South Sister Trail

HARD 762 reviews
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South Sister Trail is a 12.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Sisters, 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. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 12.2 miles Elevation Gain: 4,898 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

fishing

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

snowshoeing

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.

hiking
snow
8 days ago

Summited 10/10 with a group of 7 with varying skill levels. Had snowed a couple days before and the coverage varied from a dusting to a couple feet. Started at 7:30am, made summit at 1 with decent amount of breaks. Used micro spikes on the last ascent above Tear Drop. We had clear blue skies the whole time. Views are incredible and the crater is so cool/other worldy. Used micro spikes and poles on the way down. Pretty essential. Upper descent was pretty difficult with the afternoon. slush. One of the harder hikes you’ll do but absolutely worth it.

hiking
snow
8 days ago

Summited on Saturday 10/12. No spikes/poles/gaiters. Snow started to really be prevalent on the trail with 1.5 miles to the summit (between false summit and summit). Easy to walk around most of the snow, but go early before the snow gets sloshy. At the summit there was ice for 20 feet (I just sat down and slid) then foot prints and powder snow across the crater. Overall take caution but very doable!

hiking
rocky
snow
10 days ago

Hiked this on Saturday 10/12, and there were fewer people than I anticipated, leaving at 7:30 am. It was 25°F in the parking lot. Only saw two other hikers for first 4 miles, probably because most people had started in the dark to see the sunrise. I hiked quickly uphill for those first 4 miles, but terrain gets much more difficult at that point (steep with volcanic sand and some patches of old snow), and fatigue got me. The last two miles required several stops to rest, but with incredible views. The sun came out and I was warm enough to get down to a tank top, but definitely glad I had all of the warm gear (2 jackets and pants) with me. Also, I suggest having micro spikes, gaiters, poles, and emergency blanket. Crater crossing had a very icy crust of snow across it. Actual summit rock had no snow, but amazing chucks of re-frozen ice. My descent was almost the same speed as my ascent, mostly because I’m out of shape for climbing/trail running right now. Wanted to do this before cascade lakes highway got closed off for winter. So glad I did!

hiking
snow
15 days ago

Completed 10/5. One of the tougher day hikes I’ve ever done. I’d recommend spikes, poles, gaiters, sunscreen (!!!) and plenty of water/snacks. Go early (start before sunrise). The snow will be a mess by midday. I camped at Moraine Lake and begun the ascent at 8am. I wish I would have started earlier. The depth of snow varies. 2.5 feet in some places, whereas it may be closer to a half foot just a few feet away. Views are spectacular.

recorded South Sister Trail

hiking
muddy
snow
15 days ago

hiking
16 days ago

summited 10/6 some snow and definitely recommend poles or crampons but the view was incredible. tough hike

hiking
snow
16 days ago

Summited on 10/6 Sunday 2019 at 4:30am. Stayed on summit until 8AM. Witnessed sunrise. TOTALLY WORTH EVERY OUNCE of SWEAT. Especially if you’re a photographer. Trail conditions: snow and ice on trail but didn’t need to use traction on the ascent because I could follow in other’s footsteps or step off to the side where there was more rock than snow. Bring traction for the descent! Sunday was warm so maybe you could get away without it, but I found traction helpful since I descended early, but as I got closer to the trailhead, I could feel the heat of the sun! Sunscreen and sunglasses are necessary, but if you’re summiting for sunrise then you already know that. Passed a lot of unexperienced hikers on my descent. I wonder how many of them made it to the top. A lot of people were surprised by the amount of snow and ice on the trail. Trace to an inch or so near the beginning to several inches to a foot or more closer to the top and then at the top (e.g. snow drifts) I wish more people would attempt to summit during the night to witness sunrise. Stars were amazing and with no sun, I had to use my headlamp which was actually enjoyable. A bucket lister for sure. Made sure to pick a day where the conditions would be perfect: low wind, clear skies, warmer temps. Should be some more opportunities this year before having to don the snowshoes.

hiking
snow
16 days ago

Snow in morning after the first mile and increasing in depth to about 8-12 inches on the edge of the crater. I had micro spikes but did not use. I saw others who did have them on though. Began at 6:00 and made it to the summit via direct crossing of the crater at 11:00. Back to the car by 2:30. Give yourself plenty of time on this one. I wish I had started earlier. Lots of melt happening which made for a messy decent. This hike is so worth it and the views at the top are spectacular.

hiking
snow
17 days ago

hiking
snow
19 days ago

Hiked this on 9/30. Difficult hike and the snow made it even harder. Awesome views and totally worth it. Made it to Tear Drop Lake before turning around. Definitely want to do this before the snow hits.

hiking
20 days ago

Summited on 9/27 with clear skies and ~30-40’s for temps. At the top was much colder and windy! The hike starts out right away with a steady incline and lets up a bit around the Moraine Lake intersection. The final two miles are grueling and taking plenty of breaks is a must for catching your breath/snacks/water. We were actively checking the forecast and made it up/down without issues but only an hour after getting down the mountain was completely socked in clouds. Make sure to check the forecast as snow/ice would make this difficult when not prepared. Poles are best for the way down.

hiking
rocky
snow
21 days ago

This hike pushed me to my limits and I did not finish. My group and I turned around at about 9,400 feet and after 6 hours of climbing. What starts as a mellow climb for a few miles quickly turns into a steep ascent and can be dangerous given the conditions. Future me would bring gloves, trekking poles, more food and would consume more water. Rating 5 starts for the experience and for the opportunity to learn and attempt again.

hiking
rocky
snow
21 days ago

Summited 10/1. Fresh snow on trail, from trace at bottom to 1' on top, with trail hard to see / find at times. It is a strenuous climb, particularly the last couple miles, but persistence will pay off. This climb was a bit more difficult due to trail conditions without out knowing what lay under the snow. A few loose rocks here and there to keep you on your toes! Weather was cold 20-30 deg, but sunny. Snow got sticky and heavy with the sun in the afternoon, which will also make it icy for the next few days. Bring sunscreen! Otherwise just a good 12.5 mi grind with first 2/3s not too bad at all.

hiking
26 days ago

Excellent

hiking
no shade
snow
28 days ago

9/23. Got to about 150 feet from the false summit at 9am, but the snow was iced over, quite slippery, and we didn’t have spikes, so unfortunately felt better turning around. So, I’d recommend bringing spikes just in case. Would’ve been a breeze with them.

hiking
snow
28 days ago

Beautiful day to summit - there were some somewhat threatening looking clouds overhead early on, but by the time we got to the summit at 11:45 ish, it was clear with great views. Lake on the top was snowed over, there were some snow drifts particularly along the last bit of trail towards the false summit, but always some clear ground to walk on alongside. Great hike!

hiking
no shade
rocky
snow
29 days ago

South Sister is truly the best hike. But ARRIVE STUPID EARLY. I arrive at 6am and the parking lot was already full. You start the trail with a slow elevation, gain quite a bit in a mile, another relatively flat “break” and then the killer climb to the summit. Seeing that it’s late in September, there was quite a bit of snow that I wish I had spikes or piles. This wasn’t necessarily an issue until the descent when loads of people were trying to get up the mountain and turning all the snow into slippery slush. I will search for more mountains in the area to top this view. It is worth my knees being sore the next day and my face sunburned (take sunscreen). On a clear day, all mountain peaks to the north all the way to Mt. Hood could be seen. Truly truly stunning.

hiking
29 days ago

Went up on 9/21/19. Started at 6am and caught the sunrise as we approached the mountain. Hit some snow around 4.5 miles in but it wasn’t too bad. Last mile to the top was tough, a bit slippery and really windy but took small steps and made it in 3 hours! Summit was windy and a lot more snow but beautiful with clear skies and sunshine. Started descending around 9:30am and the snow was already melting. A lot more people going up while we went down. Slid a bit but wasn’t too bad. After the first 1.5-2 miles down there was no snow and sunshine made it pretty warm. We didn’t have hiking sticks with us but most everyone else we saw did and I’m sure they would’ve helped a ton! Completed the whole thing in 6 hours so back to the car by 12pm.

hiking
30 days ago

Summitted 9/21. No wind at summit. Perfect visability. Could see mt Adam's and even mt st Helens. Really crowded but worth it. Snow wasn't too bad.

hiking
1 month ago

Summited on 9/20. Started at 10am. Got to the summit at 2. Back to my car at 4. There was snow at 8000 feet but nothing that hiking shoes can’t handle. Didn’t have poles either and did just fine.

hiking
1 month ago

9/19 No summit today. Tried for a sunrise summit but whiteout conditions, trail entirely covered in snow above 8k feet, and no footprints to follow. Turned back just past the glacier. Beautiful as always.

hiking
1 month ago

9/14. Amazing view. Very windy at the top and cold. Harder going down than up it's a knee breaker for sure. Poles are a must. 13.5 hours total.

hiking
1 month ago

Going up is hard but going down the rocks is super hard - please do not do this if you are not in super shape. Also carry some sorta pain killers, just Incase your knees hate coming down. And do not do this without any poles - carry a jacket or wind coat it’s super windy at the summit. 2+ hydration pack should be enuf - carbs would be your real friend. Start in the morning and eat light ... good luck, you can do it - it’s a life time experience ... step up your cardio game at the gym at least 2 months in advance .... have fun y’all ! Mr. Singh , signing off with a super sore knee

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