ROUTE PAGE COMING SOON....
One of the forgotten or dismissed areas in the Oregon Cascades, especially in the aftermath of the B&B Complex Fire of 200 is the Eight Lakes Basin region which lies south of Mt. Jefferson, west of Three Fingered Jack and east of a ridge of 6000 foot peaks. The name of the area may be “Eight” Lakes Basin but it is dotted with dozens of lakes, ponds and streams. Prior to the fire, this was a popular hiking, camping and vacation area. Post-apocalypse, it is characterized by big grey and black snags that have now rotted to the point winds continuously knock them over any given day but where there is water and carbon, there will be plants and the area is regenerating.
There are pockets of firs and hemlocks that survived but now flowers, grasses and blueberry bushes are spreading and dominating the area. In ten years, this area might be mostly green again as the seedling firs are popping up as well. What the fire did in taking away the prior greenery, it gave back in allowing views from the forest floor (at least for the time being). Jefferson dominates the northern sky while Three Fingered Jack (and from higher vantage points, the Three Sisters and Mount Washington) takes up the southwestern view. And to the west are three smaller (but closer so they dominate like the others) peaks on a ridge. The middle peak, and most striking to look at, is named Saddle Mountain.
Just what we need, eh? Another Saddle Mountain? There are three in Oregon alone along with 8 Saddle Buttes and one Saddleblanket Mountain. You would think they could come up with something better but someone sitting on a horse in the 1800’s probably named it. Looking at it from the east or west, it may resemble the horn on a saddle or, most likely, it’s due to the two saddles on either side between it and Marion and Green Peaks. Either way, deal with it, we get another Saddle Mountain.
Saddle Mountain is characterized by a pyramid-shaped rocky summit with forested eastern and western slopes. As stated, it sits between Marion Peak to its north and Green Peak to its south in a north-south trending ridge that begins near Marion Lake and ends with the south slopes of Green Peak before getting to Duffy Butte. The rock is mostly loose with some large blocks allowing a Class 3 scramble from any angle (except maybe the east and west which would be more technical but probably not very solid).
There are no trails to the summit of Saddle Mountain; you will have to either scramble it via its north or south sides. The most straightforward route would be to hike in via Marion Lake and bushwhack to Marion Peak’s summit and drop down on the ridge heading south to scramble up its more blocky northern ridge. One could scramble the south ridge from the saddle between it and Green Peak (a longer distance between it and Green Peak than it and Marion Peak) but the trails to access that ridge would be a much longer hike in. You can also access it via a closer trailhead with less elevation gain (Pine Ridge) but see the North Ridge route page for details. The south side of the peak is less blockier and more loose than the north side. The north ridge is a classic Class 3 scramble (albeit too short) while you need to pay more attention to findings and placing your feet and hands on something solid and attached on the south side (that’s not to say you shouldn’t on the north side, it just seemed easier to find there).
Views are exceptional with a big in-your-face Jefferson to the north (with Hood off its left side) down the line of Cascade big boys to Diamond Peak in the south. The Western Cascades dominate the views to the west from Tidbits Mountain north through the Iron/Cone/Echo ridge to the Three Pyramids into the Bull of the Woods Wilderness with Battle Axe to Schreiner. Turpentine Peak, pretty much totally scorched by the B&B Complex blaze is directly west of Marion with Green Peak Lake between. The contrast of the grey/black burned areas with beautiful turquoise lakes throughout is interesting.
A climb of Saddle Mountain is going to end up being over 13 miles round trip with a large part bushwhacking up the ridge off trail to Marion Peak, going up and over that and then a Class 3 scramble to the summit. But the views on a clear day would really make it worthwhile. Most people don’t see Three Fingered Jack from this NW perspective and it is really neat to see how the forest is slowly coming back in the wake of the fire.
Most of the mountains in this area are rounded mounds and buttes (Three Fingered Jack notwithstanding) so Saddle Mountain is a nice little gem that lets you get back in touch with your scrambling side, at least for a little bit.
From the west (Portland/Salem) you will take I-5 south to the junction in Salem for Highway 22 (sign says for Detroit). Take Highway 22 east to the town of Marion Forks, OR. In between milepost 66 and 67, turn left (east) onto Road 2255 (Marion Forks Road). Take this road (ignore any forks that aren’t Road 2255) to its end about 6 miles later. The last few miles are on gravel and you can expect the usual potholes and washboard ridges, however, regular passenger cars still make it to the trailhead (just watch some of those potholes). The trailhead is a large parking area with a bathroom. This is a popular area (most people just hike to Marion Lake and camp) but don’t let that stop you, you won’t see many, if any, people after Marion Lake.
If you are coming from Eugene, take Highway 126 east to Highway 20, then Highway 20 east to its junction with Highway 22. Go left (west ) on Highway 22 to the same road in Marion Forks between mileposts 66 and 67.
If you are coming from the east (Bend/ Redmond), take Highway 20 (from Bend) or Highway 126 (from Redmond) west to where those two highways meet to where they meet with Highway 22 and continue on Highway 22 to the same spot mentioned in the above two paragraphs.
Northwest Forest Pass required to park at the trailhead. You also must complete a Wilderness Permit at the box near the trailhead and carry your copy with you. Note that the rangers that frequent the lake for cleanup do check your permits if they run in to you.
You can camp at natural sites around Marion Lake, no reservations required. This is a popular spot in the summer so be aware if you plan to camp here, you may end up looking around a bit.
There were also spots to camp along the ridge to the summit but there is no water available after the small lily padded pond between the lake and the Marion Mountain lookout site (end of the established trail) until you come to a small pond just before and west of the summit may be snow or iced over into August though).
There is also a campground in Marion Forks
For the best camping though (except after the annual bug hatch until they die off), I would suggest one of the dozens of lakes that are in the basin between Marion Lake and Red Butte. You have your choice of spots and perhaps you could scout it out from the summit while you look east. You’ll be able to scramble or bushwhack down from the saddle between Marion Peak and Saddle Mountain or between Saddle and Green Peak (to Saddle’s south) or even from other points on up the ridge. It’s mostly open country right now while the plants start to grow back and visibility is pretty decent in most all directions.
When To Climb
The trailhead is at about 3500 feet so most years, it is going to be June-July before you can access the trailhead. The summit is 6180 feet so prepare for a snowshoe hike until it melts out. August to October/November should be pretty open.
Mountain ConditionsDetroit Ranger District