Square and Booth Lakes are located in the heart of the old B&B Complex fire scar, one of Oregon’s first megafires. The fire burned the area in 2003, turning a dense forest stand into a wide-open expanse of manzanita and ceanothus. The trees, primarily lodgepole pine, are making a comeback, but shade is hard to come by along this trail. The advantage of the lack of trees is wide open vistas with views stretching from North and Middle Sister north to Three Fingered Jack. Wildflowers and Bear grass also bloom throughout the area, adding to the diversity. And you get to visit a couple of pretty lakes to boot.
Begin your hike at the Round Lake Trailhead, located near the Round Lake Christian Camp. Conversely, this hike can also be accessed via the Pacific Crest Trail Trailhead on Santiam Pass with a little less gravel road driving, but then you miss Round Lake, but the choice is yours. The parking area for the trailhead is located in a small turn around just before the gate entering the camp.
The trail begins by climbing up a small ridge through a forest of ceanothus. The snowbrush can be over your head in places but don’t fret, this doesn’t last forever. Be sure to look back through gaps in the brush for some pretty views of Round Lake.
Once up the ridge, the brush will slowly begin to thin out as you march along the flats. Watch for views back towards Black Butte as well as Mt Washington and Three Fingered Jack peaking out over ridges. Things continue along pretty easily and you will find yourself at Square Lake before you know it. Square Lake sits in a pretty basin with some rock-lined bluffs bordering three sides of the lake.
If you are wanting to proceed on towards Booth Lake, continue along the north shore of Square Lake until you reach the junction with the Old Summit Trail. Make a right and begin marching up the ridge above Square Lake. You will gain about 400 feet in elevation over the next mile, but the views over Square Lake just keep getting cooler. Pass through a pass between a rocky knoll and the ridge to the west and pop out with some awesome views of Three Fingered Jack ahead of you.
Here, the trail continues along the top of a ridge and you will soon see Booth Lake nestled into the bombed out landscape below. This was the heart of one of the fires that made up the B&B Complex. Even though the lake looks desolate from above, following the trail down to its shores will reward you with an abundance of life. Grass and brush line the shores and there are even some sandy beaches. So enjoy the rewards of your efforts and chill for a little before heading back.
To reach Round Lake, take Highway 20 twelve miles west of Sisters or 8 miles west of Santiam Pass and head east FS-12, Jack Lake Road at the sign for the Mt Jefferson Wilderness Trailheads. Travel a mile down Jack Lake Road and where the road starts to turn to the right, head straight onto the NF-1210 road. This road becomes a pretty nice gravel road, although it may be a little washboardy. Follow the road up the Fish Creek drainage for 5.8 miles and then make a right at the sign for Round Lake. Follow the road for 0.7 miles around the lake and the trailhead will be at a small turnout on your left, just before the gate into the Round Lake Christian Camp.
Passes: A self-issue wilderness permit is required upon entering the wilderness. If you plan on backpacking, a Central Cascades Wilderness Overnight Permit will be required.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: The trailhead will likely be snow covered well into May or even June. Expect to find snow on the trail into early July.
Bugs: Mosquitoes can be plentiful in places here during June and July. However, the open nature of this area leads to windier conditions which help clear them out.
Flowers: Flowers will be blooming along much of the trail in July and early August.