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South Sister Summit

HARD 56 reviews

South Sister Summit is a 11.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Bend, Oregon that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

11.8 miles
4901 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly




nature trips

rock climbing


trail running




wild flowers



5 months ago

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was also some posted potential trail closures down by the trailhead that referenced fire activity but it may have been out of date because the trail was fine, and we saw some folks who had made it all the way up and all was fine.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.

6 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.

6 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.

6 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.

6 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.

6 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!

6 months ago

Is this affected by the forest fires at all? We are heading up tomorrow.

7 months ago

Hard Hike! Millions of butterflies at the summit right now which is a sight in itself! Mosquitos for the first few miles, but you lose them after Moraine Lake.

7 months ago

If the forecast permits, I highly recommend carrying your gear to the summit and camping there. Rock shelters are built to shield you from the wind though the wind still may keep you up from time to time by shaking the tent. It is one hell of a place to wake up.

7 months ago

Stayed at Moraine lake. Great sky views. Great climb. Very rigorous. So many butterflies, which I can't find out why they are even there. Stunning views. If you don't start early the sun will really get you.

7 months ago

Hiked on July 19th and the trail still has snow in some spots. We used micro spikes and made it with no problems. I saw others with just their hiking boots and they didn't seem to have any problems either. Took us a long time about 10 hours round-trip...because I'm pretty slow. But we made it to the summit and the views are absolutely beautiful. The trail was not crowded at all. Next time we may camp and spend more time.

8 months ago

July 8 '17 Summit- Much of the hike is still covered by snow. It begins covering the trail well below treeline. You should have some route-finding skills and be comfortable traveling on snow.

The snow was pretty good on the way up, some people used crampons or microspikes, I did see some people with just hiking boots. The snow ended once you begin up the screen slope below Lewis Glacier. If you need to filter water, this lake is open. The ridge to the summit is clear of snow. The lake at the summit is still frozen over. Summit was great! Bring a jacket, it was a little windy. We hung out for about an hour and headed down.

The snow was pretty sticky on the way down. I did see some people with skis. Make sure you have sunscreen, and plenty of water (I drank over 100oz) or bring your filter. If you're not an ultramarathoner plan for a full day.

8 months ago

Beautiful views, goes through forest. The start is a nice stream. It was well snowed in mid-July. The summit offered amazing views off all the cascade mountains from Shasta to Mt. St. Helens :) We backpacked up to moraine lake, then summited the next day.

Essentials are sunglasses for the snow, bug spray, and sun screen. Also, if you can pack as light as you can !!! If backpacking, take a small summit pack to summit. Leave the backpacking packs. Trekking poles also really help. You will drink a lot, so bring water filters to have water, and if you can a small backpacking stove to melt snow if necessary. Don't go off trail, if so take a compass, map or GPS device, you could get lost in the wilderness!

8 months ago

One of the best hikes I've ever been on. The views are incredible and definitely make the final grueling half mile worth it. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and get an early start. I hit the trail head down at Devil's lake at around 6 and was at the summit by 10.

8 months ago

This trail is very hard. If you are looking for challenge this is it. We made it to about 8,800ft before we turned around.

Make sure you have the following items:

Bug spray, sunscreen, hat/visor/beanie, glasses/goggles, long sleeve breathable shirt, gloves, water proof shoes/boots, water filter, hiking stick.

If you have all of these items and start the summit before the sun rises, you should make it up the trail easily.

We started at 10:42 and turned around at about 3pm. The sun and mosquitoes ate us alive. Around 12pm the snow blindness started hitting us, and at around 1pm we ran out of water. Additionally, try and set markers to follow your trail back. We ended up veering off trail and faced a cliff during our return! Had to back track... made for a good time. We packed too heavy, expecting an overnight but this climb can be done in around 6hrs in and back if you pack light and smart.

We will meet again South Sister! We are going to try to summit again this year.

8 months ago

This is my favorite hike in Oregon. I've done it several times and the combination of the views and challenging terrain plus the opportunity to stand on a 10k peak make it a must do.

July 2017 note: Unbelievable snow levels on the mountain right now. You'll be on snow within 1 mile of the trailhead.

9 months ago

This is probably my favorite hike of all time. Whenever I look back and think of epic hikes I have done in past years, this is the first that comes to mind. This area of Oregon outshines any place I have been thus far, and it holds a special place in my heart.

For the first time I believe I felt something along the lines of mild altitude effects. I remember my heart was beating super fast, but I wasn't feeling out of breath. My hypothesis at the time is that my heart had to beat faster to get the oxygen needed to my blood. It felt very weird, and at times I felt a little lightheaded.

The reason I'm adding this review 6 years after I did the hike is because I need a profile photo for AllTrails, and this is the hike that came to mind to supply the photo!

9 months ago

It is very snowy right now! Most the people we saw were mountianeering/skiing. Didn't make it to the final summit but amazing views at the glacier.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

very intense, but the view is worth every second of difficulty!

Monday, October 10, 2016

so awesome climbing this mountain in the snow. Highly recommend

Sunday, October 09, 2016

This is a must-do! 4 out of 5 simply because of heavy traffic. Bring sunscreen, about 3+ liters of water (in warmer weather), and take your time.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Summary: 6 miles out and same back; 5,000 elevation gain
Duration: ~3.5 hours to peak (if quite fit, but much longer for most)
When: hiked in summer to avoid snow or highly sandy conditions (caught 80-degree day in late Sept)
Which: there is only one trail to summit, which means there will be traffic coming/going
Where: park at Devil’s Lake Trailhead (get there early for spot;) hike past restroom over creek via narrow bridge for short bit, then cross highway, which brings you to actual South Sister Climber Trail No. 36 sign (trailhead)
Action: complete trail pass document, which you will find at South Sister Climber Trail No. 36 sign (trailhead)
Route: straight-shot all the way, but there are signs to keep you on track to summit versus detour to Moraine Lake
Ascent: climbing is early and in earnest; trail is easy-to-follow; scree or more accurately loose cinder sand and gravel is encountered traversing “ridge” to false summit and is mile segment where most will suffer, but then you’re at the glacier and can either loop around to the right or simply cross the snow and ice to true summit
Descent: same steep “ridge” makes descent interesting; wearing gaiters will help avoid scree seeping into boots, but not required
Pets and Children: both are allowed, but have common sense
Provisions: may be long day, which warrants ample food and water
Equipment: headlamp, if starting in the dark to enjoy alpenglow; although not necessary/recommended for first 10+ miles, my friend appreciated poles during final mile descent to trailhead (i.e. tired and sore knees)
Caution: per hike’s steep nature, a little preventative care is suggested; for example, ankles will be flexed for extended periods and may cause unexpected friction to back of heels

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Very challenging to summit. Quite crowded on the weekends. Better be prepared. 4 stars out of 5 only because of the heavy use.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

I am 69 and I did this on Saturday 9/3/16 and now that I have recovered I can tell you this was a grueling adventure. Starts off uphill and steep right away and just gets steeper as you go. After I got to the true summit I thought I would not want to do this again but after a few days I am already planning another ascent. After all just before I got to the top the clouds rolled in and couldn't see anything from the top. Need to go back. I did enjoy it but it was hard. Check out the comments from John below. His description is right on.

Monday, September 05, 2016

This was an amazing hike - I climbed it over Labor Day weekend and there were lots of fellow hikers. The top of the mountain kept going in an out of the clouds. From the lake just below the summit you could see the top but when I got to the top it clouded over but I did get to see glimpse of the rim and the crater and the glacier. I left the trailhead around 11 am and returned around 6 pm. I would absolutely do this one again.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Awesome. Brutal.

These are the two words I would choose to describe this hike if I was limited to two.

This hike took us 5 hours to get to the summit. 3 hours to the saddle at Lewis glacier and a brutal 2 hours to finish the final 1.1 miles to the summit. It was worth it . The views are amazing.

We started at the trail head at 4 a.m using headlamps . This was our first time night hiking and now I've got the bug for peak bagging and night hiking. The trail is obvious and easy to follow.

The sign at the trail head says that the distance to the summit is 6 miles, but some sources say it's only 5.5 miles. Anyway it's between 11 & 12 miles round trip.

The first 1.5 - 2 miles is through forest mostly up hill. If you struggle through this segment I would recommend turning around and working on your fitness before attempting the summit.

The next 1.7 miles is through what's called "the meadow", mostly gently rolling hills that get you to the base of the saddle at Lewis glacier.

To get to the saddle is a 1.2 mile slog uphill over sometimes loose grey rock. I had fun scrambling up this hill. The sun started coming up part way up this section. There is water available at this saddle if part of the glacier has melted.

Now comes the hard part. 1.1 miles to go. 0.7 miles of loose red volcanic cinder. This 0.7 of a mile took us 1.5 hours. It was brutal. We have now reached the false summit. We now have an easy .4 of a mile to walk around the glacier to reach the summit, and the views of the other two sisters. Make sure you do this last part since you've already done the hard work!

On the summit there is plenty of room to spend the night. Over the years people have built wind breaks out of the volcanic rock for shelter during the night. The southern end of the glacier melted and was available to drink. I would filter it ( we saw dogs playing in it).

The trip down took us 4 hours. Going down the red cinder was quick and fun. We kind of slid down in a skiing motion. The scrambling section below the saddle at Lewis glacier that I had so much fun climbing was brutal on the knees coming down.

Most of the hike is exposed to the sun and it got warm quickly. I was glad we started when it was dark and summitted when it was still cool.

This hike was fun. Any healthy person with a positive attitude can do it, just be prepared. Research it and know what to expect. You won't make the summit wearing flip-flops or carrying a child on your shoulders.

One final tip. Take a change of socks for after you descend the saddle. You'll be glad you did.

trail running
Monday, August 22, 2016

South sister's epic 2 hours 27 minutes to Summit the Summit is badass the Alpine lake is badass I plan on making this an annual event for me and my friends the whole area is just beautiful plenty to do camping fishing hiking whatever this place is perfect for losing your mind and finding yourself spent 3 days here and never wanted to leave .... bring sunscreen no less than 2 to 3 litres of water bring a jacket it does get cold and super windy on the way up and at the summit bring glasses and hiking gloves this is a 12 and a half mile hike from Devil's Lake lots of people were bringing there dogs not a good idea all the dogs I seen hated it the rocks are sharp and the grade is steep ummmm if you need walking stix to hike don't hike this get the leg strength thru easier hikes walking stix are a crutch and bring your hiking speed down and clogs up the trails also seen tons of 150 dollar nike running shoes lol do you and your feet a favor buy your self some 150 hiking boots or trail running shoes Soloman Speed Cross 3 cleated running shoe or boots are the best they make them in Gortex they also make matching gators for the trail running shoes keeps the rocks out

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Just completed this hike today. If you're looking for a 100% honest description of the hike, then read the review below. It's perfect.

However, there are three things I would like to add.
1. BRING SUNSCREEN. everyone focuses on having enough water and food (which is important) but no one reminds you about sunscreen. People were trading their food for sunscreen at the summit. You are in the DIRECT sun for more than 3/4 of the hike. My boyfriend and I came home burnt to the crisp.

2. If you have a water filter bring it. There are many pools at the top that you can filter fresh water right out of the pools formed by melting snow.

3. I would HIGHLY recommend bringing a walking stick or poles. We didn't have any and we were some of the few without them. I had to find a small stick to make work to make it to the top.

This is an incredible hike that will push you harder than you thought possible, but it is definitely a rewarding experience.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Wednesday, August 17, 2016


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