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South Sister Summit

Climbing to the summit of the South Sister from Devil's Lake Trailhead.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 12 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview :  The South Sister, also known as Charity, is Oregon's third highest mountain. The hike to the top is very difficult, but fairly easy... more »

Tips:  To get to the trailhead at Devils Lake take Cascade Lakes Highway #46 28.7 miles west from Bend. It's a little over 6 miles past Mt... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Devils Lake Campground TRAILHEAD

This campground is where most people start off the hike to the South Sister. While there are a lot of parking spaces you will find that by 7:30am they will all be taken.

The campground is run by the National Forest Service and while there is no fee to camp at one of the 9 tent sites here (no reservations either first come first serve), you will ... More

2. Registration

You will need to register for hiking in the area. You could get a $200 fine if you don't. It only takes a second, and it's free, so fill out your form here.

3. Hike through the forest

The first 1.5 miles of the hike are though a hemlock forest. The trail is very steep, but it's a good bellwether trail. If you cannot handle this short section you will not be able to hike to the summit.

You won't get any views as you hike through the dense trees.

The hike back through this section seems to last forever as you long to return... More

4. Trail to Moraine Lake

As you emerge from the forest onto a sandy plain you instantly come upon a four way crossing.

The path to the left takes you to Wikiup Plain.

The path to the right is a .8 mile hike to Moraine Lake. If you are on your way to Moraine lake you might consider first hiking straight ahead, where you will get a nice view from above, and also find ... More

5. Moraine Lake Viewpoint

The trail to the left here is a half mile hike down to Moraine Lake. A few yards ahead is a nice viewpoint of Moraine Lake from above.

6. Moraine Lake

There are campsites scattered around the lake. It's a popular place for staying while hiking the South Sister (even though the hike itself can be done in a day). Camping is only allowed in designated areas, and they usually fill up by Friday.

There is not a lot of vegetation around the lake, but you will find plenty of volcanic rock.

Be warned... More

7. Sandy Plain

The next mile or so takes you across the sandy plain. It's a nice flat portion of the hike that takes you right to the bottom of the South Sister.

The mountain you see to the north east is called Broken Top an extinct stratovolcano which stopped erupting around 100,000 years ago

8. The Accent Begins

This is where the climb up the mountain really beings to get serious and steep. It's a little over a one mile hike up to the saddle at Lewis Glacier.

Here the trail switchbacks through rocky outcrops with few opportunities for shade. Hikers have stacked rocks piles along the way to rest.

Over this mile you will gain 1600 ft in elevation.

9. Saddle at Lewis Glacier

Here at the bottom of Lewis Glacier you'll find a small lake. You'll also find a lot of backpacks and camping gear that people leave here that they don't want to take with them to the summit.

Now is a good time to drink a lot of water and eat some food to prepare for the final grueling mile up to the summit.

Lewis Glacier covers about .3 square... More

10. Cinder Ridge

This final mile is steeper then anything you've come across so far. It's also made of very loose, very powdery cinder rock. You will most likely see many hikers dumping their shoes out along the trail.

Hikers have carved various paths through this area. It's advised that you follow one that switchbacks up and not one that just goes straight up.
... More

11. False Summit

You might think you are at the top, but the actual summit lies across the glacier in front of you.

You can choose to take the rocky ridge to your right, or cross the flat glacier.

In the late summer part of the glacier begins to melt and Teardrop Pool, Oregon's highest lake, is revealed.

12. South Sister Summit

The top of Oregon's third highest mountain sits at 10,358 ft. Enjoy the views to the north of the Middle and North Sisters. Beyond that you can see Mt Washington, Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood, & Mt St Helens. To the south you can see Diamond Peak.

Great job! But be prepared for a very steep, grueling six mile hike down the mountain!