South Sister Trail

HARD 93 reviews
#2 of 93 trails in

South Sister Trail is a 11.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bend, Oregon that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October.

11.8 miles 4983 feet Out & Back

birding

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

walking

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

snow

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.

3 months ago

Fun adventure :) beautiful .
Always be prepared and safe .
Defiantly a challenge .

4 months ago

4 months ago

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.

hiking
4 months ago

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.

hiking
5 months ago

5 months ago

This hike was amazing! My cousin and I hiked into moraine lake and stayed there 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 is difficult. That last mile up the ridge is REAALLY HARD! It's all worth it though, amazing views and beautiful scenery!

hiking
5 months ago

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.

hiking
5 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

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.

hiking
5 months ago

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!

5 months ago

5 months ago

5 months ago

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.

hiking
5 months ago

6 months ago

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.

6 months ago

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.

hiking
6 months ago

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.

6 months ago

hiking
6 months ago

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