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Sisters Mirror Lakes Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View over Sisters Mirror Lake from the north shore (bobcat)
Sink Creek on the Mirror Lakes Trail (bobcat)
Lava flow, Mirror Lakes Trail (bobcat)
Unnamed lake near Lancelot Lake, Sisters Mirror Lakes (bobcat)
Looking down Lancelot Lake (bobcat)
Blacktail Spring, Elk-Devils Trail (bobcat)
The loop hike to Sisters Mirror Lakes and then around Kokostick Butte (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS

Contents

Description

This moderately graded loop within half an hour of Bend takes you directly into the Three Sisters Wilderness to a cluster of lakes around Sisters Mirror Lake. The “mirror” appellation is somewhat deceptive as only the very top of South Sister can be seen from the south shore of Sisters Mirror Lake. Other nearby lakes, such as Lancelot Lake with its rocky shore, are quite picturesque. The suggested loop allows you to detour a short distance up the Moraine Lake Trail for a view from the Wickiup Plains to South Sister. You'll return to the Sisters Mirror Lakes Trailhead via the dusty original route of Century Drive (now the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway) past gushing springs. Wait until later in the summer or early fall to do this hike so you can avoid the clouds of mosquitoes.

Fill out your wilderness permit, and begin hiking along the sandy Mirror Lakes Trail #20 in a forest of mountain hemlock and lodgepole pine. Drop to the four-way Mirror Lakes-Elk-Devils Trail Junction, where you’ll keep straight. Cross Sink Creek, and traverse up to pass a tarn just south of Bristah Lake. Grouseberry grows along the trail verge as you hike up a lava slope and pass through a garden of lava ridges. Drop to pass a large tarn on your left, and cross a flat area of lodgepole pine where blueberry and grouseberry carpet the meadow. Rise up a slope, and then make a gentle descent to pass a No Campfires sign. Reach the Pacific Crest-Mirror Lakes Trail Junction, and go left on the Pacific Crest Trail.

After 160 yards, you’ll come to the Pacific Crest-Mirror Lakes User Trail Junction, marked as ‘Not Maintained.’ Go right here, and cross a gravelly plain to reach the broad sedge expanse on the north shore of Sisters Mirror Lake. From this point, you’ll be negotiating interlocking user trails to see some of the other lakes. Follow the trail up a slope around a fallen tree to cross the Cascade Divide. Pass a couple of tarns covered with bur reed, and ascend a rocky knob to look down on an unnamed lake. Follow the trail from this lake to the east end of rock-rimmed Lancelot Lake. You can keep going on a scratchy trail to Lancelot’s west shore and a campsite. Head south and then east, passing Bounty Lake, and cross the tarn meadow again to reach a rise above Sisters Mirror Lake (If you head south from Bounty Lake, you'll reach Denude Lake and Camelot Lake, which have better views; just keep yourself oriented correctly.). Follow the user trail back to the Pacific Crest Trail and the junction with the Mirror Lakes Trail.

Keep straight at the junction to stay on the Pacific Crest trail for another 0.2 miles. Pass a small meadow on the left, and hike through a montane forest of mountain hemlock and Engelmann spruce with a carpet of bramble, grouseberry, and wood rush. Pass a spring issuing from a linear meadow with The House Rock looming behind. At the junction with the Wickiup Plains Trail, make a right.

Drop to get more views of The House Rock, and then switchback up through a lava flow. The trail undulates, but gradually rises, to traverse a gravel lodgepole pine slope with Kaleetan Butte dominating the view ahead. Then begin to drop, and glimpse South Sister through the trees. Wind down through lodgepole pines and subalpine firs to the Wickiup Plains-Moraine Lake Trail Junction. For a view of South Sister, go left on the Moraine Lake Trail. After about 140 yards, see a trail branching left. This will take you to the south end of the Wickiup Plains for the view. Then return to the Wickiup Plains-Moraine Lake Trail Junction.

Follow the Wickiup Plains Trail as it wind down through a mountain hemlock forest to the Wickiup Plains-Elk-Devils Trail Junction. Make a right here on the very wide Elk-Devils Trail #12 – in fact, this was the original route of Century Drive as it turned from Devils Lake to hug the base of Kokostick Butte. The wilderness route was used by Native Americans and then early explorers, and the wagon track was completed in the 1920s as a 100-mile connection between Bend and Willamette Pass and then Eugene. A reroute outside the current wilderness boundary was a classic “red cinder” road until the 1980s, when it was paved and designated the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. The trail undulates along a sandy track and then passes through the area of Blacktail Spring, where several springs gush into verdant meadows. Cross a larger boggy meadow, and then step over Sink Creek and follow it down to pass between two rail posts at an old gate and reach the Mirror Lakes-Elk-Devils Trail Junction. Make a left here to hike the 1/3 of a mile back to the Sisters Mirror Lakes Trailhead.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Restrooms, information kiosk
  • Share trails with horses

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Three Sisters #621
  • Green Trails Maps: Bend – Three Sisters #622SX
  • Geo-Graphics: Three Sisters Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Deschutes National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Willamette Cascades
  • Adventure Maps: Three Sisters Wilderness Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Bend – Three Sisters

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwill
  • Oregon’s Best Wildflower Hikes: Southwest Region by Elizabeth L. Horn
  • Bend, Overall by Scott Cook
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Hiking Central Oregon & Beyond by Virginia Meissner
  • Hiking Oregon’s Central Cascades by Bruce Grubbs
  • Hiking Oregon’s Three Sisters Country by Bruce Grubbs
  • Oregon’s Southern Cascades: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • 60 Hiking Trails: Central Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Central Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • Trail Running: Bend and Central Oregon by Lucas Alberg
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop

More Links


Page Contributors

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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