While we always delight in the hiking in and around Vancouver Island, it is often nice to get out and see new places. Recently we had the opportunity to travel to Central Oregon and explore one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the U.S.
The Cascade Lakes area is located east of Bend, Oregon. Bend is most famous as the home of Mt. Bachelor, one of the premier skiing and snowboarding mountains in the Northwest. Bend is best accessed by car if you live in the Northwest, and via Redmond Airport if you live more than 5 hours away. Redmond is about 12 miles from downtown Bend, so the trip is quite easy.
Once you’re in Bend, you simply follow the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway to the west out of town. From here you can explore any number of trails.
One of the most popular hikes is the South Sister. which rises to a height of 10,358 feet. It is the tallest of the Three Sisters mountains, and also the easiest to summit. The trail to the top is actually quite reasonable with the exception of the last 1000 feet. This part of the trail is made up entirely of volcanic scree. For every step up you take, you’ll slide back down a half step. Both the Green Lake and Devil’s Lake trailheads will allow you to reach the summit of the South Sister.
Broken Top mountain is another popular hike that can be accessed from this area. Broken top offers both great hiking and novice climbing. No ropes are required unless you want to get to the very top. Broken top an be accessed from the Green Lakes trailhead.
While there are dozens of lakes spread throughout the Three Sisters Wilderness, if you follow the Cascades Lake Highway further south, you’ll find even more lakes. One of the most scenic is Waldo lake. From the Cascades Highway you can either take an extremely bumpy fire road (which is what we did) or you can drive further south and then loop back north to the lake on all paved roads.
Either way, the lake is worth the trip. There is plenty of camping on both the north and south side of the lake. Just be aware that in the early summertime mosquitos can pretty bad, especially at the south end of the lake.
All of these areas are within the Deschutes National forest. You can find more information on hiking, climbing, camping, and other outdoor activities at their website located here.