Notes on Benson Lake, and 2011 snow conditions in Oregon

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North and Middle Sister, moonrise

I just returned from a quick overnight hike to Benson Lake in the Mount Washington wilderness (see hike #46).  As of July 15 2011, the snowline is at about ~5000 feet, but the melt is very uneven.  Many south-facing slopes are snowfree, especially above tree line.  The bald southern face of Scott Mountain (6100′) is entirely melted.  Black Crater (7251′) and Belknap Crater (6872′) appear to have snowfree hiking routes above treeline, but I suspect their approach hikes are snowbound.  North facing slopes and deeply shaded forest areas have four-foot drifts all the way down to Highway 242 (at about 5000′).

The Benson Lake trailhead (-5000′) remains unreachable by car.  Instead, I parked about 1/2 mile down Scott Road.  I found the trail to Benson Lake (5200′) about 80% snowbound, but I was able to follow good boot prints from early-season day-hikers.  Benson lake basin was mostly snow-free; I found a dry campspot with a view and built a fire.  Silent lightning flashed for hours in the southern sky , and later, rain clouds consumed me, Benson Lake, and the entire wilderness.

fire (2 of 3)

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5 Responses to “Notes on Benson Lake, and 2011 snow conditions in Oregon”

  1. Christopher Says:

    Thanks for the report. I was considering taking my kid up there this Wednesday (the 20th). Do you think the snow makes it prohibitive for a youngster?

  2. victorhansonsmith Says:

    @Christopher – of course it depends on your kid. If they don’t mind wet feet and a mini-adventure, I bet its fine. The trail to Benson Lake is only about 1.5 miles one-way with minimal climbing.

  3. Christopher Says:

    Thanks for the quick reply. So long as it’s navigable, i think she’ll do fine with some extra footwear. We’re deciding between this hike and Linton Lake. We have 3 days and 2 nights so we’re looking for someplace to do a day-hike or two on day two. Thanks again!

  4. Christopher Says:

    I should say “someplace to do a dayhike or two [i]from[/i] on day two”.

  5. victorhansonsmith Says:

    @Christopher – I bet Linton Lake is totally snow-free, if that matters.

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