Basecamp at Green Lakes

8.5 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Dan Loch

Trek to an alpine paradise and epic basecamp nestled amongst the central Cascades. The basecamp offers close proximity to climb 4 peaks nearby. Enjoy amazing sunrises and sunsets from basecamp, or from a nearby summit should you choose to climb. Want it all to yourself? Plan a trip on a weekday in the Spring, Winter or early summer for your own alpine paradise.

This 8.5 mile roundtrip hike to Green Lakes basecamp gains elevation gradually as it meanders along beautiful Fall Creek with numerous small cascades. Depending on the season (expect significant snow on the trail through early-to-mid June) the stark contrast of the snow with creek is beautiful, though the wildflowers blooming in the meadows along the creek in the summer are equally beautiful. If going in Winter or Spring, be prepared as the weather can change very quickly. A GPS or efficient use of compass and map are recommended in the event your tracks are covered with new snowfall. Snowshoes are recommended for the hike to and from the lakes back to trailhead unless hiking very early and late in the day to avoid postholing. There are two creek crossings a little ways past the junction with Moraine Lake trail that can be easily missed and difficult to navigate in Winter, Spring, early Summer depending on snow levels. Sturdy snowbridges may be easier to cross the creek. There are designated first-come, first serve campsites at Green Lakes, and depending on the day and season, these fill up very quickly. Campfires are not allowed.

A day hike to Green Lakes or just camping overnight at the lakes is well worth the hike in, but a climb up Broken Top, South Sister, Middle Sister or North Sister for sunrise is not to be missed. The climb/scramble up Broken Top, South & Middle Sister are not technical though crampons and an ice axe are recommended during winter and spring months.

Broken Top: The most direct route up Broken Top is the northwest ridge (class 3-4) and a mild though tedious hike on scree in summer and a bit more challenging/fun in winter/spring. The top pitch of Broken Top to the summit block involves some exposure and previous mountaineering experience is recommended if on ice/snow. Helmet is recommended due to rock/icefall in winter/spring.

South Sister: From Green Lakes the most direct route is the Green Lakes Route (class 1) though it can be mildly prone to avalanching. In the spring/summer, this route also may be desired vs the standard Climber's Trail as it is usually less crowded. The trail traverses snow gullies and scree slopes/ridges until it meets up with Climbers Trail. Continue up the Climber's trail and around Lewis Glacier to reach summit.

Middle Sister: From Green Lakes, the most direct route is the Southeast Ridge (class 2) (if summiting South Sister first and moving on to Middle Sister then the South Ridge would be more direct). Numerous routes exist on southeast ridge (all non-technical). However, depending on time of season, be aware of crevasses on Diller Glacier if you cross it during ascent or descent.

North Sister: The most direct route for Green Lakes is the South and South East Ridges (class 4-5) though this is a much longer approach from Green Lakes than other routes. It is exposed to rock/icefall and moderately prone to avalanching. Previous mountaineering experience, use of ice axe, crampons, helmet and roping up with partner(s) is recommended. This description of North Sister climb is meant as general overview, and further research of the route is highly recommended. Once gaining access of the South Ridge follow it to a saddle just below Prouty Horn. From here, "The Terrible Traverse" is a steep and exposed traverse below the south horn and is the most hazardous part of the climb. Once across, ascend The Bowling Alley through the Prouty Horns toward the summit.

Ample parking is available at the Green Lakes Trailhead as long as Cascade Lake Highway is open. It usually opens around Memorial Day but it is variable depending on weather and may be closed into June (CHECK w/ LOCAL RANGER DISTRICT before leaving). If it is not open, you must park near Dutchman Flat Snow Park (Snow Park Permit required) and plan to add a significant amount of milage to your approach and cross country skiing/snowmobile to get to trailhead. A Northwest Forest Pass or Day Use fee is required to park at Green Lakes trailhead and can be purchased at trailhead. An outhouse is available at Trailhead as well.

Dog Info:

Getting there: Head 27 miles west of Bend, passed Mt Bachelor and Sparks Lake to the Green Lakes Trailhead.

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Rock Climbing
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking


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Overall rating: 

Perfect Hammocking!

Really really loved this hike. The incline is gradual, so it's easy yet so beautiful and you can have conversation without losing your breath. Waterfalls, meadows and wildflowers everywhere you look. The map above leads you to a road that requires 4 wheel drive/not a Prius.... So we drove maybe two miles farther and parked at "green lakes trailhead" and hiked about 9ish miles round trip, there and back route. You'll end up on a peninsula surrounded by bright turquoise water with south sister to your left and broken top to your right. We hammocked, read, and ate for an hour or so and then got some dank tacos at el sancho!!

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