Everyone’s Favorite Hike

Mileage (Roundtrip): 9.91 Trail Conditions: Light hikers recommended.
Hike #: 6 Scenery (1 "Meh" to 10 "Amazing, Wow"): 10
Sullivan Hike #: 58 Difficulty (1 "Easy" to 5 "Difficult"): 3
Hike Name: Green Lakes Region: Three Sisters Wilderness

Driving Directions: The Green Lakes trailhead is located off the Cascade Lakes Highway (Highway 24) about 26 miles from Bend (about 4 miles after the signed turn off to the Mt. Bachelor ski area). The large parking area is on the right side of the road if you are coming from Bend, just past the signed turn off for Sparks Lake.

Bring: Bug spray. The Three Sisters Wilderness Trail Map by Adventure Maps, Inc. if you want information about other trails in area or want details about what you are seeing as you hike.

Other Things to Know: Avoid this hike on summer weekends unless you like hiking with hordes of people. According to my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watch the elevation gain on this hike is 1,300 feet and not 1,100 as stated in Sullivan’s Guidebook. It is possible to make your visit to Green Lakes into a long loop hike if you return on the Broken Top and Soda Creek trails.

The Green Lakes Trail is possibly the most popular hike in the Bend/Sunriver region and for good reason.  The well-graded path takes hikers past a series of lovely waterfalls and a gorgeous canyon walled by an enormous lava flow enroute to three crystal clear lakes in a wide valley in between South Sister and Broken Top.  While we had heard that the trail can resemble a freeway, on this warm day in July we only saw a handful of hikers on the way out and less than a dozen on the way back to our car.

The hike begins with a fun single log footbridge across Fall Creek, fun that is if you don’t have a small child or a small dog since getting on the footbridge involves climbing up some tall stairs.  Zoe managed to cross the bridge without incident but it took a while to coax her down off the bridge.  Once across the footbridge, the trail climbs steadily for 2.1 miles through a dense forest past several impressive waterfallswaterfall, forest, cascades to a trail junction.  The trail to the left continues on to Moraine Lake (a nice small lake at the foot of South Sister) and the path to the right continues on 2.3 miles to the Green Lakes.  Soon after this junction there are two footbridge crossings – one across the Miller Creek/springs and the other across Fall Creek.  There is a lovely meadow with blue lupine and other wildflowers in between the two footbridge crossings.  Soon after crossing the 2nd footbridge the trail begins a steady climb up the hillside and away from Fall Creek.  During this 1+ mile stretch we encountered several deep snowdrifts most of which were easy to cross but some of which required crab walking and/or holding on to tree branches to cross safely.

After 400 or 500 feet of climbing the trail rejoins Fall Creek in a very scenic meadow with a huge lava flow of blocky obsidian and rock on far (left) side of the creek.  The next mile or so of the hike to the lakes was almost completely under snow but luckily there was a clear path along the edge of the creek through crunchy/mushy snow.  At the junction with the Broken Top trail we turned right and wandered over to the first Green Lake which was surrounded by ice and snow.  After letting Zoe play in the deep snow for a while we backtracked to the trail junction and continued on to campground at the foot of the largest of the

Broken Top, mountain, snow

Broken Top

Green Lakes.  The views of Broken Top and South Sister from the small peninsula of land that juts into this lake are amazing and we spent the next 30 minutes taking photos and enjoying the scenery.  The deep snow drifts and ice along the shoreline of the lake made accessing the water difficult but Zoe managed to find a clear spot and jumped in the lake for a quick swim while Angelique and I enjoyed a picnic lunch.

South Sister, mountain, snow, lake

South Sister

After a longish rest we turned back and enjoyed the long descent to the car.  We will do this hike again this fall and will visit the nearby Corral Lake described in Bend Overall by Scott Cook.

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