Hiking to Rosary Lakes is a very popular and accessible section of the Pacific Crest Trail near Willamette Pass. It is one of the few areas that gives you easy access to alpine lakes throughout all seasons.
In the summer, the trail starts off at the PCT trailhead just past Willamette Pass where there is ample parking. In the winter, you cannot park at the trailhead because they don’t plow it, so you will have to park at Willamette Pass ski resort. You can park there free of charge and walk over past the bunny hill lift, where you will see a sign to Rosary Lakes, and a trail that then connects you to the PCT.
Both in the summer and winter, the trail is groomed as this is a very popular trail during all seasons. The first part of the hike is through beautiful fir forest. All of the trees have a smattering of moss on them. In the summer, you can see where the snow line usually is by where the moss starts.
After 3 miles, you will come to Lower Rosary Lake, the largest of the three lakes. There are a few areas to camp around the left side of the lake. The trail continues another mile along the shore of the lake and up the hill to Middle and Upper Rosary Lakes. Middle Rosary Lake is the most beautiful of the three because it has such a great view of Pulpit Rock. There is a nice hidden place to camp at the far end of Middle Rosary Lake at the bottom of Pulpit Rock.
Right after Upper Rosary Lake (the smallest of the lakes), the trail will start to switchback up a steep hill. Continue on the PCT up the hill and you will quickly be rewarded with amazing views of all three Rosary Lakes: Pulpit Rock, Odell Lake, Summit Lake and Diamond Peak. Continue on this trail if you want to go up to the Maiden Peak Ski Shelter.
Another 3.6 miles through the forest with various small elevation changes brings you to the Maiden Peak Ski Shelter. This would be the place to ski or snowshoe up to and spend the night, especially if you are coming here in the winter.
The Maiden Peak Ski Shelter was constructed in 1999 by the Eugene chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club in cooperation with the US Forest Service. It is very spacious, with various bench seating against the walls, a table to eat at, a place where they store extra water and pots for cooking, and the log book for people to sign. There is also a large wood stove and a huge upstairs sleeping loft. Outside underneath a cover, there is ample fire wood for use in the winter.
Overall, Rosary Lakes is an awesome hike to do in all seasons. It is beautiful whether there is snow or not. This is the perfect trail to do especially if you are new to snowshoeing because there is a rewarding reveal at the end to push you to finish the hike.
If want to do an easy summer hike, try the 8 miles round-trip to the 3 lakes. You can even take a swim! If you ski or snowshoe up to camp and spend the night in the winter, going up to the Maiden Peak Ski Shelter is an awesome adventure! Just remember, if you hike up to the shelter in the summer, it winds up being 13 miles long.
Directions: From Eugene– head east on Hwy. 58 for 66 miles. Right after the Willamette Pass ski lodge, turn left at the PCT sign. Make sure to park at the PCT trailhead, not where the snow plows are.
From Bend– head south on US-97 for 46.8 miles to Crescent cut-off road. Turn right here and this road becomes Hwy. 61 which then T’s into Hwy. 58 after 11.8 miles. Turn right onto Hwy. 58 for 11 miles and then turn right at the PCT sign right after passing Odell Lake.
**In the winter they do not plow the PCT parking lot. DO NOT park where the snow plows are, as you will get a hefty ticket. Park at Willamette Pass ski resort and take the trail to the right of the bunny hill over to the PCT.
For more information about this hike go to www.hikeoregon.net