Midnight Lake is a quiet, serene little lake located within the Diamond Peak Wilderness and makes for an excellent snowshoeing destination. While there are numerous trails and loops that take off from the Gold Lake Sno-Park, the one presented here will hit many of the highlights in the area. Granted you may have to climb a little more, but you probably wouldn’t be snowshoeing 6 smiles if you’re only into easy anyway.
Begin your trek from the far end of the Gold Lake Sno-Park, at the gate at the bus turn-around. You may have to scramble up a snowbank a little so it may be best to wait and put on your snowshoes until you’re on the actual trail. You will see a road that leads through a gate heading towards the south. Follow that road! For like 25 feet.
Right after passing the gate, look for a trail marked as CJ Way heading off to your left. This trail looks like it heads straight up a hillside. A steep hillside. Well, it does but will turn into a more normal climb quickly. Once on CJ Way, you will begin climbing up a nice 400 foot hill just to the west of Odell Lake. This climb is the hardest part of the trip, so it is nice to get it out of the way first. Those of you who stretch before leaving the parking lot are probably feeling pretty good about yourself right now.
You will come to an intersection in a quarter mile and you will want to head right, staying on CJ Way. Keep climbing for another half mile before hitting the intersection with the Diamond View Loop. This loop just circles around the top of the hill, but you will want to head right to reach the viewpoint. So once going right, the trial will quickly mellow out and begin to open up. Soon, you will see a sign directing you to the viewpoint, which is only about 50 feet or so off the trail and grants you some awesome views of Diamond Peak.
To continue on your way, keep heading around the loop. You will hit the intersection with the loop again shortly, so just keep right and begin making your way down to Eagle Rock and Odell Lake. As you trek down the hill, you will encounter another intersection, this time with the Odell Overlook Trail. A sign directing you to the WestView shelter will point right. You don’t want to go to that shelter, so head left towards Eagle Rock.
The Pacific Crest Trail is just a short march from the intersection. Head right on the PCT and you will find yourself at Eagle Rock almost immediately. The view overlooking Odell Lake and Lakeview Mountain in the distance is breathtaking.
When you finally tear yourself away from the overlook, continue along your path on the PCT as you head towards Pengra Pass. As you reach the pass, you will cross over a wide trail/road. There will be some sings a kiosks mostly buried in the snow and covered just across the road. This marks the continuation of the PCT and the gateway into the Diamond Peak Wilderness.
One thing you need to consider before heading into the wilderness is the fact that the trails are not marked within them. Usually, there will be a well-worn path marking the way ahead of you, but, if it has snowed recently or is currently dumping, you better make sure you have route-finding abilities. Even though the PCT is well-maintained trail, those gaps in the trees can all start looking the same if you don’t know where you are going.
Once within the wilderness, you get the privilege of climbing again, you lucky dog you. You will march up about 300 feet in the next mile as you work your way onto the bluff where Midnight Lake is located. Much of this section is side-hilling as you slowly climb, so if a trail hasn’t been tracked yet, that can make this especially challenging. But, if you keep your eyes open, you will get a nice view of the Willamette Pass ski resort through the trees on a few occasions.
You will reach with another trail right as you reach a small pond. This isn’t Midnight Lake, so don’t stop yet. Head left, staying on the PCT and snowshoe on for another quarter mile. You will then begin to see the lake through the trees, so head off trail (or follow the path, there will probably be tracks heading to the lake) and soon find yourself on the shores of this little gem.
When heading out, don’t head back the way you came. The best rails are loops, you know. So when you reach the intersection at the small pond, head straight this time. This trail will probably be less traveled than the PCT and also isn’t marked until you leave the wilderness, so again, be sure of your route-finding abilities. But, this route will have you back on the road you originally started on in less than ¾ of a mile.
Once you reach the road (called Abernethy Road, I guess), head to the right and begin your trek back to the sno-park. There is still one more stop along the way though. Only a tenth of a mile after joining the road, look for a sign directing you to the Bechtel Shelter. The shelter is just down the hill and is a great place to warm up and have a snack. There is even a sleeping loft in this one. Just be aware that they aren’t something you can claim and everybody present has a right to try and cram themselves inside to sleep if they want.
When leaving the Bechtel Shelter, look for a trail passing in front of the structure. Head right on this trail and quickly pop back out on the road. Once on the road, its just a nice, easy 1.7 miles slog through the forest back to the Sno-Park. Aren’t you glad you got that hill out of the way first?
The trail leaves from the Gold Lake Sno-Park, located on Highway 58. The Sno-Park is on the south side of the road, 26 miles east of Oakridge or just 0.7 miles west of the Willamette Pass Ski Area.
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: There will usually be snow cover from December to some time in April.