After our first trip to Bend in 2015, I knew that we’d return. Again and again. Sure enough, exactly a year later, we found ourselves passing through Bend. This time we made sure to summit Oregon’s third highest peak, South Sister.
Sprawling between Eugene and Bend, the gorgeous Deschutes National Forest is home to lakes, ski runs, campgrounds, trails, and mountains, the notable mountains being Mount Bachelor and The Three Sisters. Of The Three Sisters, the South Sister is the tallest at 10,358 feet, the least technical to summit, and offers incredible views of the other two sisters. At approximately 12 miles round trip, it’s no surprise that this day hike is extremely popular—so popular, that the national forests website advises against summiting on weekends. So we hiked it on a Tuesday autumn morning.
Devil’s Lake Trailhead is the start to the South Sister Summit, and it isn’t just a trailhead. As the name suggests, there is a beautiful, emerald-green lake, and better yet—free camping! There is a $5 day-use fee to park at the trailhead, but the fee is waived with the annual national parks pass. Yay! Lake + free camping + trailhead to the summit of a mountain = WIN!
Our campsite for two nights, with South Sister looming in the distance:
On our way up we passed by Moraine Lake.
Climbing up and up:
Sometimes it’s important to stop and turn around for the views:
Snow fields with Broken Top Mountain in the distance:
And finally, the summit! With wind-swept snow fields:
But in addition to the achievement of summiting South Sister, the view overlooking Middle and North Sister to the north was nothing short of amazing.
It took us 4 hours to summit and less than 3 hours to descend, making it the perfect day hike: long and steep enough to make it a challenge, yet easy enough to complete in under 10 hours, with rewarding views during the hike and at the summit.