion Lake to the north and Three Fingered Jack to the south.
Return back down Marion Mountain Trail #3435
to Pine Ridge Trail #3443
, and back north on Blue Lake Trail #3422
until you cross the bridge over Marion Creek. This time hang left onto Marion Outlet Trail #3495
. Follow this easy trail for about a half mile and then keep a keen eye out for the unmarked informal trail to Marion and Gatch Falls on your left. If you're feeling adventurous take this! It leads through the forest to near the top of Marion Falls
. Stay right and then rapidly descend very steep, unmaintained trail. Watch your footing as you scramble down. First you'll see Marion Falls
and can take an easier trail to its base. Just further down is Gatch Falls (arguably a second tier of Marion and shouldn't be named) which is wider but with a similar drop. These two falls are very beautiful and have a strong year-round flow.
Scramble/run back up to Marion Outlet Trail #3495
, turn left (north), and then take Marion Lake Trail #3436
back to the trailhead!
Note: there are many ways to shorten this run and adjust it to your level. Doing just the lake loop is about a 6 mile, 800ft gain, easy family friendly outing. Tacking on the falls doesn't add much distance but will really up the difficulty. Or grab your backpacking gear and make a weekend of it!
History & Background
Parts of this trail pass through a 2015 fire and the much larger 2002 Mount Marion Fire. There was a fire tower on the summit of Marion Mountain but little remains today.
Shared By: Karl W