South Sister Trail is a 11.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bend, 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
11.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4,940 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

fishing

hiking

rock climbing

snowshoeing

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

snow

no shade

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
13 days ago

Did this hike back in July of 2015. Incredible views. Camped by the parking lot and headed out early in the morning. Took about 5-6 hours total, I’d say.

hiking
13 days ago

11/25/2018 - Road closure for the winter was a little early this year, so you can't get to the trailhead unless you hike back in about 8 miles from the closure by Mt. Bachelor.

A great alternative (without the views) is the six lakes loop on the south side of the road closure. I went and did that instead. Beautiful but very snowy.

17 days ago

Great climb. Long way until you get to the actual mountain. Trail climbs then sorta flattened out a few times. It was nice to have those breaks.

backpacking
22 days ago

Finished Summit 11/17, just days before road closures to be set. It was a beautiful clear day with amazing views that make the strenuous climb worth it. Had micro spikes on and took ice axe just in case but didn’t need it really. Summit is tough in November but not technical. Take plenty of water, I didn’t and regretted it.

hiking
22 days ago

Loads of bugs, loose soil on the way up makes the climb difficult, but the view from the top is worth it. We were fortunate to be hiking this trail during the "California Tortoiseshells" migration; Thousands of butterflies swarmed us near the peak.

24 days ago

I did this on 11-12. It was very difficult and snow/ice were everywhere after the first mile. If you’re going to attempt it have an ice axe and crampons. It was super sketchy coming down with the snow melting and soft. The views were first rate and incredible at the top but be prepared.

hiking
28 days ago

Very difficult. I am in shape, but still took me a long time to reach the summit. Worth every bit of it though, the views from the top are unlike any other. Best hike in Oregon for sure

hiking
29 days ago

Insane day up at South Sister. Snow covered 95% of trail and I was only able to reach the summit because I brought an ice ax and crampons. I would not attempt the last 200 ft without at least an ice ax.

hiking
29 days ago

Hiked up past Moraine Lake today for lunch and views. Was nice to be in the snow and get another hike in before it gets too snowy. Was fine with hiking shoes and poles. Mostly snow covered starting about 1/2 mile in from the trailhead.

hiking
1 month ago

I went in September.. first time hiking this one.. what a nice view on the way up to the summit..

hiking
1 month ago

We hiked to the top yesterday. Weather was clear and the views were amazing - smoke was just a light haze in the distance. The hike is strenuous - I do the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway hike every year and this felt just as hard, although we were moving at a pretty good pace and I haven't spent any time at altitude this year so the thin air probably hit me harder than I expected. The top third of the mountain is composed primarily of loose volcanic rocks, gravel and sand. When it's very dry (as it was yesterday) this mixture is surprisingly loose, and the descent in particular was a bit hairy with slips and trips. I highly recommend bringing poles for the descent, even if you don't like to use them to climb up.

hiking
1 month ago

Hike from trailhead to Moraine lake with overnight gear was strenuous! Started hike around 1130am and got to the lake by 130pm. Once you get into the open desert it gets HOT and there is very little shade. Having said that, we just happened to hike this trail on the hottest day of the year with smoke surrounding us. Ate lunch, set up camp and were going to wait until the next day to summit but we met some new friends and decided to start our ascent at 215pm. The smoke didn't allow us to see the views very well but the mountain and glaciers alone was worth it. Summited at 700pm and got back to Moraine lake at 900pm. Just in time for sunset! 35,200 step day. Bring at least 4 litres of water, if not a water pump! Overall steps were 53,600! Can't wait to do again later in life.

1 month ago

My wife and I left from Devils Lake at 7:30am. The temperature was cold, which made hiking easier. The last 1/2 mike had snow which had turned to ice overnight. We had Yac Tracks, but it was still sketchy. It was really windy through that section and some people were turning around. We kept going and the views did not disappoint. A difficult yet amazing hike.

hiking
1 month ago

this hike is amazing... I did a sunrise hike. started at 3 am and the sky was clear and the stars were brilliant. still needed a headlamp since there was no moonlight. There was a lot of ice right at the start of the screet, is what I think people were calling it. This was my first time hiking it and I did it solo so. I went up the climbers side on accident and summited on the east side if Teardrop pool so I missed the part to turn off to the west side. Still had spectacular views. I was scared AF because I didn't have ice gear. but was able to fit my feet into prior hikers grooves. I did have winter boots with extra grip but it was still very sketchy. maybe in the afternoon is would have melted a bit but just a heads up! Enjoy!

2 months ago

Camped at Devils Lake, freaking awesome! Did a sunrise hike end of September. 1230AM Got to the summit before 6 and it was spectacular. It was a beautiful night with plenty of stars. Didn’t really even need a headlamp, moon lit most of the way. A lil cool but everything was just perfect. Saw a deer at night. I would definitely do it again, maybe for a sunset next time. Love the Sisters!!

2 months ago

This is a demanding trail at the top, pace yourself. the glacier water at the top is worth the hike buy itself, Lol. Absolutely stunning view from the top summit! We started around 10:00, maybe a bit too late.We did the last hour back in the dark, thankfully we had lights. Great hike!!

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike. Camp at Moraine Lake the night before. This will get you up a good chunk of the hike and you get a great sunrise view over Broken Top. Path is easy to follow. Wear PANTS keeps out small rocks and dust from your shoes. Stop at the glacier pond a refill your water. And enjoy the top.

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked the South Sister climber trail for the first time today, took a little over 9 hours with about 30-45mins on top. Honestly it was pretty tough for me haha! I have not hiked or rucked for about 2 years so I can’t be super surprised about that! The higher you go the worse it gets( shocker right) I was sucking wind near the top! Views unfortunately were very obscured by haze/clouds. But I had a great time, the trail was easy to spot and follow. There was also a lot of friendly people, who were supportive along the way! I was going solo so that’s good!!! Would do it again!

2 months ago

I summited this for my birthday and it was definitely the hardest but incredible thing I’ve ever done. We started at 12am to make it up for sunrise and it was incredible. Took us 10 hours total, but we were on the summit for an hour ish. Very cold so make sure you have layers for the top. The elevation didn’t really affect me until 10,000+. I also took chlorophyll pills a few days before and twice while hiking.

hiking
2 months ago

This trail is hard. Bring water and food with you. We saw people without either. It is beautiful and worth the effort.

hiking
2 months ago

9.28.18
Started at 6am finished at 2:30pm with an hour on the top. It was a great but physically and mentally demanding hike! Although I am in pretty good hiking shape, I’m a little overweight and it took me 4.5 hrs to summit.
The hike through the forest and the plateau in the middle seemed pretty mellow to me, but starting the steep shale uphill is where you just need to keep your spirits high and go steady. I went at a slow pace throughout this part by taking small steps and taking a couple seconds of rest every ~20 steps. It was more of a mental challenge. I highly recommend going early in the day, as it was hotter when I came down!
View was smokey to the south, but northwards was good and could see all the way to Mt. Adams in WA! Definitely worth it. Bring sun protection, layers (colder/windy at top), food, and at least 3L of water.
Trailhead from Devils Lake Canpground indicates hike will be 12.5 miles long - my phone said 15 miles at the end of the day. Maybe it’s somewhere in between...

hiking
2 months ago

This hike was A LOT harder than I had initially planned and it is a lot longer than the trail signs lead on. I wore my FitBit while hiking and it tracked upwards of 19 miles by the time we got back to our car.
This hike was absolutely gorgeous, however. I wore plenty of layers. My recommendation is to pack layers, food, but pack light. You’re gonna hate your backpack by the end of it, haha.

hiking
2 months ago

Started at the trailhead at 6 am on a cold clear morning.
First 30 minutes in the dark. Broke out of the tree line around 7am to see the sun about to peek over near Broken Top to the East.
Beautiful views, and a tiring last section before the false summit- I’d recommend fueling up by the lake below Lewis Glacier.
Lucky enough to have the summit to myself for about 20 minutes before I headed back down.
Views clear to Mt. Adams.
Absolutely brilliant day!

2 months ago

love love love. Summit 2 times in a three week period. love this place

hiking
2 months ago

This hike is TOUGH but well worth the effort. We went on Saturday with no views at the summit except for the beautiful smiling faces that were thankful they made it. Started around 8:30am and made it back to the car by 4:00pm with a long stop for lunch. If there’s clouds at the top when you start, don’t count on them to burn off. The views up to the clouds were great though, broken top, a few glacier fed lakes, and the endless trees surrounding. Bring warm clothes and plenty of food and water and it’s a great way to spend the day!

hiking
2 months ago

Two week back to back hiking at South sister trail. First week with great weather but we didn't manage time well and had to stop at the glacier, one mile shy of the top. I went there again yesterday. Weather was good initially but changed quickly. It was freezing cold with thick fog and gusty wind while climbing up. Even the rocks started to frost. Stayed at the summit all by myself for 15 miserable minutes with absolute no view and a shivering body. Finished in 7 tough hours. Will go again!

hiking
2 months ago

First time hiking South Sister and wow, what an experience! I expected it to be cold at the summit as warned, but not 6°F with 30-40mph winds! Clouds blanketed the summit, but the reward was just making it up. Although I had my Nano Puff jacket to keep warm, next time I'm bringing some heavy insulated gloves.

Saw many hikers, about 200 I'd say. Some made a u-turn before the last 1-2 miles to the summit. I think that was the right choice as the weather at the top would have just made it unbearable. Trekking poles are a life saver on knees and slippage, so don't leave home without em!

hiking
2 months ago

This was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done! I’m so stoked to say I made it to the top. This is absolutely not for beginner hikers. Be prepared... plenty of water, a day’s worth of food (you won’t believe how many calories you will burn) and layers of clothing. We hit all the elements on this one. It started out sunny but the last half we hit 35 mph winds and low visibility. At the top there were snowflakes and icicles on our clothes. I highly recommend packing gators so dirt and rocks don’t get in your socks/shoes. I can’t stress enough about packing your trekking poles. Sooo glad I did it!!

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked this with a friend on Sunday. There was a nice break in the hazy weather and the views were mostly clear the whole day. This was the 4th time I have been up South Sister, and the views and experience never get old. The first few miles through the forest always seem difficult, but I think it's because it is early in the morning and it immediately starts climbing without much of a warm-up. Once you get through the forest, it levels out for beautiful views of Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister, and Moraine Lake. The last 3 miles are over rocky, loose terrain, so it takes more time to get adequate footing. We had lunch at the false summit down at the glacier. The last mile is slow moving due to scree and loose cinder rock. The views at the top are unlike any other and everyone should experience it. Definitely recommend hiking poles, sunscreen, bug spray, and LOTS of water (I took 4L and had about 1L left over.. but I have run out of water up there in the past). It is a strenuous hike, but doable if you have enough mental grit and perseverance.

2 months ago

After taking the trail all the way to the summit, I have to say that this is a very intense hike! I probably took longer than anyone else did that day. Lots of breaks! I wish I had brought some walking poles and a bit more water, but it was amazing! I found the hardest part of the hike to be the return trip. I used most of my strength to reach the summit, but the walk back down.... Well worth the time it took! I'm 46 and I'm out of shape, so it took me 8 hours total walking time. Again, well worth it!

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