The Scott Mountain Loop treats you to a spectacular 360-degree panorama from the summit of its namesake mountain, visits 5 lakes, and runs beside a jagged lava flow with a view of the Three Sisters. On a clear day, it’s a truly stunning ride.
Located just west of Santiam Pass, Scott Mountain is a 6,116-foot volcanic butte with an open crest that offers phenomenal views of The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood.
And as if the stunning vista wouldn’t be reason enough to do this ride, the routes to and from the summit go past several pretty lakes and along an interesting lava flow. Every mile or so, there’s a something new to delight your eyes.
To ride the loop, start out on the Hand Lake Trail #3513, which will take you past Scott Lake, through Lake Valley, to Hand Lake and then past a fairly recent lava flow that offers a view of the Three Sisters. After 3 miles, turn left on the Hand Lake Cutoff Trail #3513.4. In another 1.5 miles you’ll come to the Scott Mountain Trail #4339. Turn right here and continue for 0.5 mile up a few switchbacks to the top of Scott Mountain. What a panorama!
To complete the loop, follow the Scott Mountain Trail down off the butte for 1.3 miles, then turn left on the Benson Trail #3502. In the next 2.5 miles it will take you to a cluster of tiny lakes called the Tenas Lakes, then past the much-larger Benson Lake and back to your trailer.
This ride is not to be missed!
Ride Statistics: 8 miles round trip, with elevations of 4,800 to 6,100 feet. Moderate difficulty. Hoof protection is recommended. Elevations are 110 to 350 feet. Stock water is available on the trail. The best maps are Adventure Map’s Central Oregon Hiking-Trail Map and the Three Sisters Wilderness map.
Getting to the Trailhead: Located off Hwy. 242 just west of McKenzie Pass. From Eugene, take Exit 189 from I-5 and head east on Hwy. 126. Follow it for 55 miles, then turn right on Hwy. 242. Continue 15.8 miles and turn left on Road 260. From Sisters, take Hwy. 242 west for 20 miles and turn right on Road 260. All, follow Road 260 for about a mile and park in the old quarry at the end of the road. Note that if you are coming from Sisters, McKenzie Pass is closed to vehicles longer than 35 feet because the road is narrow and has very sharp turns, so you’ll need to use a 2-horse trailer.
Trailhead Facilities: Toilet, parking for several trailers.
More Information: The Scott Pass Loop is covered in the McKenzie Pass chapter of Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2012).