Sisters Things to Do

  • Looking from OR 242 to Little Belknap Crater
    Looking from OR 242 to Little Belknap...
    by mtncorg
  • Looing north from Four-In-One to Mt Washington
    Looing north from Four-In-One to Mt...
    by mtncorg
  • North and Middle Sister from atop Four-In-One-Cone
    North and Middle Sister from atop...
    by mtncorg

Best Rated Things to Do in Sisters

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    THREE CREEK LAKE

    by mtncorg Written Oct 13, 2004

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    Three Creek Lake, lying at 6550 feet high, sits below the Tam MacArthur Rim. It is a popular destination for campers with two campgrounds - Driftwood and Three Creek Lake - spread out along its banks. No motorized boats are allowed. There is an anchored swimming dock in the middle of the lake. There is also a seasonal small store along the east bank of the lake. It is a nice destination in of itself, or as a starting point for hiking to the Rim above.

    Tam MacArthur Rim above Three Creek Lake
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    TAM MACARTHUR TRAIL

    by mtncorg Updated Oct 13, 2004

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    Lewis 'Tam' MacArthur was chairman of the Oregon Geographic Names Board for much of the early part of the 20th Century. Such a position should garner some kind of benefit or memorial and it is this grand escarpment coming off the eastern ridges of Broken Top, just south of Sisters, that remembers Tam. The ridge towers over 1000 feet above Three Creek Lake and offers long reaching vistas. The trail is reasonably easy, covering the 1200 feet rise in about 2 ½ miles. Along the way you have viewpoints which let you spy the crest of the rim ahead, along with far off volcanoes spiking out of the forests.

    On the way up to the Rim - North Sister poking out
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    BROKEN HAND

    by mtncorg Written Oct 13, 2004

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    But to stop at the rim is to miss out on what lies ahead. A boot path continues through alpine meadows, dwarfed trees and ever increasing views of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. About halfway - maybe a mile - you come to a big red cinder cone, from atop which, the views are really starting to add up. You are atop a subsidiary ridge coming off the northeast side of Broken Top. Continue on the path up through a small knoll where the way becomes faint through the rocks and stunted trees. A good eye will locate the path ahead. Come to an end at the base of the Broken Hand - about 8200 feet. You could continue around the Hand - north side would have been more problematic, on this day, than swinging around the south side, because of snow. There is a glacial cirque lake on the southwest side of the Hand, but in all reality, the views at the base of the Hand make a good stopping point - especially with a little snow and a small four legged friend along;-\

    Broken Hand to the left; Broken Top and S. Sister
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    BROKEN TOP

    by mtncorg Written Oct 13, 2004

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    Above the Broken Hand, the 9175 feet high Broken Top looms. There is no sound but the wind up here. If you are climbing Broken Top from this direction, I would think winter or spring to be the best option when the rotten rock is frozen. That would mean a long entry on skis - probably from the direction of Mt Bachelor to the south, for the road to Three Creek Lake is closed in the winter far down from the lake. Plus, the best descent routes are off other ridges - like the southwest.

    Broken Top from base of Broken Hand
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    CHARITY

    by mtncorg Written Oct 13, 2004

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    The Three Sisters were named for three 19th Century sisters by an ardent admirer. The sisters' names were: Charity, Faith and Hope and so it was the name for each of the mountains as well. Charity - or South Sister - sits off by herself to the south a bit from the others. At 10354 feet high, she is about 300 feet taller than her northerly siblings. Seven glaciers glisten on her flanks. For a TL on climbing Charity - see my Bend pages.

    South Sister rises with Broken Top to the left
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    MAIN STREET SISTERS

    by mtncorg Written Oct 13, 2004

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    Main Street has restaurants, delis, a nice bakery and several shops. Main Street is US 20 and at times, the traffic can get a bit hectic. Townspeople know to take side streets. During a summer weekend, traffic can get ridiculous. Be careful of the Quilt Show weekend when thousands come to town. You won't be moving through Sisters quickly on those days.

    Traffic along Main Street in Sisters
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    TAM MACARTHUR RIM

    by mtncorg Written Oct 13, 2004

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    Central Oregon is laid out before you from atop the 7730-foot high rim. Volcanoes punctuate the far horizons - from Broken Top to Mt Adams in Washington State. The rim drops away directly from the top, so. be careful wandering along the edge. On a sunny, warm weekday in October, the inclination is to stretch out in the sunshine and ponder the view.

    Forests, mountains, Little 3 Creek Lk from the Rim
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    FAITH AND HOPE

    by mtncorg Written Oct 13, 2004

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    The two northerly sisters stand close together, a bit away from their taller sibling. The three volcanoes - along with their older easterly lying cousin, Broken Top, make up the centerpiece of the vast Three Sisters Wilderness Area - a region as impressive as any National Park but without all of the hoopla. Middle and South Sister are fairly easy climbs - though more difficult options do exist. North Sister is more difficult. Rotten rock protects its upper reaches. One main couloir, the Bowling Alley, is son-named for a very good reason. More than one climber has died trying to scale Hope.

    Faith and Hope rise to the west
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    BETWEEN CHARITY AND FAITH

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 30, 2005

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    .... there are the Chambers Lakes. Just west of Sisters off OR 242 - the McKenzie Pass highway - there is a road going off to Pole Creek Trailhead - Forest Highway 15. From the trailhead it is almost 7 miles to the first of the Chambers Lakes, Camp Lake. These lakes are a small group that lie in between South and the Middle-North Sister group. Camp Lake is accessible by trail and is a popular destination. It is directly at the foot of the north face of the South Sister and is a glorious destination. There are a number of campsites scattered about - no campfires allowed. You can simply sit for hours and look up at the vulcanism and glaciology that makes up the largest of the Three Sisters. The age of the volcanoes is oldest north to south - South Sister being the 'baby' of the trio. Camp Lake is the most accessible of the lakes and the best lake to make camp.

    Trail distance from the trailhead is about 7 miles and 1500 feet gain.

    South Sister rising high above Camp Lake
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    MCKENZIE PASS

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 30, 2005

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    OR 242 is the most scenic highway in Oregon. It takes you from the depths of the McKenzie River valley up high across the lava landscapes below the north faces of the North and Middle Sister. The road is a slow one, twisting and turning on its west side to gain elevation, twisting and turning within the lava fields in an attempt to squeeze through the flows. There are a couple of very popular trails that take off from the highway - Scott trail, Obsidian trail, trail to Hand Shelter, Proxy Falls, Linnton Lake and the Pacific Crest trail also crosses up high. Most travelers will drive across and stop at the little lava observatory built at the pass - the Dee Wright Observatory, atop which a identifying marker points out all of the local cones and mountains. Here, you are surrounded by seas of lava set down well over two thousand years ago, most of the lava here having been extruded from Little Belknap Crater to the north and the Yaopah Crater to the south. Unimproved camping can be found at Lava Lake on the east side of the lava fields and Scott Lake on the west. Mosquitoes also like to camp up here. The highway is closed in October until the Fourth of July making this a very popular backcountry ski destination.

    Looking from OR 242 to Little Belknap Crater
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    FOUR-IN-ONE CONE

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 30, 2005

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    Four-In-One-Cone combines several interesting features into one fairly short walk. Historically, the route follows an old wagon route - the first across McKenzie Pass - which was established in 1862 by Captain Felix Scott. Walking through the rugged lava landscape, you can get a quick idea why the route never really caught on with the general pioneering community. Geologically, you wander -on the Scott trail- around and through large lava flows that date back almost three thousand years. The literal highpoint is the amazing Four-In-One-Cone itself, which you can ascend by taking a short way trail off the Scott trail. Four small cinder cones grew together in a line in southwest to northeast direction. You can see that all the cones were breached on their northwest sides by magma flows which contributed greatly to the moonscape of the McKenzie Pass countryside. You have a bird’s eye view over the Pass and the lavas capes, with more volcanoes popping up to the north as far as you can see.

    Looing north from Four-In-One to Mt Washington
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    SISTERS VIEW from 4-IN-ONE-CONE

    by mtncorg Written Aug 30, 2005

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    One of the best places to photograph the two Sisters who share the closest affinity to one another - North and Middle - is from atop Four-In-One-Cone. The vast Collier Glacier fills the valley between the two Sisters - Collier is Oregon’s largest glacier. Closer views do exist for hikers. You can gain a nice viewpoint on the side of Collier Cone - which you can see on the left hand side at the base of North Sister - which is just off the Pacific Crest trail, a few miles further on from Four-In-One-Cone, but for pictures, here, you are a little too close for the whole massif.

    Since you are looking to the south-southeast, the best time for pictures of the Sisters from atop Four-In-One-Cone are in the late afternoon.

    North and Middle Sister from atop Four-In-One-Cone
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    LITTLE BELKNAP CRATER

    by mtncorg Written Aug 30, 2005

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    A short five mile roundtrip hike takes you from the PCT trailhead, just west of the Dee Wright Observatory, to the top of Little Belknap Crater, the origin of much of the lava flows occupying the landscape on the north side of OR 242. You start off wandering around two tree islands that were spared from lava inundation but by one mile, you are solidly into nothing but lava fields. It can get very hot up in here during the summer and the best time of the day to hike is early - or late in the day if you want good pictures of the Sisters to the south. Walking through the fields of lava is quite amazing and as you ascend, your views over the Pass’ lava fields and south to the Sisters, ever expands. At about five miles, you reach a pass - Mt Washington is the spiky volcano straight ahead - and there is a short side trail that takes you to the top of the Little Belknap Crater. Several small lava caves can be found near the top where you can find shelter from the sun.

    Toffee takes a heat break below Little Belknap
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    BELKNAP CRATER

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 30, 2005

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    Another 500 feet of gain to the west side of where the way trail up Little Belknap takes off from the Pacific Crest Trail, is the cross country route taking you to the top of Belknap Crater - 6872 feet high. This is a larger and suprisingly newer crater than Little Belknap - Little Belknap is about a thousand years older. Unlike with Little Belknap, Belknap Crater is prety much only a cinder cone. The views are a little better from up here, but you have a lot more cinder to waddle over to reach the top. It is easiest to wander up the northern slope which is not quite as steep and loose as the south side.

    Belknap Crater from atop Little Bellknap
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    VOLCANIC VIEWS

    by mtncorg Written Aug 30, 2005

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    To the north, off of either Belknap Crater or Little Belknap, Mt Washington is the next volcano in line, but Three Finger Jack, Mt Jefferson and even Mt Hood are not too far behind. The PCT which you walked up from the Pass below wanders around the base of all of these peaks. To say the view is amazing is quite the understatement.

    Mt Washington, 3-Finger Jack and Mt Jefferson
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