Three Sisters Loop: Devils Lake to Green Lakes
The Three Sisters Wilderness loop is an epic 50-mile trek through the diverse landscape of the Cascade Range in central Oregon. The trail loops around three of Oregon’s prettiest peaks (South Sister, Middle Sister, and North Sister), and features incredibly scenic landscapes of lava rock, glaciers, volcanoes, lakes, and meadows filled with wildflowers.
This post details our first day of our five day backpacking trip on the Three Sisters Loop. Check out the links below for detailed information on the other sections of the trail. If you want to hike this trail yourself, check out our ultimate planning guide to backpacking the Three Sisters Loop for info on permits, wilderness regulations, and sample itineraries.
Day 1: Devils Lake Trailhead to Green Lakes (7.7 miles)
Day 2: Green Lakes to Alder Creek (12.5 miles)
Day 3: Alder Creek to the southern border of the Obsidian Limited Entry Zone (12.2 miles)
Day 4: Obsidian Zone to Mesa Creek (8.2 miles)
Day 5: Mesa Creek to Devils Lake Trailhead (6.3 miles)
Map and Elevation Profile for Devils Lake to Green Lakes
Three Sisters Backpacking Trail Guide: Day 1
When we arrived to the South Sister Devil’s Lake Trailhead at 7:30am the parking lot was already full. We found a spot on the side of the lot and used our National Parks pass to pay the $5 daily parking fee.
We made a quick stop at the pit toilets before picking-up the trail behind the bathrooms and walking a short distance before crossing a road and meeting up with the South Sister Climber Trail No. 36.
The first two miles of the hike is a steady climb, gaining 1200 feet. The uphill trek is a mostly shaded single-track through the forest. When you reach the junction with Moraine Lake the trail flattens out. Turn right at the junction to start your counter-clockwise adventure around the Three Sisters.
Here you’ll get your first glimpse of the crazy volcanic landscape that makes this hike so exciting. The trail follows the small rolling hills sparsely spotted with vegetation and you’ll get great views of South Sister. Moraine Lake is a large, shallow lake with several designated campsites around it. If you’ve gotten a late start this is a great place to camp for the night. Dispersed camping at the lake isn’t allowed, so if all the campsites are taken you must hike on. Check out the Forest Service’s website for more information on the 22 campsites around Moraine Lake.
After you pass the lake, follow signs for the Green Lakes trailhead. When you reach a junction with Soda Creek make a left to continue toward Green Lakes.
This section of trail is the most scenic part of the day. You’ll hike through meadows vibrant with wildflowers before passing through a canyon with a dramatic rock wall on the left side of Fall Creek. Green Lake is a series of three large lakes. The first two lakes are the largest, but all three lakes are absolutely beautiful.
Camping in the Green Lakes area is restricted to 28 designated campsites, and campfires are not allowed. We thought about continuing on, but dark clouds were moving in and we decided to camp at one of the campsites near the last lake in the chain. We then hunkered down in our tents as it rain, hailed, and thundered for a few hours. When the storm broke we were treated to wonderfuly moody views of Broken Top and Three Sisters as we quickly made dinner and stored our food before the second round of thunder and lightning hit.
Podcast about Backpacking Three Sisters Wilderness
I was honored to talk with Jeremy from the Trails Worth Hiking podcast about my Three Sisters backpacking trip. Check out the podcast for a deep dive into the history and geology of the trail as well as a day-by-day discussion of what to expect on the trail.
From Bend, Oregon the Devil's Lake trailhead is approximately 29 miles west on Cascade Lakes Highway (46). Turn left at the sign for Devil's Lake trailhead. Parking at the Devils Lake trailhead costs $5 per day. Forest Passes and interagency passes are accepted as well. Check out this USFS guide for a detailed list of costs and accepted parking permits.
Pick-up the trail behind the bathrooms and walk a short distance before crossing a road and meeting up with the South Sister Climber Trail No. 36. Follow the trail for two miles and make a right at the junction with Moraine Lake to start your counter-clockwise adventure around the Three Sisters.
After you pass Moraine lake, follow signs for the Green Lakes trailhead. When you reach a junction with Soda Creek make a left to continue toward Green Lakes. Stay on the Green Lakes Trail for 21.5 miles.
Make a left at the junction with the Scott Pass Trail and follow Scott Pass for 2 miles until you reach the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). Make a left to take the PCT south and stay on the PCT for 17.8 miles.
Make a left onto the Leconte Crater Trail. Stay on the Leconte Crater Trail for 1.3 miles.
If you would like to summit South Sister follow signs for the Moraine Lakes Trail and follow the trail for 1.6 miles until you reach the South Sister Climber Trail (make a left to summit, and make a right to return to the trailhead).
If you aren't summiting South Sister, continue on the Leconte Crater Trail until you reach the Wickiup Plains Trail. Make a left at the junction and follow the Wickiup Plains Trail for 2 miles back to the trailhead.
Dogs allowed on leash. But the volcanic rock can be very hard on paws, please think twice before bringing your dog on this entire loop.
Pit toilets are available at the Devils Lake Trailhead. No other services are available.
Trailhead parking fills up quickly. Arrive early if you want a parking spot.
Like all outdoor pursuits, hiking can be dangerous. It is up to you to assess your fitness level and education yourself about any potential dangers. While I try to regularly update these hiking guides, you should always research trail conditions before heading out.
Being prepared means arriving at the trailhead with water and some basic provisions. Each and every time I hit the trail I bring a backpack with more water than I think I need, a small first aid kit, and a snack. I also share my itinerary and plans with friends or family and I carry an InReach so I can summon help if needed. If you want to know what I carry in my pack during day hikes check out my blog post about essential gear for day hikers.
Stay safe, enjoy the trail, and soak up the magic of nature!
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