backpack: Three Sisters Wilderness – Green Lakes
Three night backpacking trip to the Green Lakes area at the base of South Sister, with day hikes to Broken Top and Golden Lake.
Total mileage for all four days: 27.5 miles with 3,632 ft elevation gain
I forgot my camera on this trip (?!), so these photos were taken with my iPhone, at least until it died on me, then the rest were taken with my friend’s camera. (Thanks, Helen, for coming to my rescue. I didn’t know what to do without a camera in my hands!)
backpack in to Green Lakes area
5.5 miles with 1,100 ft elevation gain
Since this is a heavy use area, we hiked in on a Sunday afternoon, starting at the Fall Creek trailhead. Judging by how many people that we saw day hiking, and the number of backpackers hiking out, this area is indeed quite crowded on weekends. Our destination is one of the 28 designated campsites in the Green Lakes area.
The trail follows Fall Creek all the way up to the Green Lakes area, and crosses it three times: once on a rustic footbridge with a side railing, and twice on large leveled-off logs above the creek. At two miles in is a junction with the trail to Moraine Lake on South Sister. Moraine Lake is a popular camping destination for hikers summiting South Sister.
The hike in is very scenic, with wildflowers in full bloom along the many creeks and meadows. Eventually, the trail climbs above the creek with views of the creek’s many waterfalls. Several miles in, a large ridge of lava rock appears on the west side of the creek, with large chunks of glossy black obsidian shining in the daylight.
When we entered the Green Lakes area, park ranger Molly provided info on the best campsite for our group. As I talked to her about our Leave No Trace practices, I discovered that she is friends with the park ranger that I met the previous weekend at Jefferson Park… ranger Eric. He complimented us on our clean campsite there, and I couldn’t have been more proud. : )
Broken Top and South Green Lake
South Sister and the Green Lakes
There are three Green Lakes: North Green Lake, Green Lake, and South Green Lake. We setup camp near South Green Lake, which is shaped like a heart. Pumice hills and wooded hills fill the area, with views of South Sister, Broken Top and the top of North Sister.
day hike on the Broken Top Trail
9 miles with 875 ft elevation gain
From our campsite, we took the Broken Top Trail to the junction with the Crater Trail, which leads to the unnamed glacial lake at the base of Broken Top.
Winding around the base of Cayuse Crater, evidence of the volcanic history of this area was visible all along the trail. The hike went through varying terrain: heavily wooded, to open with pumice hills covered with miniature wildflowers, and through meadows with streams criss-crossing the area.
Views to the south included Mount Bachelor, the Cascade Lakes basin, Diamond Peak, and in the far distance, the northern rim of Crater Lake.
Eventually, Broken Top and Broken Hand dominate the landscape as the trail approaches the base of each.
Once we reached the junction with the Crater trail, half of our group continued on to the unnamed lake at the base of Broken Top while the other, more tired half of our group (including me), turned around and hiked back to camp.
more volcanic rock
yet another stream with wildflowers
day hike to Golden Lake
7.7 miles with 1,342 ft elevation gain
From our campsite in the Green Lakes area, we took the Green Lakes trail north towards Park Meadow. We didn’t go all the way to Park Meadow, instead, we took an unmarked side trail to Golden Lake.
Middle and North Sisters make an appearance
looking towards Bend, Oregon
side trail to Golden Lake
Broken Top on the way to Golden Lake
Golden Lake, with a fisherman catching rainbow trout
on the way back to camp, with views of South Sister
more views of Broken Hand (left) and Broken Top (right)
heading back into the Green Lakes area, with lava and pumice fields in the foreground and Mount Bachelor in the back
North Green Lake
the trail around Green Lake, with South Sister
backpack out to Fall Creek Trailhead
5.2 miles, 115 ft gain, 1,300 ft loss
I had no camera on the hike out, so I leave you with this parting shot from the Green Lakes area.