Explore the most popular rock climbing trails in Deschutes National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

5/20/18: Amazing hike with great views. Still a lot of snow (~4-5 foot drifts). Might need to wait a little later in the season to get easier access to the trails.

hiking
15 days ago

Hiked in from the snow park hoping to do a little fishing. Still 95% iced over. Took our poles for a walk. Beautiful area in each of the seasons.

Wow this was a hard hike! Ali, Brandon, the dogs and I started at 6:35 am at Pioneer Gulch TH and got to the summit at noon. No snow for first 1.5 miles then we had our snowshoes on the rest of the way up. Incredible views of the sisters, Odell butte, Mt. Bailey. Only saw 3 other people on the trail. Did some glissading on the way down and ended up a bit off the trail, once the afternoon hit it heated up and the snow was very slushy with a lot of hollow pockets underneath. It was amazing but not easy and dangerous in some spots with the melting snow!

PUT SOME “SPARKS” IN YOUR LIFE!
Words and pics by Ian Smith
Eventually we choose the Pine Tavern at Bend (Oregon) for food and what a choice. Right in the middle of the restaurant are two mature pine trees growing out of the floor and straight through the roof. While I ponder how the roof might be sealed, Lorraine checks out the wine list until my gaze is taken by the lovely garden that tilts toward the Deschutes River.
The birds are loving it; a robin hops around the plants in a vigilant search for insects while a flock of waxwings are having a wonderful time at the bird bath as mallards paddle back and forth in the river. It feels like you’re part of nature without even leaving your table. The tasty food gets us thinking about what else to do and we decide to have a crack at Sparks Lake.
Sparks is renowned among photographers as being a place to get a good shot but, as is always the case, you have to get the weather right......that’s where Lorraine, the weather goddess, comes in.
It’s not that far from Bend up the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Highway and, as we pass Mount Bachelor, the local ski field, it’s so hard to imagine people skiing over a rugged lava flow; just doesn’t seem right.
We’ve a bit of time on board so we slip into Todd Lake first. It’s a 4 km stroll around a placid lake and, while it’s nice and there’s some interesting bird life, we’re hoping for better at Sparks.
To get into Sparks it’s a twisting road with, at times, corrugations and bumps, the like of which we’ve never seen in America where just about everything is sealed road it seems. In fact, you have a less than 1% chance of driving on one, according to statistics. Still, our hopes of a reward at the end aren’t dashed though the weather goddess has let me down a little because of a breeze coming across the lake.
Its potential is easy to discern however, South Sister and Broken Top stand stark in the background, ready to cast their images on a millpond should it transpire and, since it’s a while before the earth spins around and delivers darkness, we first amuse ourselves watching a chipmunk letting some birds know just who’s in charge of discarded apple. The frenetic energy they forever display never ceases to warm us to their ways; oh that we should be able to scurry as fast.
We then look in other directions and start to wander down past the lava fields. Where once the flow from Mount Bachelor cooled it formed a barrier to the heated rock still flowing beneath and, in places, it rose up to 70 feet like a giant loaf of leavened bread.
The level of the lake is low, the snow season wasn’t great and, it hasn’t rained much since, so you can walk some places where you’d normally get your feet wet and thus we follow a narrow band of sand beside the lava wall.
You can see how good this place could be but the ripple, however small, frustrates us so we have to be content with the leg exercise and the occasional snap. Still, it’s a pleasant afternoon beneath a virtually cloudless sky and we reach a point where the realization dawns that it’s pointless to walk any farther around this strange body of water with no known exit. Somehow, somewhere, it just drains slowly.
We’d returned nary 50 metres before we were rounded up by a young couple, she of boundless energy demonstrated by practising rock climbing techniques up and down the lava flow with mind blowing dexterity. In leaps and bounds reminiscent of a mountain goat did she ascend with a confidence borne of youth. As we waited expectantly for a slip she continued to confound us with her suppleness.
The entertainment over, as quickly as it eventuated, we idled back to the carpark and stepped back to our original viewpoint. The breeze was faltering and two other photographers were waiting in anticipation so we deigned to join them and everyone’s optimism turned out to be justified.
Though we didn’t get an atmospheric ruddy glow we got a crystal clear sky with classic mirror reflection. South Sister and Broken Top were haze free and it’s easy to see why there are so many shots on the internet of this spot. In the stillness we were mesmerized by the natural beauty of the setting. Oregon just keeps on delivering.
We drove home satisfied, we’d seen and digested much without travelling too far today.

horseback riding
4 months ago

My favorite time of year to hike the Green Lakes trail is in the late summer to see the wildflowers. I've also been in the late fall (snowfall permitting) though and it was just as beautiful!

backpacking
6 months ago

Awesome hike, haven’t done it in a year or so but looking forward to my next trip. Camped up here then went up the side of south sister

backpacking
6 months ago

Are there enough campsites around the lake for backpackers

hiking
6 months ago

Great trail. Not a lot of switchbacks or steep climbs. Beautiful views. I loved hiking along the water.

backpacking
7 months ago

Easy hike, with great views of Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters. Road back to Bend was treacherous but fun if you have a high clearance vehicle. One of the best trips I’ve been on!

hiking
7 months ago

Great hike. BRING hiking poles! 8-12 inch s of snow. Nice and crunchy on the way up but slushy on the way down. GORGEOUS vista views. Hard hike for sure. Be in some kind of shape or suffer. Loved it. Hiked Oct. 5th (last week) much more snow today I’m sure.

7 months ago

Hi, for those who recently hiked the trail Do I need to worry about snow on some trails? thanks

hiking
7 months ago

Amazing hike along Fall Creek to Green Lakes. Arrived at the trailhead around 9am and had no trouble parking. The views of South Sister and Broken Top were spectacular, not to mention the beautiful creek and lakes.

Amazing hike, lots or snow as of 9/25/17. First stretch of woods had 2-4 inches about a mile in. Flat middle stretch had 8-12 inches. Snow shoes would probably help but its pretty slushy, packed and icy so maybe spikes would work better. Trekking poles are a MUST, and ideally some waterproof socks/boots. We weren't prepared and turned back before the final accent. There was also some posted potential trail closures down by the trailhead that referenced fire activity but it may have been out of date because the trail was fine, and we saw some folks who had made it all the way up and all was fine. Campground at the base was snow-free and beautiful but dropped below freezing at night.

Beautiful trail. Very nice walk and views. Easy hike.

Snow from basically the parking lot all the way to the top, microspikes are not needed but make a huge difference in the slushy snow.

Great trail system, well marked with cairns for the summit. Lots of other options for trails off of the PCT with nice lakes in the area. It is pretty tough but well worth the trip. My group went from Rockpile Trail #3632 to the summit of diamond peak which was about 12 miles round trip.

hiking
7 months ago

Had a great time. Snow in September and view of Mt Bachelor was spectacular

very challenging hike... the last part is steep and very unstable. scree sucks! however, the view from there top is magnificent. AMAZING hike! will definitely do again! if you have poles, use them! and bring plenty of water!

8 months ago

While this climb allows for some unbelievably rewarding scenery and views, it is not for everyone. You should not attempt it unless you are already in great hiking shape. The final ascent past the glacier is brutal and dangerous, but it is well worth it at the top. The unique part about this hike is all the different geographical challenges, although it is easy to get lost off the trail. Make sure to come prepared for changes in temperature at the top.

hiking
8 months ago

Great rewards for this hike…. rapid flowing mountain stream with rapids, water falls and wild flowers. Ending at two lakes with outstanding view of South Sister and Broken Top mountains! It has it all. NFS guide list this as the most popular hike in Oregon. We could see why! Note to travelers (as of August 2017)… coming from Bend there is no sign on Cascades Parkway for trailhead parking! You enter on the right at the construction stop light and can miss if not paying attention (we did).

hiking
8 months ago

Five star hike, yet not a solitary one. Currently closed due to fire activity Update: Reopened 9/18/2017

We had a wonderful time and watched the best sunset and sunrise we've ever seen.

Fantastic hike. Very steep at last section but well worth the views.

backpacking
8 months ago

Absolutely gorgeous hike. Stopped at Green Lake and camped for the night. Do not be discouraged by the fact that this is 'highly trafficked.' We saw some trail runners and other day hike/backpackers, but nothing excessive, on a Saturday and Sunday. Everyone was kind and helpful. Bottom of the trail is more populated, by the time you get to Green lake there are less people. Planning a through hike to Green, then gold lake, then out via the Park Meadow trail, for next year.

The smaller green lake isn't that cold in August, I recommend going for a dip if your joints are hurting at all.

Great hike for the kids

hiking
8 months ago

Epic Hike!! Great training for our hike to Half Dome in Yosemite. Very hard but worth it. I recommend at least a gallon of total water. I ended up getting dehydrated after all was said and done.

hiking
8 months ago

Epic hike, 5 hours up, 90 minutes on top. We walked around the whole summit. I highly recommend. 4 hours down. Started @ 635am and back to the car @ 520 pm. Not easy but soo worth it.

hiking
8 months ago

Excellent hike, gorgeous views of Bachelor, Broken Top, and surrounding area. Some butterflies still around and I loved the change in terrain throughout the hike. However, I wouldn't recommend to someone without some hiking experience and be prepared with plenty of water. Last two miles are up steep, loose ash/soil and very dusty; if you have low shoes, I suggest gaiters to keep the debris out. I recommend going early before it gets hot out or you will be exposed to hot sun during the majority of the hike. We left the trailhead at 5am (used a headlamp through the lower forest section) and summitted around 9:30am when it was still relatively cool and windy at the top. It was gorgeous views on the way up but the smoke and haze from the forest fires started rolling in on the way down. I couldn't believe how many people were attempting late in the day when it was hot out and the views (and thus reward) were limited. We couldn't even see the top on the way down - yet another reason to go early when fires are present. On August 19th, every trail around South Sister was closed for forest fires, except the summit hike, so review trail information before you go. US Forest Service Permit required at trailhead.

hiking
8 months ago

Summiting South Sisters is not for the weak minded. It is a very hard climb and requires you be mentally and physically prepared. It took us 7 hours to climb to the summit. The first 4 miles took us 2 ours and the last 2.5 miles took us 5 hours. It was an epic experience. We met so many amazing people on our climb. Everyone was encouraging. We were surprised to see people starting so late in the day. This hike unless you are in ultra shape and used to climbing takes 6 to 10 plus hours to hike. So make sure you know what you are getting into. We loved the community we felt with the other hikers and created a facebook page for those who have climbed or are wanting to climb. facebook.com/Isummitedsouthsister Would love for you to join our community. Post pictures, share your experience, learn about the climb.

hiking
9 months ago

This was my first mountain I've ever done. And for a first time hiker it was hard to find really good info on this hike. First off it's hard. Like really hard but doable. My best friend and I made it to the summit a couple days ago and my muscles still hurt.
Several things I would like to stress. Poles & gators are a must! Poles probably saved us. Makes the up easier and the down feel safer. I wish I had known about Gators. They cover your shoes and keep the rocks out. Even with them I had to empty my shoes 3x coming down. Water and more water. I packed 4L and drank all of it! And Gu...the kinda gross gu packs that athletes use were life savers. It gave me energy and my muscles the sodium they needed. It still felt like you do a million walking lunges on the way up and then of course hundreds of squats on the way down.
To describe the trail. There is 2 mile of forest which is really cool but mostly up. A nice kind of intro. Then 2 miles of meadow which is a nice stroll a great break before the summit begins. The last 2 miles is up hill!!!
The first mile up the summit is ok...hard but ok. Gave me some major confidence boosts, much needed. There are some definite sketchy points where the trail is hard to find, we were lucky to have someone who had done it before and helped us out on the way. You reach the false summit which has some amazing views. Then you look up...yep up, up, up. You still have another mile of UP in scree. Or as I called the whole way up s$&t. If you want to prepare at all for this hike. Climb sand dunes because it's about the same. Except there are rocks.
It took us about 2-2.5 hours to go that one mile. We took our time and the altitude definitely got to us. But we made it. Sadly due to the fires that surrounded Sisters wilderness blocked out what we had been told were epic views. Guess that means we have to do it again....maybe in a few years. There were an amazing amount of butterflies on the summit which was absolutely amazing.
We stayed on the summit for a bit and gave our muscles a rest. Going down was easier but we were done. We worked our bodies hard.
This hike is hard. The hike is worth it. I hope this helps the inexperienced hikers out there wanting to step up your game. Good luck. Take your time. There will be people who run up the mountain. We even saw a gal skip down the mountain. Shake it off. One step in front of the other and don't let the mountain get in your head!

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