Three Sisters Wilderness


This beautiful 283,400-acre region spans the Cascade Range and is highlighted by the glaciered Three Sisters, three recent volcanic peaks each topping 10,000ft. The western slope of the wilderness is known for dense old-growth forest laced with strong rivers and streams. The storied Pacific Crest Trail, easily accessed from Hwy 242 at McKenzie Pass, traverses the area.

USFS Rd 19, also known as the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, edges the westernmost wilderness boundary as it makes the 76-mile connection between Rainbow on Hwy 126 and Westfir (near Oakridge) on Hwy 58. From French Pete Campground, one popular trail along this route leads up French Pete Creek through old-growth forest for about 3 miles.

Another good hike is to Green Lake Basin, on a high plateau between 9173ft Broken Top and 10,358ft South Sister. These celadon-green lakes are the centerpiece of a tremendous wildflower display in July and August, when the area throngs with crowds – especially on weekends. Park at the Green Lakes Trailhead along Hwy 46, above Sparks Lake, and hike north. The 4.4-mile trail is fairly steep but passes some great waterfalls.

Strong, experienced and prepared hikers should consider climbing South Sister. It's Oregon's third-highest peak, but during summer the southern approach doesn't demand any technical equipment. The steep 6-mile trail (4900ft elevation gain) begins near Devils Lake (just off the Cascade Lakes Hwy) and is passable only in late summer.

For more information on this region, contact the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District. Note that a Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the Green Lake Basin and South Sister trailheads.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Bend attractions

1. High Desert Museum

15.87 MILES

This excellent museum, about 3 miles south of Bend, charts the exploration and settlement of the West, using reenactments of a Native American camp, a…

2. Deschutes Historical Museum

16.17 MILES

Located in an old grade school, this museum houses Native American and pioneer artifacts. There's also historical information on the area's logging,…

3. Dee Wright Observatory

16.88 MILES

Perched on frozen rock atop McKenzie Pass, Dee Wright Observatory is a small fortress built out of lava in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It…

4. Newberry National Volcanic Monument

17.03 MILES

About 13 miles south of Bend is this impressive area, a relatively recent volcanic region resulting from 400,000 years of volcanic activity. Newberry…

5. Lava River Cave

17.09 MILES

About 1 mile south of the Lava Lands visitor center, Lava River Cave is the only lava tube that's developed for visitors (bring a flashlight or rent a…

6. McKenzie Pass Area

17.11 MILES

From the lava fields of 5325ft McKenzie Pass, you'll find stunning views of the Cascade Range and one of the youngest and largest lava flows in…

7. Waldo Lake

29.53 MILES

At an elevation of 5414ft on the very crest of the Cascades, Waldo Lake has no stream inlets – the only water that enters is snowmelt and rainfall. It is…