Overview: The South Sister, also known as Charity, is Oregon's third highest mountain. The hike to the top is very difficult, but fairly easy... more »
The South Sister, also known as Charity, is Oregon's third highest mountain. The hike to the top is very difficult, but fairly easy... more » as far as climbing mountains can go, as there is indeed a trail that goes all the way to the top and can be done without any technical mountain climbing gear.
The hike can easily be done in a day, and usually takes between 7 and 10 hours round trip. The hike to the top is about 6 and a quarter miles long (12 round trip) with a 4900 feet elevation gain.
The mountain itself is a volcano that is around 50,000 years old and last erupted 2000 years ago.
As you hike you will pass Moraine Lake, and the Lewis and Clark glaciers. At the top of the South Sisters you will find Oregon's highest lake Teardrop Pool. less «
To get to the trailhead at Devils Lake take Cascade Lakes Highway #46 28.7 miles west from Bend. It's a little over 6 miles past Mt... more » Bachelor Ski Area.
Make sure you bring lots of water. On a cloudy day you will easily go through 2 quarts of water. 3-4 quarts are recommended on a hot day. There are a few lakes along the route that you can fill up at if you have a filtration system.
Bring lots of food. This is a grueling steep hike and you will need your energy.
The temperature can vary greatly from the trailhead to the summit. Pay attention to the weather forecasts. Even in August, if a cold front comes through it can get down into the 30's at the top. If so bring a jacket, hat and gloves.
Bring good hiking boots and think about gators to protect your shoes from filling up with the loose sand and rocks that are the bane of many hikers on South Sister.
Bring a good hiking stick, or hiking poles. You'll find it very useful both going up and coming down the steep trail.
Be smart, if there is a cloud at the top of the mountain there may be a blizzard inside. Don't take unnecessary risks.
Stay off Lewis glacier. Untrained hikers have ventured out onto the glacier and fallen into crevices 40 feet down. less «
This campground is where most people start off the hike to the South Sister. While there are a lot of parking spaces you will find that by 7:30am they will all be taken.
The campground is run by the National Forest Service and while there is no fee to camp at one of the 9 tent sites here (no reservations either first come first serve), you will ... Moreneed a National Recreation Vehicle Permit ($5/day or $30/annual). You can purchase a day pass at the campground.
There are two vault toilets at the trailhead. These are the only toilets you will find on the entire trail.Less
The first 1.5 miles of the hike are though a hemlock forest. The trail is very steep, but it's a good bellwether trail. If you cannot handle this short section you will not be able to hike to the summit.
You won't get any views as you hike through the dense trees.
The hike back through this section seems to last forever as you long to return... More to your car.Less
As you emerge from the forest onto a sandy plain you instantly come upon a four way crossing.
The path to the left takes you to Wikiup Plain.
The path to the right is a .8 mile hike to Moraine Lake. If you are on your way to Moraine lake you might consider first hiking straight ahead, where you will get a nice view from above, and also find ... Moreanother trail that will take you down to the lake.
The path to South Sister continues straight ahead.Less
There are campsites scattered around the lake. It's a popular place for staying while hiking the South Sister (even though the hike itself can be done in a day). Camping is only allowed in designated areas, and they usually fill up by Friday.
There is not a lot of vegetation around the lake, but you will find plenty of volcanic rock.
Be warned... More that campfires are not allowed in the area.
The word "moraine" is a geology term. A glacier deposits moraine (accumulation of boulders, stones, or other debris), which dams up a valley, which results in a lake.Less
This is where the climb up the mountain really beings to get serious and steep. It's a little over a one mile hike up to the saddle at Lewis Glacier.
Here the trail switchbacks through rocky outcrops with few opportunities for shade. Hikers have stacked rocks piles along the way to rest.
Over this mile you will gain 1600 ft in elevation.
Here at the bottom of Lewis Glacier you'll find a small lake. You'll also find a lot of backpacks and camping gear that people leave here that they don't want to take with them to the summit.
Now is a good time to drink a lot of water and eat some food to prepare for the final grueling mile up to the summit.
Lewis Glacier covers about .3 square... More kilometers.Less
This final mile is steeper then anything you've come across so far. It's also made of very loose, very powdery cinder rock. You will most likely see many hikers dumping their shoes out along the trail.
Hikers have carved various paths through this area. It's advised that you follow one that switchbacks up and not one that just goes straight up.
Some hikers find they slide a half step down the hill for every step up.
You will now you are are the hardest section when the cinder turns from grey to red. This red section is very difficult, but you are nearly at the top!
Many hikers on their way down like to encourage those are their way up with "ONLY A LITTLE BIT FARTHER", as it wasn't so long ago they were in their shoes.Less
You might think you are at the top, but the actual summit lies across the glacier in front of you.
You can choose to take the rocky ridge to your right, or cross the flat glacier.
In the late summer part of the glacier begins to melt and Teardrop Pool, Oregon's highest lake, is revealed.
The top of Oregon's third highest mountain sits at 10,358 ft. Enjoy the views to the north of the Middle and North Sisters. Beyond that you can see Mt Washington, Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood, & Mt St Helens. To the south you can see Diamond Peak.
Great job! But be prepared for a very steep, grueling six mile hike down the mountain!