Hiking in Central Oregon is spectacular and amazingly beautiful. Hikers can find trails that are easy and only take a small amount of time, or there are trails that require a commitment of an entire day or for those more adventurous, can take a whole summer, such as traveling on the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Nearly all trails around Sisters and Bend are accessible within a few minutes to just a couple of hours drive. And every trail is unique, beautiful and worth the effort.
I have several favorites, one being the Six Lakes trail near Elk Lake. The trail starts in the Three Sisters Wilderness area just past Elk Lake’s resort entrance. The first lake is Blow Lake, then Doris Lake, which is a blue/green, freezing cold but refreshing lake. It’s a great destination for a short backpacking trip.
A bit further is Senoj Lake, which is shallow and surrounded by meadow grass. This is a great destination when horseback riding. Keep on hiking and eventually you’ll get to Cliff Lake, Porky Lake and Mink Lake. It’s best to have a car shuttle planned, if you want to get to all six lakes. We often hike to Senoj Lake, take our boots off and wade into the lake, have some lunch, and head back out.
This trail is great for moderate hiking, horseback riding, and back packing. We stayed overnight at Doris Lake one summer and it was one of the most peaceful, beautiful nights ever. The clear sky, full of the most amazing stars & planets seemed like the biggest sky ever. The only tough part of the hike/camp was the mosquitoes. OMG, they are relentless. As much as I hate chemicals, I love Deet!! They were all over our dogs, too. But a quick dip in the lake brought instant relief for all of us.
Another amazing hike is the east side of Broken Top. To reach the trail head, drive to Todd Lake and keep going through the gate. The road requires vehicles with high clearance and durability. It’s a rough, relatively long and narrow journey, but so worth the ride. The streams, wildflowers, and views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top Mountains are breathtaking. There are usually several snow fields to trek through which makes it fun on a hot day. The highlight of the hike is reaching the moraine lake that seems to have “no-name”. It suddenly appears through the snow covered, narrow trail heading to the peak. The color of the lake is like a tropical ocean. However, I highly suggest not swimming in it as there are usually parts of the glacier floating around so the water will definitely take your breath away. You won’t stay in it for long, if you are brave enough to dive in.
Once you’ve reached the top of the trail, the view of the Three Sisters is amazing. It seems like the wilderness to the north is endless. We are so lucky to live in such a wild and beautiful part of the world.
Another great hike near Sisters is the Obsidian Trail off the McKenzie Pass, Hwy 242. Permits are required for this hike so plan ahead and check with the Forest Service. They limit the number of permits to preserve the trail system. It’s considered a difficult trail since it’s about a 12 mile loop with approximately 1800’ in elevation gain. But you’ll experience a plethora of natural environments, such as old growth forests, open meadows with waterfalls and streams, lava fields, and obsidian cliffs.
For a strenuous hike, try Black Crater located off the same highway but just prior to the Dee Wright Observatory. It’s rated as another difficult hike since there is over 2,350’ in elevation gain and it’s about an 8 mile loop.
As you may notice, there is truly endless hiking in the Sisters and Central Oregon area. I’ve lived here for nearly 30 years, and each year we find new and exciting places to hike. Our favorite thing to do after a long, tiring day on the trail is to stop at Three Creeks Brewery, have a cold one, and with a little luck, schedule a massage at Shibui Spa. If we’re too tired to drive home, we may just stay the night at FivePine Lodge.
Tricia Maxson – Events Director at FivePine Lodge