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 is primarily used for hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and backpacking and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length12.2 miElevation gain4,898 ftRoute typeOut & back
Dogs on leashBackpackingCampingHikingSnowshoeingForestLakeViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyScramble
Description
Waypoints (12)
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Getting There

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. 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. New for 2020, this trail will require a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit for overnight use and some will require one for day-use. The trail enters the Three Sisters Wilderness shortly after leaving the trailhead. Day and Overnight visitors: Central Cascades Wilderness Permit required between Friday of Memorial Day weekend and the last Friday of September; reserve at recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. For parking, a valid recreation pass may be used as a form of fee payment or Central Cascades Wilderness Permit holders must leave a permit trailhead vehicle pass in vehicle. 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.

Vaulted toilets are available at the tralhead. A NW Forest Service pass is required for parking. Creeks are the only source of water (untreated).

Mountaineering experience is essential for off-season climbing. Ample water, food, and essentials are necessary for the long hike in summer as well.

From Bend, travel 28.7 miles west on Cascade Lakes Hwy (46) to the Devils Lake/South Sister Trailhead. Drive up and past Mt. Bachelor and it's just a few miles past. You start-out at the Devil's Lake trailhead.

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Reviews (1,321)
Photos (1,647)
Recordings (944)
Completed (2,585)
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Anna Rivera
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 4, 2021
BackpackingGreat!

Hiked this in August 2020! Decided to camp a little ways in before making the treck all the way up South Sisters. Left at 5am. Was one of the most challenging things I’ve done but would do it again! The view is BEAUTIFUL!

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Sarah Massar
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarNovember 3, 2020
HikingGreat!

Hiked 11/02, no snow yet! Very steep and brutal hike so be prepared for that! Pretty cold and windy at the top so bring layers

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Aren Ray
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 2, 2020
HikingGreat!

Perfect weather for a Halloween morning hike! Gorgeous sunrise on the way to the trailhead and crisp but not cold on the hike up. There has been a little moisture on the mountain which really helps hold the scree together, making the last couple miles significantly less frustrating. For this mountain, the 30 or so people are about the fewest I've seen on a weekend. A good snow will close the road pretty quickly so get up here while you can!

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Shelby Sundquist
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 2, 2020
Hiking

Steep and slippery. If you fall on your butt on the way down, it doesn't hurt much - more of a slide than anything. Poles helped on the way up but I skipped them on the hike down. The lake in the caldera is frozen but it was possible to refill water at the lake about 1k below the summit. I prefered refilling to hauling an extra liter up.

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James Moak
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 1, 2020
HikingGreat!

Gorgeous views. Straight up religious stuff. If the view is heaven, the last mile or two to the summit by the glacier is straight up hell. Trek poles would have been amazing. The weather on Sunday was absolutely perfect, very little wind and full visibility all around.

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Nandini Chaturvedi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 1, 2020
HikingGreat!No shadeRockyScramble

Hiked Nov 1st 2020. The trail is in a good shape, very easy to navigate. There were many cars in the parking at 7:40 AM. This is a challenging hike, not a joke. There is no water on the trail, except a creek at the start. The trail is steep (only gets flat for about a mile and half?) and lot of lose rocks. I took a long time taking breaks and photo shooting. I didn't have poles so I cant say if you need them. However gaiters would save you from a thousand rocks in your boots, hiking down. I would not go up if the weather is not clear, just because the views are stunning. Its totally worth it to hike up to the 'actual summit point' on the crater. I loved the crater more than the 360 degree views to be honest, you get those views from so many other hikes. The crater reminded me a little bit of Mt Rainier.

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Bobbi Pease
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 30, 2020
HikingRockyScramble
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Hanah Kim
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 30, 2020
HikingNo shadeRocky

Epic hike! I appreciated having gaiters, lots of electrolytes, and the encouragement from other hikers along the way. If you want to take the slightly longer but less steep way down you can take the Wickiup trail at the junction.

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Parker Sublette
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 29, 2020
Hiking

Amazing but it’s indeed helpful to have tracking poles!

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BayLeafs Thyme
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 28, 2020
Hiking

Summited South Sister 09/28/2020. Beautiful clear day. Chilly in the morning. It was pretty breezy at the top. The false summit was slightly disheartening but if you push on the summit view is definitely worth it ! Trekking poles helped tremendously. Favorite hike in the Three Sister Wilderness so far.

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John Watkins
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 27, 2020
Backpacking

First mountain I ever climbed and had a blast. Views were great

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Justin Fargason
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 25, 2020
Hiking

Climbed on Tuesday the 27th. I was the first one on the mountain leaving the trail at 6 AM. Turn left at the first big rocks you see rather than climb them like I did in the dark, lol. The sun rising on the mountain was beautiful with all the colors glowing in the sky. Once I arrived at the base of the mountain I didn’t actually always follow the trail per se. There are various goat trails that can get you to the same place. I was glad to practice route finding a bit. People say the last mile is hard, brutal, etc. I don’t think it was much steeper than anything else, and I typically get more motivated once I know I’m close to the summit. People who don’t like scree may not like it. I heard a number of people complaining it hadn’t snowed yet. So, that leads me to the last point. The way down was harder than the way up. For me it was solely about the fact that I was tired and my legs were done. If you’re super well conditioned then this mountain shouldn’t be tough for even beginners who are super fit and have some fear of height tolerance. I personally like wearing microspikes to have a bit more grip in the scree on the way down—completely not necessary though. Poles were incredibly helpful and I heard someone say he fell three times without them, who was climbing and descending fast. Without poles you will likely do some sliding. It was absolutely beautiful. Great view of the Sisters, Jefferson, Thielsen, Bachelor, Broken Top, Hood, and I believe I could see the outline of St Helens and the peak of Rainier (it was super clear day). Note, I drank 4.5 liters of water, although that was probably a lot more than average. In retrospect I would have definitely just taken my 3L bladder and refilled with purification tablets at the second lake near the Lewis glacier (Teardrop I believe). It’s clearer than Morraine with sediment. 2L would probably be fine with purification/refill. I wore gaiters—somewhat helpful on the way down especially—I wouldn’t say required.

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Kevin Archer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 21, 2020
Hiking

Have lived in Bend for 25 years. First time to the summit. Nasty headwind at times but slow and steady ruled the day. 3:45 to the top. Breathtaking. Will now look up at South and smile.

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Hakon Rozell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 19, 2020
HikingGreat!

Amazing! I managed to summit in 2:15 minutes and it was a once in a lifetime view! Probably one of the last days before conditions become snowy so get out there!!!

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Carrie Adams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 19, 2020
HikingGreat!Snow

Pretty sure every person in our group cried. 10/10 would recommend!

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Rusty Butler
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 18, 2020
Bird watchingGreat!No shadeRockySnow

Hiked on Saturday, 10/17/20. Perfect weather. Started the hike from the Devil’s Lake Trailhead parking lot at 7:30am, and there were already a lot of cars there. My wife and I hiked this with our two 65lb dogs (on waist leashes). I would say she and I are both relatively experienced hikers, and this was a challenge for us, but it was so so worth it. We hiked it with trekking poles, and it would have been much harder without them, especially coming down. Be prepared for extreme winds at the top. Took us 4.5 hours to summit. It was pretty crowded, but not awful. The views at the true summit (across the crater) are incredible and way different than the southern views you take in during the ascent. If you make it to the crater, you have to go to the other side just for the views. It was super clear when we went, and we could see Mt Bachelor, Broken Top, Middle Sister, North Sister, Mt Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood, and even Mt Adams. The descent felt very long. Took us about 4 hours. Be prepared to slide in the parts with loose rock, and please be careful. One of the best hikes I’ve ever done in my life!

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Kate Ostyn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 18, 2020
HikingRocky

Wow! This hike was long and strenuous and definitely requires a lot of stretching of your calf muscles prior to starting. The decent can be really hard on your joints, especially the knees. I climbed in August with gloves, a coat and leggings and definitely felt the sharp pain from the gusts of wind at the top. Recommend gloves year round, especially on an overcast day. Gators aren’t necessary, I only got a few rocks in my boots while descending. Overall the view and satisfaction of summiting make this hike absolutely worth it. The view of Middle and North Sister are incredible. Have ibprophen in your bag just in case!!

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Tazz Harp
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 18, 2020
Hiking

Wet & windy this morning..!

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Carrie Cervantes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 18, 2020
Hiking
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Lauren Wozniak
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 18, 2020
Hiking

Started at 7:40 and finished at 3:15 with plenty of snack breaks and lunch at the summit. The last miles are not fun to go up or down but the view at the end is great. There was some snow and ice at the end but microspikes are not needed. Poles definitely help.

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Melanie Means
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 17, 2020
Hiking
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