The Hash Brown Loop is a fun trek through the woods and along the western flank of Potato Hill. This route is also much less crowded than some of the more popular Sno-Parks in Oregon, but you will likely have to share the Jack Pie road section of the trail with skiers doing laps up the trail and down the north face of Potato Hill.
Start your adventure from the tiny little, nondescript Potato Hill Sno-Park. This Sno-Park amounts to little more than a wide spot on Highway 20, just west of Lost Lake and east of Santiam Junction. There is only one trail that initially heads out, so strap on your snowshoes and start making hay.
The path follows Jack Pine Road as it begins its slow but steady climb up Potato Hill. Journey through the steep forest for a third of a mile before reaching your first intersection. Take a right at the sign for the Hash Brown Loop and follow the trail as it descends off the ridgeline. You will reach a second intersection in just a little over a tenth of a mile with the Potato Nash Trail. This trail will take you all the way down to the Little Nash Sno-Park. Unless you have a shuttle waiting for you there, don’t take it. Keep heading straight along the Hash Brown Loop.
The trail will start climbing again shortly after the Potato Nash Trail as it rounds a small hill. The forest is still pretty dense through here but you will start to see a valley developing between yourself and Potato Hill. As you climb higher and swerve to the south, the trees will start to thin some and you may even catch a view of Hoodoo Butte or Mt Washington.
It’s about this time that you need to put on your awareness cap, or hat, or helmet, or whatever headgear you prefer to help you think. So far, you have been following forest roads through the woods and even though there aren’t a bunch of trail markers letting you know you’re on the right path, you feel good about it because, well, you’re on a road. Well, a little less than 2 miles into the trek, the trail leaves the road and cuts to the left. It’s not marked very well and following the road kind of lulls you to sleep. If you get to a road junction, you missed it, but not by much. Head back and find it.
Now you can follow a more traditional, single track trail as it winds its way through some trees and past some rocky outcrops. It continues like this for a little more than half a mile, climbing about 125 feet as it goes. Then you will emerge from the trees as the trail takes a hard left, right at the base of Potato Hill. The trail here will eventually merge with another forest road as it climbs from the base of the hill back up to Jack Pine Road. Once you hit Jack Pine Road, it’s a nice, brisk mile back to the Sno-Park, all downhill of course. Or, if you want a little more, make a right and continue to the summit of Potato Hill.
To reach the Potato-Hill Sno-Park from Central Oregon, head west on Highway 20 and go up and over Santiam Pass. Continue 4 miles past the turnoff for Hoodoo. The Sno-Park is on the left, on the outside of a corner, right after the passing lane ends following Lost Lake.
Coming from the Valley, head east on Highway 20 for 1.2 miles past the Santiam Junction. The Sno-Park will be on the right just before the passing lane ends.
Passes: An Oregon Sno-Park permit is required November 1 through April 30.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: As long as there's snow. Most years will have suitable snow depth from December into April.