This is a nice 4.5 mile loop hike to a lovely meadow (Lower Meadow). It is also possible to continue to a viewpoint on a ridge below Three Fingered Jack, extending the hike to 7.5 miles. Views of Three Fingered Jack open up above the Lower Meadow. Views are especially nice around the Upper Meadow, making it a good turnaround point for hikers that are not comfortable with the .5 mile long rock scramble to the viewpoint.
The hike begins with a short (.4 miles) climb around Jack Lake through a forest of young pines to the beginning of the “loop”. At the first junction we turned left (to be consistent with the Forest Service’s suggestion to hike the loop clockwise) and proceeded 1.7 miles to the Lower Meadow. This first half mile of this stretch of trail was very slow going due to extensive deadfall, including several large trees that completely blocked the trail and that were difficult to climb over. There were also several large mud puddles, remnants of an early season snow storm, along the route to the Lower Meadow but overall the tread improved as we climbed past the two ponds mentioned in Sullivan’s guidebook to the small ridge. From here the trail enters a shady forest of healthy trees and descends several hundred feet to the Lower Meadow.
Views of Three Fingered Jack from the Lower Meadow are a bit limited so after negotiating numerous creeks and muddy spots (transporting snowmelt from above) we continued .7 miles up (400+ vertical feet) to the Upper Meadow which was awash with sunshine and surprisingly dry and snow free. Views of Three Fingered Jack from the Upper Meadow are spectacular and definitely worth the extra effort.
After catching our breath and taking some photos we continued towards the viewpoint saddle. We had only hiked for a few minutes when we ran into some hikers heading downhill who informed us that deep snow awaited us up ahead. Minutes later we encountered the snow but since it was a lovely warm day we slogged on, determined to reach the viewpoint. Ten minutes later after plunging through several waist deep snowdrifts we lost the trail completely and decided to turn back.
The journey back to the car was uneventful. The scenery on the return (north side) of the loop was nicer than the outbound leg and we particularly enjoyed the views of Mt. Jefferson through the fire ravaged forest, the 12-foot cascades of Canyon Creek Falls, and the beaver marsh below Canyon Creek Falls.