South Sister Trail is a 11.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bend, OR that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from June until October.
South Sister is the third tallest mountain in Oregon and the tallest of the famous three sister chain. A relatively non-technical climb in winter and volcanic ridge in summer, South Sister is a long, but straight forward climb year round. The summit offers up unparalleled views of Middle Sister, North Sister, Three Fingered Jack, and all the way to Mount Hood or even into Washington on a clear day while the southern view includes Broken Top and nearby Mount Bachelor. The traditional route starts from Devil's lake campground crossing over highway 46 before making a forest ascent to the South Sister base. From there it is a long switch back / ridge climb to a false summit and then over the crater to the true peak. In winter the climb offers long runs for adventurous ski-mountaineers but routes are not marked or clearly maintained. While the climb is considered non-technical, there are steep sections in low snow periods and open crevasses along the climbing route.
Most challenging and most rewarding hike I've done so far. We were lucky enough to have a cloudless sky. We weren't as physically prepared as we could have been, but got an early start and took our time. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to do this again. Heard the might start limiting access from a local on the trail.
Aside from the skree near the top, exposure, and hundreds of hikers, this is one of the best hikes I've been on in a long time. The countless hikers were actually more of a source of motivation than hindrance. Great hike, good times, and a worthy challenge.
This hike was amazing! We and my cousin hikes into moraine lake and stayed their Friday night, even though it was freezing at night, it was worth it. Than we woke up and started hiking at around 730! Very heavily trafficked trail and a very popular hike. We made it to the top and summited in 5 hours from the lake. It took us longer because we took a lot of breaks! The trail is easy to follow, and not too hard, you hike over a lot of rocks before making it to the ridge by lake and that part of difficult. That last mile up the ridge is REAALLY HARD! It's all worth it though, amazing views and beautiful scenery!
Fun challenging fantastic views! The last half mile of this hike poses some definite shortness of breath and steep grades just short of scrambling. Sharp lava rock can slice you open quite easily. The false summit and true summit offer splendid views of broken top bachelor spark lake morraine lake hells lake elk lake middle and north sister mount Jefferson mount hood Rainer and even Mount St. Helens on a clear day.
Awesome, tough hike. Actually easier than expected after reading a ton of reviews but certainly a challenge and without a doubt the hardest hike I have been on by far. Great views make every step worth it. I didn't notice the loose ground going up as much as I did going down. I thought the last mile of the return trip (first mile of the trail) was the most difficult because by that time my knees were hurting after the constant steep downhill grade. Definitely will do it again.
By far my favorite go-to day hike. Gorgeous views, challenging inclines, nice cool weather with snowcapped summit at the top. Teardrop pool is beautiful, the meadows are gorgeous. I would definitely recommend! Can't wait to take my son when he is a little older!
Great hike! Awesome views up and amazing ones coming down. 3 liters of water is a good call. Or filter it there's plenty on trail. So are mid boots with gators. First 4 miles are easy and pleasant. 5th mile is tough and the 6th is tougher. Top is windy. Went for pictures and it didn't disappoint.
Personally I loved this hike. Lots and lots of tough incline hiking. There is a nice break in the middle but then you're right back to the incline. The higher you get the looser the footing too. If you go on a clear day the scenery is exceptionally hard to match in quality.
Very tough, and I've summited St Helens and Adams. Either this was tougher, or I'm not as good of shape this year. Beautiful view from the top. 24 hours later, I can say it was worth the pain.
A really nice, but challenging, hike. Unbelievable views and supportive fellow hikers. Proud of my eight year old for sticking with it, even though the wind and steepness were getting the best of her. Good hike for experienced hikers or people in good shape. Bring fall/winter clothes for the summit, like most peeks in the PNW. Views and sense of accomplishment make it worth the effort.
Summiting South Sister 07/30/2016
I’ll be honest. This was the hardest hike that I’ve ever done. The elevation gain was killer with the short miles. The miles were not short BUT it was completely worth it. Every sweaty, hard, and lack of oxygen moment. The hike is about 5-6.25 miles to the summit, 10-12 miles round trip.
My first tip to all is leave very early and arrive early at the trailhead. The parking lot was almost full at 7am.
The first 1.5-2 miles are hard and goes through the forest. It goes steadily uphill with switchbacks. If you’ve done some of the more intense Columbia gorge hikes you should be fine on this section.
Once you emerge from the forest, you’ll come to a 4 way intersection. Straight forward is towards South Sister. Left is Wikiup Plain. Our group went to the right, towards Moraine Lake. This was about mile. This went through a plain/meadow. We choose to backpack in and stay overnight. We unloaded our backpacks and set up camp. Then had an early lunch and started back out of Moraine Lake towards a pathway to South Sister.
The following mile was pleasant since it’s a sandy plain and flat. This portion of the hike was my favorite as a novice mountain climber. After this portion, it is ALL uphill.
After the sandy plain, the incline to reach the lake and the Lewis Glacier is hard. You think you’re getting close to the summit and you are but not quite yet. It’s about a mile hike to this point but it is all boulders, loose gravel, and switchbacks. What got me through this entire hike was all the resting rocks as I got closer to the top. The elevation was getting to me at this point too. I had to take lots of pausing breaks to catch my breath.
But I did make it to the lake. I took a nice and decent pause at this point. The surrounding view was stunning and scary at the same time. I kept looking up thinking one more mile. One More Mile!
The final mile was soooooooo hard. For every step that I took in the loose red gavel, cinder, sand, scree; I slid back two. I was so frustrated at this point of the hike and had to take breaks where I could since the resting rocks seemed fewer and fewer. What got me through was all the hikers coming down encouraging saying it was only a “little bit more to go”, “You got this”, and “it’s so worth it”. I made a mental note to myself to do the same when I came down.
I really pushed myself to get to the top and I made it. It wasn’t the summit point yet but it was the top. To reach the summit, you need to follow along the right side of the rocky ridge. It was so clear the day we went but windy and cold.
My girlfriends and I made it to the top at 10,358ft. We were able to see Middle Sister, and North Sister as well as Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens. My pictures don’t do it justice with what we saw. It was simply stunning. It was one of the hardest hikes that I’ve ever done but so worth the sweat, blood, and near tears.
I swore to myself that I’d write a review for all the various hiking websites since I read them avidly before my hike. Thank you to all who post their advice and experiences. Hopefully someone find this helpful. #hike4wine
Went last weekend. The views are amazing. I definitely suggest trekking poles and gaitors; although people were doing it without...I suggest starting earlier than later if its going to be sunny. It is quite steep in places so I suggest no children or dogs.
Very difficult. Hiked to the summit. Beginning hike slightly difficult for the wife due to the steep switchbacks thru the pine trees. Fairly easy the rest of the way until the last 1 1/2 miles. The trail disappears most of the time. The steepness at the top combined with the scree make this last part extremely difficult in both going up and coming back down. Trekking Poles along with good shoes were a must. A wind breaker type jacket also helps at the top. I would also recommend taking at least 3 liters of water per person.
Got a late start hiking so we camped at Moraine Lake which is 1.8 miles in and beautiful then summited the next day. First mile is steep. Last mile is also really rough. Well worth it though. Super fun hike and if you pick a clear day, the views all the way up and from the top are stellar. Do bring layers because even in the summer the top can be windy and cold. Even with snow I wouldn't say you need crampons or an ice axe. Trekking poles are optional. With all the loose rock and/or snow you will definitely want gators.
Just hiked up South Sister today. It wasn't too crowded but there was a decent amount of people on the mountain. I passed 2 groups of people that didn't have proper attire and no trekking poles. They all ended up turning back. It dumbfounds me seeing people wearing regular tennis shoes hiking up this thing.
There was quite a bit of snow, but I started later in the day so it was pretty soft. I had crampons and an ice axe but really didn't need them. The whole hike was fun until I got to the last 1000 ft. or so. It was so horrible- haha. The views were amazing. It got pretty windy towards the top and on the summit, it was so windy and cold, I couldn't really enjoy myself up there. The view was pretty spectacular though!
It was so hot the whole time until I got really close to the summit. I was SO glad to have extra layers packed. This took about 10 hours round trip. Coming down wasn't that fun, but is it ever? I'm glad I did this hike, but I honestly don't think I'll do it again unless I have a good reason to. I think I'll do the Middle Sister next.
Oh yeah, one last thing. I saw a hiker and his dog on the trail right by Teardrop lake and the dog was on the slope going down towards the lake. I watched him struggle to get back on the trail and not fall 200-300 feet. It was hard to watch. Leave your dogs at home!
I went in the off season (early June) with no Crampons or Ice Axe. It was a challenging hike. I had to free climb and scramble. I was caught in a wind storm on the crater rim at the top so I turned back. The views before the storm were incredible though. I definitely recommend if you're looking for a challenge. I would go during the season though.