South Sister Trail

HARD 708 reviews
#1 of 20 trails in

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
2 days 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
4 days 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

hiking
no shade
rocky
4 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

Very tough climb...even for those in good shape, however, on a clear day the summit is truly worth the effort! Amazing views for sure!

hiking
rocky
5 days ago

Summitted on 9/14. What a beautiful payoff - I am so glad I decided to take my camera with me. My calves are aching 2 days later and the thin air added to the difficulty but well worth it! Bring sunblock and prepare for a wide range of temperature. Started at 8 AM and there were a couple parking spots remaining. Completed solo in a a little under 7 hours.

hiking
rocky
scramble
5 days ago

We hiked on 9-14 and had a perfect day (views all the way to Mt Adams from the summit). Got there the night before and slept in the parking lot. Started at 5:50AM and were back at the car at 2:30PM. Took the red mile slow, a couple short breaks, and two 25 minute breaks (summit and the lake at the false summit). 2 liters of water recommended, at least one hiking pole, and definitely sun glasses. Definitely a hard hike, but if you're in good shape you'll still be able to finish with some life in your legs.

hiking
5 days ago

A great challenging hike that provides views to keep you inspired the whole way. Definitely would recommend getting a couple easier hikes in the tank before attempting. This hike will challenge your leg strength, cardio endurance, and overall hiking prowess (especially in pacing and getting good footing). This trail starts out medium/hard with the first mile gaining 723 ft and the second mile gaining 569 ft (however the last 1/4 of mile 2 is pretty flat and easy. Mile 3 is almost entirely on a flat plateau (only gaining 181 ft) and provides a great "breather" for your cardio and legs before it gets rough. Mile 4 gains 851 ft with lots of difficult footing and a very steep second half. Mile 5 is another doozy with 1,287ft gained, and very steep as well (except for a brief break from the incline by a beautiful blue lake - great spot to take a break). Mile 5 took us 1:04:17 to finish. Mile 6 (The "Red Mile") demands a lot of respect and time. The scree is nasty and requires that you take small, measured steps. Here the incline is the steepest of the hike, and when paired with the scree, is just an all-out crusher of a mile. We gained 1,267 ft in 1:06:20. NOTE: The last 0.33 of mile 6 is only 160' gained, so really you gain 1,107 ft in 0.67 miles. Woof. The summit is incredible and worth it. That's all I can say. The way down the Red mile is easier and faster, but still requires patience and respect of the scree and it's nasty instability. It's a beautiful hike down the whole way, and this trail makes you feel incredible after completing it. Fitness reference: We are avid hikers/runners and our legs were challenged but not "pushed to the edge." Understanding your own pacing limits will make this hike doable for anyone willing to sweat. Water reference: Each person went through 2L of water on the way up.

extremely windy. Leg Burner 5000. took me 6 hours to summit and 4.5 hours on decent.

hiking
snow
5 days ago

Hiked 9/11. There needs to be a rating above "Hard" for this one, as it's definitely an ass kicker! Fantastic views though! With the recent storms there is now a decent layer of snow on the ground starting just above the bottom of Lewis Glacier, so poles and microspikes are definitely a good idea, especially for the descent. Definitely helps getting up the scree a bit though, as the snow helps to hold it together somewhat. Also teardrop pool at the summit is almost completely frozen over, so filling up for water there was a challenge, I had to chuck a pretty good sized rock through the ice layer to get to some liquid water.

hiking
scramble
10 days ago

One of the best mountains I have ever hiked. The view at the top is worth all the pain going up. Lots of loose earth the last few hundreds yards and then bam!!.. the best view I have ever seen in my life on a summit!

hiking
10 days ago

Did not summit today. Left Devil’s Lake around 6:40am. Once out of the trees, weather really started deteriorating. Clouds became thick and rain started. Wind really picked up. Once we hit about 8900 feet after a good scramble, determined that today was not the day. Found out wind gusts were 70+ mph. Next time!

hiking
10 days ago

Had to turn back at high glacial lake due to storm rolling in. Freezing fog/rain, high winds, and very cold...

hiking
rocky
scramble
10 days ago

Very beautiful hike up to the summit. Started at devils lake, like most people, heading out at 5:30am made it back by 2:30pm. Long and strenuous hike but well worth it for the views and sense of accomplishment. Probably wouldn’t do it again though, I couldn’t walk right for days after.

hiking
11 days ago

This was our second time on this trail the first being in July when there was a lot of snow on the ground and we had to use our spikes and glissade down in spots (which was a blast!). Today the weather was perfect but it didn’t make the trail any less challenging. Lots of scramble and rock starting about midway up along with a false summit. There’s some snow still at the top which you now have to walk around for safety reasons but the view was clear and we were able to see the other Sisters. Some of the rock formations at summit looked otherworldly and made for some great pics. No mosquitos at all this time around which was bonus! Definitely take your trekking poles if you have them, super helpful starting about midway up and definitely going down with all the rock and scramble. It took us about 9 hours with a few breaks and lunch. Happy trails!

hiking
no shade
scramble
11 days ago

hiking
12 days ago

This is one of the best hikes in Oregon I think. I've done it twice now and loved it both times. The views at the top are insane! The change in scenery from woods, to a rolling, open trail, to straight up incline, with a final, gorgeous summit make it entertaining the whole way. Started around 5:40 AM and got done at 12:30-1 PM. This is hiking at a decent pace with a 40 min or so hang out at the top, 3-5 total rest breaks for 5-10 minutes. I read something about bug spray. I did not need that. The trail was actually not as crowded as the first time I did it 3 years or so ago in late August, however, that will all change with the upcoming permit system. I didn't use poles the first time I went, and did yesterday - I like having poles! This hike is a must!

hiking
rocky
12 days ago

If you're looking for a good time to summit this year, these next few weeks should be ideal! No snow on the trail, and the Lewis Glacier is receding (although that is not necessarily a good thing). Stunning views, but the first 4 1/2 miles of intermittent steep ascent lack the cooler wind that comes with high elevation, so if you're going on a warm day, it's best to start early to avoid heat sickness/fatigue. The last two miles to summit can be pretty windy and cold - bring a windbreaker and hiking poles. Otherwise, this is a fantastic experience. Very busy trail with a great group of people, and a smattering of well-maintained trailheads from Devil's Lake if you want to extend the day's hike. The last mile and a half to summit is loose cinder and dirt - not difficult, but will move around a bit when you're coming down. Sweaty ascents when you're coming up through the ponderosa pine forest and making it up to Moraine Lake - trail flattens out in-between. Sunscreen and water are required for this one!

hiking
13 days ago

I've read all the reviews and finally did this hike on Wednesday. I went with an experienced hiker who prepared me perfectly. The weather was absolutely amazing. The hike was difficult as expected but couldn't have scripted better conditions. Made it up in 5 hrs and down in 4. The views going up and ultimately at the top were unrivaled and made any effort to get there, totally worth it!!! This was a bucket list hike and a great personal accomplishment!! Some tips: wear gators, use trekking poles, wear lots of sunscreen and start as early as you are able!! Enjoy!!

hiking
14 days ago

A very demanding but, rewarding trail. A good introduction to the high peaks of the Oregon Cascades. The last two miles of the trail are in rough shape from so much daily traffic. It’s pretty much up to you to find the best route up the final ridge line over looking the glacier. All moon dust and loose lava rock from there to the top.

hiking
14 days ago

This was challenging at points and my knees were ready to give out on the way down, but absolutely worth it. I do recommend hiking shoes and hiking pulls. Bring lots of water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray.

hiking
no shade
15 days ago

What a beautiful and rewarding hike this was. Very windy and cold! once we got some altitude. We went about a week and a half ago, we didn’t experience any mosquitos on the way there but on our way down we encountered a few towards the very end of the hike, but it wasn’t too bad. It gets really busy so get there early.

hiking
no shade
scramble
15 days ago

hiking
no shade
rocky
scramble
17 days ago

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