Three Sisters Loop: Mesa Creek to Devils Lake
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 last 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 Mesa Creek to Devils Lake
Three Sisters Backpacking Guide: Day 5
As we packed up camp and prepared to start our last day of hiking we were fueled with thoughts of pizza and beer in Bend. We had intentionally planned to have a shorter last day so that we had the option of summiting South Sister on our way back to the car. But, after four nights in the backcountry the siren call of the simple luxuries (like a hot shower and a soft chair to sit in) was just too great.
We headed south on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) content to walk at a slow pace and savor the views of South Sister, The Wife, and the Rock Mesa. Even though we had decided to shave a few miles off of our trek, doesn’t mean that we were ready for the beautiful scenery to end!
After about 2.5 miles we reached the junction with Leconte Crater Trail. As we hooked a left and detoured away from the PCT we resolved ourselves to the notion that this fabulous trip was coming to an end. As we walked we made plans to come back next year. We dreamed up our future route that would include a summit of South Sister, an exploration of Broken Top, and a bit of an off-trail adventuring to visit the lakes on the ridge between South and Middle Sisters.
After 1.3 miles on the Leconte Crater Trail we reached the junction with Wickiup Plains Trail and the Moraine Lake Trail. We opted to take the southern route via Wickiup Plains Trail back to Devils Lake (purple route on the map above), but if summiting South Sister is on your agenda you should follow the Moraine Lake Trail (marked in red on the map above).
After connecting with the Wickiup Plains Trail we plunged back into the pine forests. This is a multi-use trail and we had to yield to two groups of horse riders.
It was a fast, downhill two-miles back to the trailhead. After changing into a clean pair of clothes and trying to freshen up (as best as we could with the last of our baby wipes!), we hightailed it to 10 Barrel Brewery where we reminisced on a great trip. We even bought a beer for their beer wall for another smelly hiker to claim!
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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