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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Broken Top – No Name Lake

We’re a little behind on our trip reports due to spending too much time hiking 🙂 (If that is possible). After being in Washington for our last couple of trips we headed over to Central Oregon to spend some time in the Three Sisters area. We started off with a day hike to a lake we had really been wanting to visit, a lake with no name but a spectacular view located at 8000′ on the east side of Broken Top.

We set off from Todd Lake as the Sun was rising hoping to beat the crowds up to this increasingly popular spot.
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The trail from Todd Lake entered the Three Sisters Wilderness shortly after leaving the lake.
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Then Broken Top made an appearance.
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It wasn’t the only Cascade Peak visible from the trail.
Mt. Bachelor:
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South Sister:
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The trail climbed gently as it left the forest and gained better and better views as it passed by and through open meadows.
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And across wildflower lined streams.
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We spotted several deer grazing in the meadows near the junction with the Green Lakes Trail.
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As we gained elevation the views to the south opened up and we could see Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey beyond Mt. Bachelor.
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As we worked our way around Broken Top we passed several springs which were the sources of many of the green meadows we’d passed.
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It was interesting to note a small section of land that was not included in the Three Sisters Wilderness surrounding Crater Ditch. The ditch channels water from glacial melt-off down into Central Oregon for irrigation purposes and predates the wilderness designation thus remaining outside of the boundary.
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After crossing Crater Ditch the trail headed toward Ball Butte and the end of the Green Lakes Trail at road 380.
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Shortly after crossing a creek an unofficial trail forked to the left heading between Ball Butte and Broken Top with Broken Hand dead ahead.
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We then recrossed the monkeyflower lined creek and followed it up toward the no name lake passing several small but scenic falls.
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The trail turned toward Broken Top and continued to climb toward the east side of the mountain. An increasing variety of wildflowers could be seen as we got closer to the lake and many birds were flying about chirping happily.
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Finally the path reached a snowfield between two moraines. We climbed the snowfield to find no name lake waiting at the base of Broken Top.
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The lake was as beautiful as advertised. The colors of the water and of Broken Top were spectacular.
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We were surprised by several things. The lake was larger than we had expected and there was a surprising number of flowers growing on the moraines surrounding the lake.
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A path around the right side of the lake led to yet more amazing views. Climbing to a viewpoint revealed mountains from Broken Top to a faint Mt. Hood on the horizon with the lake below behind us.
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There was a single tent high up on the rim overlooking the lake but we didn’t see the owner and had had the lake all to ourselves for awhile before another pair of hikers arrived. On our hike out we passed a number of people heading up the trail and were once again glad we chose to get an early start. There is a shorter route to the lake but it involves what has been described as a terrible access road and it would have meant missing out on some great scenery. When we got back to Todd Lake the parking lot was full but the lake and Broken Top remained a peaceful sight and a great way to kick off a vacation.
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Happy Trails!

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Tam McArthur Rim

An extra long weekend brought us to Central Oregon for a pair of Labor Day weekend hikes. We had planned the coup de gras of our hiking season for September 1st when we were set to climb the South Sister, but first we decided to take a “warm up” hike on the 31st on our way to Bend, OR. We chose Tam McArthur Rim which is located about 16 miles south of Sisters, OR at Three Creek Lake. The trail offered an up close look at Broken Top and a view of the Three Sisters to help us get excited for the next days climb. We also had the option of making this a short hike of just 5 miles by turning around at the rim viewpoint, but of course we opted to lengthen the trip. 🙂

The trail offered views from the beginning with Tam McArthur Rim and the North & Middle Sister looming over Three Creek Lake.
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The trail climbed for the first 3/4 of a mile up a ridge to the rim’s plateau. Along the way views opened up across the lake to the north revealing several Cascade peaks. When we reached the plateau the mountains were temporarily lost as we traveled south across a semi-barren landscape. After a half mile the trail bent right and began gradually climbing along the sloped plateau. Mountains once again were visible, this time to the south. Mt. Bachelor rose above the plateau with Tumalo Mountain to it’s left.
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As we gained elevation along the plateau the tops of Broken Top and the South Sister began to peek over the rims edge. The plateau itself was an interesting mix of rocks and sand dotted with clumps of trees. The plants were limited to those capable of surviving windy conditions on little water. Just prior to the final climb to the viewpoint the trail approached the cliff edge where we got our first good look at Little Three Creeks Lake.
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Upon reaching the viewpoint we found that it was a nice wide area with a 360 degree view. At an elevation of 7730′ it was high enough to see a good distance. It was a wonderful spot to take a break and have a bite to eat and would have been an acceptable place to declare victory and turn around. While we sat at the viewpoint we were joined by a Red Crossbill who apparently thought it was a good place for a break as well. Although the view here was good enough to call it a day the trail continued on so we would too.

North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.
North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.

Continuing on from the viewpoint the trail stayed fairly level as it followed the edge of the rim toward Broken Top. The open landscape of the plateau meant constant views with Mt. Bachelor to the south, a string of Cascade peaks to the NW and Central Oregon to the east. Between the trail and Central Oregon the plateau was dotted with patches of snow that were still melting feeding silver creeks that flowed down toward the Deschutes River far below. The most prominent of these was the North Fork of Tumalo Creek.

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North Fork of Tumalo Creek

The trail skirted around one of these snow fields and climbed a cinder slope where we could see the final mile of our path before us.
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The final mile climbed a cinder ridge to the base of Broken Hand. From this ridge the views became even grander. To the south beyond Mt. Bachelor was Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen and eventually Mt. Scott which resides on the rim of Crater Lake.
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To the north we could see all the way to Mt. Adams in Washington although haze made it difficult to see it well.
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We ate lunch at the base of Broken Hand admiring the colors and shapes of the volcanic rocks of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. We spotted a fellow hiker sitting on the rim of the moraine containing Broken Top Lake, a destination we hope to see next year.
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We spent quite awhile surveying the landscape around us, and I was especially intrigued by what appeared to be a good sized waterfall to the SE of the Middle Sister. It may have been along the outlet creek of one of the Chambers Lakes (possibly Camp Lake).
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We also tried to spot climbers on top of the South Sister since we planned on being up there the next day but couldn’t make anyone out.

On our way back we began running into more hikers and other wildlife too. A silent group of ravens glided by apparently searching for something along the plateau.
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We also spotted an impressive spider which had bright red legs and was just a bit larger than a quarter.
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This was a great way to start a weekend of hiking and really got us excited about our hike up the South Sister. Happy Trails.

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