Hike to South Sister Summit and Back in a Day

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Added by Lindsey Banks

Amazing views from the summit of Mt Bachelor, Broken Top, Middle and North Sister, Mt Washington, Mt Jefferson, and Mt HoodAn opportunity to sled down!

My husband and I and our dog completed this hike in mid-June in one day. It is a 12-mile round trip hike that was difficult at this time of the year, with snow cover on most of the upper mountain.

For a less advanced hike to the summit, wait to go in late July or August when more of the snow is gone.

The South Sister mountain is the third highest mountain in Oregon, at 10,358 ft. It is also known as the Charity mountain.

You can park at the Devil's Lake Trailhead and start there. You will need to purchase a National Recreation Vehicle Permit for $5/day or $30/annual. We have an annual pass so we were good to go. We set off on the hike at about 8:15am from the Devil's Lake Trailhead. It was a perfect clear June day.

After crossing over a beautiful creek and the Cascades Scenic Byway, we stopped to fill out one of the hiking registration forms at the start of the trail. It only asks a few questions (your name, how many people and pets are in your party, and which trail you plan on hiking).

The first 1-2 miles of the hike is through a hemlock forest. There is a pretty good elevation change but this is the easiest part of the hike.

It was easy to see the path throughout the hemlock forest and there were only a few patches of snow on the ground.

The weather was gorgeous. I had on some layers consisting of a tank top, long-sleeve shirt, and windbreaker. I took off my fleece jacket pretty quick into the hike and started to sweat.

As you come out of the hemlock forest, you begin walking over a gravel and sand area called the sandy plains. Once we got to this point we started seeing some beautiful views of Mt. Bachelor and Moraine Lake, which was still frozen over.

There is a fork in the road with a sign pointing you to the Moraine lake trail to the right, Wikiup Plain trail to the left, or South Sister Summit straight ahead. We kept going straight.

The sandy plain area was a nice flat trail for about 1 mile. Straight ahead you can see the South Sister Summit, as well as the Broken Top Mountain.

Once we got out of the sandy plains area, the trail pretty much disappeared from being covered with snow. There were a few signs that kept us heading in the right direction, but otherwise we just kept walking straight up.

The climb became very steep. The ground was covered completely with snow, making it extremely difficult to walk up. We weren't prepared with any crampons because we didn't think there would be so much snow still on the ground. There were a few exposed rock piles that we stopped to rest on. This area of the mountain is completely exposed, with no shade. The temperature had dropped significantly and I pulled out my beanie and gloves.

Once we reached the top, completely breathless and exhausted, we stopped to take some pictures and enjoy the unbelievable view of the snow-capped mountains. It took us about 5 hours to reach the summit.

Going down the snow-covered mountain was almost as difficult as going up, so we decided to slide down instead! This is where I wish we had frisbees or a sled to slide on, but we just decided it was worth it to let our bottoms get wet. We made it about 2 miles in 15 minutes sliding down. That same 2 miles had taken us about 3 hours going up.

We got a little lost coming down before reaching the sandy plains and took a little detour. It was really difficult to see the trail so we just kept heading towards Mt. Bachelor.

It felt like forever hiking back through the hemlock forest because by that point, we were ready to be back at the car.

We reached our car at about 4:15pm so the whole hike took us about 8 hours.

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