Moraine Lake and South Sister

Moraine Lake and South Sister

  • Difficult (to Moraine Lake)
  • 6.8-mile loop
  • 2000 feet elevation gain
  • Open August to mid-October

  • Very Difficult (to summit of South Sister)
  • 11 miles round trip
  • 4900 feet elevation gain

Oregon’s third tallest peak has a path to its top. Admittedly, the trail up South Sister is steep, long, rugged, and crowded, but no technical climbing skills are required and the rewards are great. From the summit—a broad, snowy crater with a small lake—you can see half the state. Remember to bring sunscreen and at least two quarts of water per person.

If the climb sounds too demanding, here’s a secret: the hike to Moraine Lake, halfway up the mountain, is just as picturesque. What’s more, the weather’s better here. The summit often generates its own wisp of clouds—a scenic feature when viewed from below, but a nuisance at the top. Hikers with dogs must keep them on leash throughout this area from July 1 through September. And honestly, the cinders on South Sister cut paws so badly that it’s kindest to leave dogs at home. To find the trailhead, drive …

Other Options

If you’re not aiming to climb South Sister in a single day, consider …

This chapter is an excerpt from 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Central Oregon Cascades.