Distance: 23+ (our hike was approximately 26.5)
Time: 3 days
Season: End of July to beginning of October
Dog Friendly: To Golden Lake, yes; to Green Lakes, yes; Green Lakes to end of the loop, NO!!!
Pros: Gorgeous meadows, views of Broken Top, all Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Bachelor
Cons: Busy trail that is pounded to dust, off-trail section is over steep, sometimes loose rock, no water source on third day after leaving the glacier, no fire allowed at golden or green lakes
The trail begins at a parking lot just before the Driftwood Creek Campground at Three Creeks Lake. For the loop follow the signs to Park Meadow. The dusty trail will switchback up to the ridge where you might get a glimpse or two of the surrounding mountains before descending to the Snow Creek irrigation ditch and a four way junction, turn left here and continue onward to Park Meadow. Y
ou will be greeted with wildflowers, a view of Broken Top, and pretty Park Creek. This is a great place to take a break and refill water. You’ve made it about 6.4 miles at this point. Cross the creek and continue gradually uphill.
At about 7.2 miles there is a dusty unsigned trail that leads to Golden Lake, your camp for the night, once you reach the lake cross the outlet creek on the left and continue a bit further to the inlet creek, here follow a boot path up along the creek to some amazing campsites.
We camped near the creek about a mile or so up the hill, but it’s rumored there are a couple of tarns just a bit further that have even better views. We, however, were exhausted and decided that our unofficial campsite with views of Broken Top and South Sister was perfect.
Make sure to wake up early to watch the morning sun dance across the mountains and light them up with a red glow. Today, hike back down to the main trail and take a left. The trail will ascend to about 7000 feet at a pass between Broken Top and South Sister and then descends again into the Green Lakes Basin. The basin is super crowded, has designated campsites, and fires are prohibited so I recommend continuing on to camp closer to the day 3 push up Broken Top.
Once you leave the basin the trail continues through meadow and open forest, so make sure your water supplies are good. You will come to a Y in the trail, keep to the left toward Broken Top. Once you reach Camp Creek and the Drainage start looking for a place to camp. The better camps are uphill, but there is one nice camp about a ¼ mile down the drainage, that has a nice sheltered meadow, that was perfect for an afternoon nap.
Today is going to be long, hot and exposed, so start early and put on some sunscreen!!! Make sure ALL of your water bottles/platypus bags are full, and I recommend filling up before you leave Camp Creek behind and at any other decent source of water before you reach the Tam McArthur Rim Trail because there is NO water once you reach the rim, it’s 7+ miles without water. To reach the Bend Glacier and the iceberg filled lake that it fills, follow Camp Creek till it starts to level off and then head east toward a rock outcropping, we hiked just to the right of this and were able to pick up a trail that we followed nearly all the way to the lake.
After you leave the lake, begin the long hot push to the rim trail. Take care crossing the snowfields and remember that big rocks move too. Once you reach the rim “trail” you will have amazing views of all the surrounding mountains. The path here is sketchy and kinda comes and goes as you climb over and around rocks; I promise that the trail gets better the further east you go. Just continue on the trail, through the dust, and dry forest.
Our poor dog Jedi, would race to each shady spot and lie down. I would NOT recommend any part of day 3 for your pup, if you must take your dog invest in booties, joint supplements and take some baby aspirin with you as well. I wish someone had warned us. Steve and the dogs finished their water less than halfway through the day’s hike, so we were left to ration out the remaining 1 ½ Liters that I still had. We were very relieved to get back to the car, blast the AC and get rehydrated.
GPX File of Our Hike
I’ve included a link to a GPX file of my hike around Broken Top as recorded by my Delorme Earthmate PN-60. You can load this file into Google Earth or any GPX-compatible GPS device to follow my path.
US Forest Service Central Oregon Website great for general info and trail conditions
Portland Hikers Field Guide a great resource for trip reports, tips, and insider info