Why run around just one volcano when you can run around three?  The Three Sisters were named Faith, Hope, and Charity, when the Oregon Territory was being settled, but are now these mountains, are known as North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister.  The three are the main peaks of the Three Sisters Wilderness near Sisters and Bend, OR.  These volcanoes are often grouped together, but each has it’s own eruption history, with the South Sister last blasting 2000 years ago.

The Three Sisters Wilderness has plenty of great trails to run on, including the Pacific Crest Trail on the west and Green Lakes Trail on the eastern half.  Combine these trails with a few others to make a 46-51 mile loop, depending on the entry trail.  The shortest access is the 1.4 mile Pole Creek Trail on the East side of the Middle Sister.  Lava Camp Lake Trail is 2.6 miles and starts on McKenzie Pass near the PCT.  Devil’s Lake Trail on the South Side is 1.7 miles.  Other entry trails are the PCT, Millican Crater Trail, Scott Pass, and Obsidian Trail on the North Side.  Elk Devil’s Trail and Green Lakes Trail on the South Side. Park Meadows Trail is another access trail on the East Side.

 

Three Sisters Loop has many varieties, with Pole Creek being the shortest and most popular entrance.

 

Once the entry route has been chosen, next is the direction.  The Green Lakes Trail has much more water access than the PCT on the west side.  It might be best to do the North and West sections first, especially on hot days.  Going clockwise from Pole Creek, turn right on Green Lakes Trail.  This section of Green Lakes was badly burned from the Milli Fire in 2017, so there is not much tree cover.  Head 6.6 miles to the Scotts Pass Trail and enjoy views of the North Sister. Turn left on Scotts Pass and climb for 1.6 miles to the PCT.

 

The North Sister Reflecting on Yapoah Lake

 

Continue left on the PCT to up and around the Yapoah Crater.  Keep climbing after the Scott Trail to the highest point on the PCT section near the Collier Cone at 6900′.  The next 1.7 miles descends down to Glacier Way and then onto Obisidian Trail.  Make sure to get water at Obsidian Creek as the next creek is several miles down the trail.

 

Pete Carleson running through a field of lupine on the PCT

 

This section of the PCT runs through several alpine meadows flush with lupine, paintbrush, and more.  The Middle Sister comes into view on the left and the Husband on the right.  The next eleven miles are very runnable with a small descent and then ascent to the LeConte Crater Trail where the South Sister pops out of the forest.  Take a left on LeConte Crater for just 1.3 miles and stay left on Morraine Lakes Trail.  Continue climbing to the South Sister Climbing Trail and Devils Lake Trail junction.  Gaze over to the South Sister to view the popular climbing route to the summit.

 

The Three Sisters from Green Lakes Trail

 

Enjoy the 2.5-mile descent to the Green Lakes Trail junction.  Turn left on Green Lakes and run along Fall Creek to the Green Lakes.  Take a dip to cool off in these glacier-fed lakes and enjoy the views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister.  Green Lakes continues to climb up to the pass between the South Sister and Broken Top.  The top of the pass is just over 7000′.  Enjoy a long descent past Park Meadow Trail.  Look for Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood off in the distance.

 

The pass between Broken Top and South Sister

 

The trail winds back into the burnt forest where there are several downed trees to climb over.  Cross several creeks before coming back to the Pole Creek Trail to finish the loop.

 

Jerome Poncet scaling one of several down trees on Green Lakes Trail near Pole Creek