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Trail around Broken Top Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Off trail South of Broken Top. There are occasional cliffy or vegetated areas to find your way around but mostly it's just wide open. (Jerry Adams)
Just aim yourself to the North of Ball Butte. Try not to step on the few alpine plants. (Jerry Adams)
Spring below Broken Top trail. (Jerry Adams)
Nice camp sites with Broken Top looking down on you. (Jerry Adams)


The area around Broken Top offers some excellent alpine hiking. There are amazing views of Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mount Bachelor, and surrounding area.

There isn't a trail all the way around, but if you do an easy 2.5 mile cross country hike, you can complete the loop.

This area is East of the Cascade crest, so sometimes it can be raining on the West side but just be cloudy here.

Most people just hike on the South side of Broken Top, but this hike describes the loop so you can pick out the information you need.

I like this as an add-on to the Trail around Three Sisters Hike - about 4 miles of this Broken Top loop is in common with the Three Sisters Loop hike. For example, in your trip around the Three Sisters, you can hike several miles from Green Lake to some really nice sites with Broken Top looking down on you.

The six miles on the North and East sides goes through the recently burned areas from the Pole Creek fire in 2012, and through a campground area with RVs and horse trailers, so might not be the best place to hike.

I have defined this hike starting from the Tam McArthur trailhead next to Three Creek Lake, because the loop goes through here. You could also start from Todd Lake or the Green Lake trailheads on the South side.

On the South side, you're within view of the Mount Bachelor ski area so your cell phone will probably work.

Contents

Description

Start at the Tam McArthur Rim trailhead next to Three Creek Lake (6150 feet elevation).

Go up the Tam McArthur Trail Tam McArthur Rim Hike. The trail generally goes along the edge of a cliff (Tam McArthur Rim) with excellent views over Three Creeks Lake and the Sisters/Bend area. This would make a nice day hike. Fairly crowded though. After about 2.6 miles the trail officially ends. There's a sign that says "trail not maintained" but the trail is just as good above.

At 2.8 miles (7700 feet elevation) I started going off trail. The trail continues up towards the crater, but I didn't want to gain and lose a bunch of elevation.

I went off trail for about 2 miles, gradually losing a couple hundred feet of elevation. Just aim for the shoulder between Ball Butte and Broken Top. If you're going the other direction, just go up a little and aim for the edge of the rim, when you hit the trail it's obvious.

This is about the easiest off-trail route I can think of. Very little vegetation. A few small cliffs you have to find a way around. There are no streams, but if you followed Tumalo Creek down a ways, there will eventually be water. This would be an excellent place to camp. Just try not to tramp on the few small alpine plants. There aren't a lot of people walking through here so we're probably not "loving this place to death".

After you reach the shoulder between Ball Butte and Broken Top, then continue down another 0.5 miles until hitting an unnamed trail on the other side of the obvious stream at 7400 feet elevation. This trail is unnamed and there are no signs, but it's just as good as any other trail. It goes up towards the crater, and I think there would be an easy connection to the Tam McArthur Rim trail somewhere at the Broken Top crater and unnamed lake. That would be a good area to explore.

Take the unnamed trail down 0.7 miles until it hits the Broken Top Trail at 7100 feet elevation. There are no signs, but it's pretty obvious. Anywhere along here would be an excellent place to camp. The stream looks reliable year round, but it's slightly silty from the glacier above.

Go West on the Broken Top Trail 1.4 miles to the junction with the Todd Lake Trail at 6750 feet elevation. This is 7.4 miles from the Tam McArthur trailhead. It's about 2.5 miles down to the Todd Lake trailhead. Probably there are more Broken Top trip reports from here than anywhere else. There are a couple other trails going down - just keep going West.

Continue on the Broken Top Trail 2.9 miles to the Green Lakes Trail at Green Lakes at 6500 feet. This is in common with the Trail around Three Sisters Hike. There are some nice places to camp along here. About half way, there are several springs that appear just below the trail that would make good drinking water - no glacial silt. I didn't see any established camp spots with fire rings, but the area is pretty flat so It's easy to find a nice spot. Excellent views of Broken Top looking down on you. This area seems too alpine to have a fire anyway, not enough firewood.

It's about 4 miles down the Green Lakes Trail to a trailhead. This is very popular so I try to quickly pass through this area. There are many campsites at Green Lakes, but you have to camp at a site marked with a numbered post.

From the Broken Top Trail junction, follow the Green Lakes Trail on the East side of the lake, 2.2 miles up to to Green Lakes Pass at 7000. This is a pass between the South Sister and Broken Top. This would be a nice area to camp, if the weather is nice, but the closest water is at Green Lakes and Park Meadow.

About half way between Green Lakes Pass and Park Meadow, at 6500 feet elevation, is the unmarked trail up to Golden Lake. There is (probably) a rock cairn marking the trail, but it's obvious regardless. That is supposed to be a nice area to camp, Broken Top looking down on you, good drinking water, and nice areas to wander off trail above. Supposedly, there is a route up between Broken Top and Broken Hand, but this is fairly adventurous.

It's 1.9 miles from Green Lakes Pass down to Park Meadow at 6150 feet, 14 miles from the Tam McArthur trailhead. This is the end of the commonality with the Trail around Three Sisters Hike.

Finally, take the Park Meadow trail 6.3 miles back to Tam McArthur Trailhead. It goes through some areas burned by the 2012 Pole Creek fire, which you can either think of as interesting natural progression, or a devestated area. As you get to the Three Creeks area, there are several roads and trails you can take, not obvious what's the best route. Walk through the campground with RVs and horse trailers. You can either think of this as nice that people can get out in a natural area, or a devestated area : )

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Map from GPS tracks (Jerry Adams)
test map (Jerry Adams)

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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