Park Meadow Trail, Three Sisters Wilderness
This last Saturday, my husband, 13 month old daughter and dog (we were down one as our Puggle was still recovering from the blisters he got last week on the hike to Doris Lake) went to Park Meadow in the Three Sisters Wilderness area. We found the hike in the book “100 hikes in the Cascade Mountains” by William Sullivan and we excited to try it out. However, we forgot to consider that this trail went directly through the area where the Pole Creek fire took place in 2012. The book listed that the trail was about 7.5 miles to Park Meadow, but due to the fire, the trail must have been re-routed a bit because it was 10 miles round trip.
To get to the Park Meadow trailhead from FivePine Lodge, you will head west on Hwy 20 towards the town of Sisters. Don’t forget your Northwest Forest Pass. If you don’t have one, stop by the front desk and the staff can issue you one for $5. I would recommend stopping at Melvin’s Market first to grab some snacks and sandwiches. From there, you will take a left on Elm Street which turns into Forest Road 16. You will stay on this road for 14 miles at which point the paved road turns into gravel. Keep going another .3 miles and you will see the trailhead sign on the left.
I would describe the trail as moderate based only on the distance. There is only a slight elevation gain. Pack lots of water as the first/last 4 miles you are hiking through the Pole Creek fire area so there is limited shade. You cross three small streams along the way. With the limited tree cover, you see the snowcapped mountains during your entire trek which makes the trip very scenic.
The Pole Creek fire was caused by lightning in September 2012. Over 26,000 acres burned and 4 cars were destroyed in the fire. It was truly surreal to walk through the area that had burned as the ground and trees were charred and lifeless. Once you reach the edge of where the fire burned, you are immediately engulfed with green luscious trees. There is finally some life! After a mile, we reached our destination of Park Meadow. There was a small pond at the edge of the meadow and breathtaking views of the mountains. We stopped here for lunch but were quickly run out by the bugs. This is a perfect camping destination for backpackers as many continue onto Green Lakes, Golden Lake and Broken Top.
Overall, this wasn’t one of my favorite hikes in the area. The views at Park Meadow were superb and I can only imagine what the trail would have been like prior to the fire, but with no shade and packing our daughter around, it was a little much for us.