If there’s one thing the northern reached of the Diamond Peak Wilderness has a lot of, its lakes. Unfortunately, unless you have come to peaceful terms with hordes of mosquitos, all those lakes create ideal breeding grounds and this area can almost be unvisitable until lake summer. But from then until the fall, when the buses turn a brilliant red and yellow, the wilderness around Diamond Peak is a beautiful and lightly trafficked destination you would be sure to enjoy.
The Yoran Lake Loop is an opportunity to delve deep into the wilderness, right to the base of Diamond Peak. Oh, and all those lakes I was talking about. You will get to soak your weary feet in six of them if you choose. Well, six named ones anyway. There are so many unnamed lakes and ponds along this loop, you would probably loose count.
Begin the loop at the Trapper Creek Trailhead, across the road from the Shelter Cove Resort on Odell Lake. Look for the big yellow gate and all the no pedestrian signs. That is where you want to walk. Head over the track and bear left and you will soon find the kiosk and wilderness permit station to begin your hike.
One the trail, you will reach the junction with the Whitefish Trail in a mere quarter mile. Left would lead you to Diamond View Lake and then ultimately Crescent Lake, but those are not the lakes you are looking for. Head right on continue up Trapper Creek. Soon you will come to a log bridge crossing over Trapper Creek. At the time we crossed over it, the bridge was missing most of its railing and is suspended fairly high over the creek. If that is not something you are comfortable with, there is a horse ford just downstream if you don’t mind getting your feet wet.
In less than half a mile, you will reach the junction with the Yoran Lake Trail. Make a left and begin the slowly plodding march up towards the lake. The trail climbs slowly but steadily as you head into the wilderness. Tall trees offer plenty of shade and bear grass flourishes in patches along the trail (unfortunately, they bloom during the season of death. It makes them hard to observe when you have 10 mosquitos on each eye..).
You will reach your first water body about 3.5 miles into the hike. A pretty, unnamed lake is located right alongside the trail. Keep climbing and after another mile, look for a side trail heading to your right. Take that to visit pretty Karen Lake. You can get your first view of Daimond Peak here through the trees. Return to the trail and proceed just a few more steps (maybe a few more than a few, but not a lot) and find yourself at Yoran Lake.
The trail splits at Yoran Lake, and you will want to go right to see the best views and continue along the loop. There are numerous spots the relax along the lake’s northeastern shore with dramatic views of Diamond Peak towering over the lake. Mount Yoran even takes a bow to the right of Diamond Peak.
Continue along the shores of Yoran Lake for about a third of a mile before leaving the lake at heading towards the PCT. Before you reach it through, you will make a quick stop at Lils Lake. There is a nice overlook just off the trail to view this lake from. The trail then heads around the swampy eastern shore of the lake and can get a little hard to follow. But just keep heading around the lake and then climb up the small ridge on the northern shores and you will find yourself on the PCT.
Bear right once reaching the PCT and begin your long downhill back to the trailhead. But don’t fret, the fun isn’t over yet. About a half mile down the PCT, you will see a small trail heading right to Hidden Lake. Then, about a mile further, Arrowhead Lake can be found just off the left side of the trail. There isn’t a trail heading into Arrowhead Lake and the view isn’t great of it, but hey, you want to get in all those lakes you can. Plus, you will have passed approximately 3,400 small lakes along the trail, so that is exciting as well.
After Arrowhead Lake, the number of lakes you will pass drops off and you enter the more traditional forest you enjoyed on the way up. But don’t worry, a mile and half past Arrowhead, you will get to visit one last lake. Another small side trail to your right, with a bid sign in the trees informing you that this is Midnight Lake, will guide you, believe it or not, to Midnight Lake.
Following Midnight Lake, keep heading down the PCT for another mile and a half until you reach a dirt road at Pengra Pass. Head right on the road and follow it for a third of a mile until you see the Whitefish Creek Trail heading right off the road. You will pass the northern junction of the trail heading left well before your trail, but don’t fret. You aren’t lost. Just keep heading down around the corner and you will find it.
Once on the Whitefish Creek Trail, it is surprisingly long 1.3 miles back to the trailhead. You will keep thinking you should be back no, but you won’t be. Sorry. That’s just how long hikes work. But rejoice. You get the opportunity the pass over the bride with no rails again, you lucky duck.
To reach the Trapper Creek Trailhead, take Highway 58 toward Willamette Pass. Head south at the sign for Odell Lake, west access, 8 miles north of Crescent Lake Junction or 0.3 miles south of Willamette Pass Ski Area. Follow the paved road for 2.1 miles as it rounds the western shore of the lake. Then, make a left into the trailhead right across the road from Shelter Cove Marina.
Passes: A self-issue wilderness permit is required upon entering the wilderness.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Usage: Light to Moderate
Open Season: Expect to find snow on the trail into early July.
Bugs: Mosquitoes can be horrible here well into late August.