Green Lakes, Deschutes National Forest


  • In Deschutes National Forest outside of Bend, OR
  • ~4.5 miles to the lakes
  • ~9 mile day-hike to Park meadow and back
  • Part of the Three Sisters Loop

August 4th-6th, 2017

(Click images to enlarge and see clearly)

I’ve been coming to this area since around 2014, when I did half of the Three Sisters Loop and ended up going out the Green Lakes way. This was my fourth time visiting, and was by far the most crowded I’ve ever seen it. It seems as though this trail and area become more popular by the year, and with how packed it was this year I may not return unless I can during the middle of the week or in a less busy season.

The trail starts at the Green Lakes / Soda Creek trailhead, about 27 miles West of Bend. From this trailhead, you can hike to the lakes, up to Broken Top, to Moraine Lake (and then up South Sister), and it can be a starting point for the Three Sisters Loop. This is part of the reason the parking lot is completely full by 9am most days of the summer. This year, the heavy snow we had in the winter took a lot longer to melt than usual and the trail wasn’t clear of snow until mid-July.

The trail is fairly gradual, with a few switchbacks toward the end. It winds up along the river the entire way, with a few crossings on very well-established bridges (no rails, just a big carved log). This is honestly one of the most beautiful hikes along a river I’ve ever done.

Once you get to the lake territory (there’s a sign), it’s about another half mile to the largest, middle lake. Campsites are scattered around this lake and the two smaller lakes. South Sister is the backdrop of the largest lake. I always wake up early here to catch the sunrise. Here are pictures of our campground and the sunrise on the first morning.

[Click photos for larger viewing and slideshow]

I typically camp here for two nights and go for a long day-hike the second day. We hiked out to Park Meadow, which is about another 4.5 miles beyond the lakes (so 9 miles out and back). If you take the trail that runs along the east side of the largest lake, it takes you uphill to a flat pass where you get a different view of South Sister and Broken Top.

Continuing further, you’ll soon reach a rocky, open area of hiking that has views of all three Sisters, Jefferson, and Mount Hood further north (on a clear day). You’ll also see the valley and mountains beyond. It was a bit hazy from wildfire smoke when we went, so views were not as clear. 

The hike is mostly downhill from here to Park Meadow. It continues along the open area for a short while before heading back into more forested areas. There is an unmarked junction to Golden Lake at some point, though it’s easy to miss (and is easier to catch on the way back up). The trail to golden lake is about a 1 mile detour (each way). After this, the forest then thickens and the trail turns to dirt for the descent into the meadow area.

We stopped at the river in the meadow before turning back. It took us about 1.5 hours to reach this spot in the meadow. There are campsites scattered here as well.

After ascending from the meadow and going back up over the pass, the descent back to the green lakes is quite scenic, as you’ll have a better view of the lake region.

[Click photos for larger viewing and slideshow]

The last morning we again woke early for the sunrise and hit the trail by 6:45am to head out before the traffic of day hikers and cars back to Portland.

We picked up some PCT hikers on our way back through the Mount Hood area — they were headed to Government Camp to pick up their supplies at the post office.

Categories: Nature

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