This route up Marion Peak takes you off trail through the remnants of the B&B Complex Fire from 2003. You'll enjoy nice views along the way (have an option to see a spectacular double waterfall) and bushwhack through mostly open ground littered with snags galore but also with new life returning and pockets of forest and lakes that were spared. The first part of the hike is on a trail to Marion Lake. From there you ascend up to a former lookout site and then go cross country along a ridge to the summit. Great views of Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack dominate but you can also see (on clear days) Hood, Washington, the Three Sisters and Diamond Peak. You'll also get a view down into the Eight Lakes Basin area, dotted with numerous lakes (in addition to the eight larger ones).
This hike is approximately 13 miles round trip with approximately 2700 feet of elevation gain. Lots of water options and you can either descend the same way, continue on the ridge to Saddle Mountain or drop down from the ridge (not off the summit area but from either saddle on its side) into the Eight Lakes Basin area and find the Blue Lake Trail Heading back to Marion Lake. It's a hike, Class 1, with a few rock hops along the ridge and steepness of the final summit slope that maybe some would call it Class 2.
Getting ThereSee the Getting There section of the main page for directions to the trailhead.
Route DescriptionThe trailhead is at the end of Road #2255 in a gravel parking lot with a bathroom and sign. Northwest Forest Pass required. From the sign marked Marion Lake Trail #3436, proceed for about 2 miles (or so) to Marion Lake. This section is through old growth forest not touched by the fires that gouged the area in 2003 and again in 2006. Before you reach Marion Lake, you will hike between some rock mounds to Lake Ann. Go past Lake Ann to a junction in trails and take the right fork (the left goes around Marion Lake on the east side, not where you want to go).
Note-shortly after this junction is an unmarked trail to the right that leads in .1 or .2 miles down to Marion Falls. If you want to hit this, it is well worth it. Just follow this trail down a hundred vertical feet or so to the sound of the water thundering down. The trail goes to the lip of the upper falls. Be careful, it's a sheer drop of maybe 60 feet down. If you want to continue down another 50-100 feet or so, follow the trail as it snakes along the right side of the steep ravine until you come to another view point that shows both the upper and lower falls. Go back the same way you came. (If you are hitting the falls on the trail out, you could continue bushwhacking around the ravine to the right (generally north) until you intersect the main trail near the rock mounds at the western shore of Lake Ann. If you do, I would suggest having a GPS to guide you and be sure-footed on steep wet slopes. A fall here could be really bad.
If you are passing the waterfall up, continue on generally south to another trail junction at the corner of Marion Lake where it empties into Marion Creek. This is approximatley 2.1 miles from the trailhead. Take the right fork and cross a wooden bridge into a rockslide area. Continue on another half mile or so, now ascending into forest again, to another trail junction. Follow the sign and fork right. You will then ascend slopes at the northernmost terminus of the ridge you are about to climb for .9 miles to yet another junction. This junction is where another trail comes in from the west, the Pine Ridge Trail (another option for a trailhead at 4500 feet that is .6 miles shorter and winds through some small lakes but you don't get the Falls or Marion Lake on that one, it is an option though if you just want to get in and out quicker with less elevation gain). Fork left here and climb about 460 feet in .75 miles to the Marion Mountain Lookout (former) site. It's a great viewpoint.
From this point, look south and you will see the ridge ahead of you. From this point in, the forest becomes open snagland. You will be able to see the next false summit, covered in snags, and possibly a darker mound beyond that, the actual summit slopes. A couple things to be wary of in this area. The soil is sandier and softer and when trees burn, sometimes they burn down into the roots underground. These burnt roots then decay leaving gaps in the soil. It's possible you could step in an area that will fall in on itself under your weight. Be careful where you step and pay attention. Have a plan on how you will get out if do fall in a deep one. Also, these trees burned in 2003 so there has been time for them to rot and decay. During our hike, in a light wind, we witnessed two large snags topple over in the forest. So, pay attention above you, you may have little warning to get out of the way of a 50+ foot pointy-limbed tree falling down on you. It's weird, I know, but we were there and witnessed it. Be careful!
From the former lookout site, head south along the ridge dodging falling trees, skirting sinkholes and not falling off the ridge to the left. The forest opens up and you just basically pick the most open line to follow and try to keep the ridge ahead of you. The most open route generally follows just right of the lip of the ridge, sometimes heading right into the trees a little, but always coming back to the ridge. There is no established trail here, only game trails. Follow this 1.5 to 1.7 miles south along the ridge, over teh next false summit. There is a shallow dip in elevation between that second false summit and the actual summit. You will come to the actual summit "mound" and see cliffs on the NE side. Stay tight to the ridge and if you are lucky, like us, you will see a zig zagging deer path a few yards to the right. Take this if you can, but don't worry if you can't, just head up on steepening forested slopes now. As you crest the mound, you may encounter snow into August. Follow the snow drift (or most open ground later in the season) to the high point which is in the trees a few steps. Notice the rock changing to reddish volcanic lava stuff instead of the grey basaltic andesite. And the great views of rugged Saddle Mountain.
Descend the way you came, or, go down on either side of the summit mound to avoid the eastern cliffs, and pick you way down into the forest to the basin on the east side to find the trail (Blue Lake Trail) and head left (north) to go back to where you forked earlier in the day.