Bend, OR: Broken Top Loop

Spend three days circling the jagged, gaping remains of one of Central Oregon’s peaks on this 22.6-mile loop in the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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Spend three days circling the jagged, gaping remains of one of Central Oregon’s peaks on this 22.6-mile loop in the Three Sisters Wilderness.

See the yawning crater that formed when two elemental forces (volcanic and glacial) clashed on this three-day, 22.6-mile trek around Broken Top, an extinct Cascades stratovolcano.

Hike the Broken Top Loop

Start at Little Three Creek Lake trailhead at 6,600 feet and hike northwest 2.8 miles to the Snow Creek Ditch crossing, an often-dry irrigation channel. At a four-way junction, turn west and hike three miles to a bridged crossing of East Fork Park Creek in Park Meadow, which is cast blue by gentians in August. Turn south at an unsigned trail fork, and look for a cairn marking the .5-mile side trail to Golden Lake, your first night’s camp.

Rise early the next day to see dawn on 10,358-foot South Sister. Back at the junction, turn south toward the 7,000-foot pass between South Sister and Broken Top. Cross a cindery lava plain and descend a moraine into the Green Lakes Basin. At Soda Creek junction, turn southeast to begin a gentle climb linking pumice plains to forest. Round the south side of Cayuse Crater, continuing east. In another mile, cross Crater Creek to reach a four-way junction with the Ditch Trail. Look for campsites at treeline or along Crater Creek just north of the trail.

On your final morning, head east .3 mile to cross a seasonal creek (usually dry by mid-summer). Turn north along an intermittent social trail and hike .8 mile to the gap between Broken Top and 8,091-foot Ball Butte. Notice the vibrant red, yellow, and orange layers of volcanic rock in Broken Top’s ice-pitted interior. Head northeast to a use trail and hike .7 mile north to the outlet of Bend Glacier Lake.

Drop packs and scramble .2 mile up the outlet to the shore of the lake for an amphitheater of rock, water, and ice. From there, follow the outlet east cross-country, over a year-round snow bridge to where the drainage turns south. Head northeast for 1.4 miles just below 8,376-foot Broken Hand. Connect to the Tam McArthur Rim Trail, and circle around Three Creek Lake to your car.

Broken Top Loop Trail info

MAP Geo-Graphics Three Sisters Wilderness Map ($6, geo-graphicsmaps.com)

GEAR UP Pick up last-minute duct tape, maps, and fuel at Mountain Supply of Oregon, 834 NW Colorado, Bend. (541) 388-0688

-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, Bosco Mountain Photo

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 36.4

Waypoints

BTP001

Location: 44.10168, -121.622383

Start the Broken Top loop trail at the Little Three Creek Lake trailhead.

BTP002

Location: 44.104999, -121.63614

Trail junction; turn left (west) for a 1 mile side trip to Little Three Creek Lake; otherwise, continue straight (northwest) through junction.

BTP003

Location: 44.102148, -121.643586

Little Three Creek Lake; find nice spots along the lakeshore for lunch or a snack. Camp sites also available along north shore.

BTP004

Location: 44.121211, -121.655981

Open view of the Three Sisters before starting forested descent.

BTP005

Location: 44.120033, -121.656751

At mile 2.8, cross Snow Creek Ditch - a dry drainage channel. Jog slightly right to get back on trail.

BTP006

Location: 44.12478, -121.659561

Small creek crossing.

BTP007

Location: 44.125689, -121.660153

Trail junction; turn left (west) and follow signs for Park Meadow.

BTP008

Location: 44.126289, -121.664786

Small creek crossing.

BTP009

Location: 44.121742, -121.687199

Reach another small creek crossing.

BTP010

Location: 44.117386, -121.703076

Here, you'll find a nice campsite near trail. Note sign prohibiting campfires within 100' of trail and/or water.

BTP011

Location: 44.116792, -121.703579

Enter Park Meadow, which is cast blue by gentians in August.

BTP012

Location: 44.115878, -121.704415

You'll have several nice options for staying the night: choose from campsites on the west side of creek.

BTP013

Location: 44.116578, -121.704692

When you arrive at an unsigned trail junction; turn left (southwest).

BTP014

Location: 44.110133, -121.715877

Look for two large rock cairns marking the side trail to Golden Lake; turn left (south) up rise to find trail.

BTP015

Location: 44.103581, -121.715212

Arrive at Golden Lake. From here, you can see Broken Top.

BTP016

Location: 44.104244, -121.71504

Golden Lake outlet; easy crossing to east side.

BTP017

Location: 44.10393, -121.714648

Nice, sheltered campsites above lake in trees.

BTP018

Location: 44.102782, -121.714429

Exposed campsite near lakeshore with prime view of the Three Sisters.

BTP019

Location: 44.105969, -121.730853

Back at the junction, turn south toward the 7,000-foot pass between South Sister and Broken Top. Continue on trail to descend a moraine into the Green Lakes Basin.

BTP020

Location: 44.096094, -121.733212

Enter the Green Lakes camp zone at Camp 27. Note that camping near the Green Lakes is restricted to numbered sites.

BTP021

Location: 44.094869, -121.732866

Green Lakes camp 26.

BTP022

Location: 44.09368, -121.731337

Here, the trail continues along top of moraine.

BTP023

Location: 44.093576, -121.73108

Nice lunch spot on moraine above Upper Green Lake.

BTP024

Location: 44.084826, -121.72601

Trail fork; veer right (south), keeping along lakeshore.

BTP025

Location: 44.083292, -121.727176

Trail fork; veer left (southwest).

BTP026

Location: 44.082437, -121.727641

The trail forks yet again: veer left (south) at the first fork, then right (southwest) at the second fork.

BTP027

Location: 44.080792, -121.730613

At the trail junction, turn left (south) toward Soda Creek to begin a gentle climb linking pumice plains to forest.

BTP028

Location: 44.078502, -121.729009

Reach a trail fork and veer right (northeast). Camp 10 is near the trail.

BTP029

Location: 44.077941, -121.726616

Cross another small creek and reach a nice view of Broken Top.

BTP030

Location: 44.066689, -121.716587

Small creek crossing.

BTP031

Location: 44.057323, -121.708657

Round the south side of Cayuse Crater, continuing east.

BTP032

Location: 44.058263, -121.704268

Continue straight (east) at the trail junction to join up with Broken Top trail.

BTP033

Location: 44.060637, -121.696193

At the fork, bear left (north) to follow the trail around the springs.

BTP034

Location: 44.061473, -121.696213

Natural springs.

BTP035

Location: 44.06048, -121.689674

Crater Creek crossing.

BTP036

Location: 44.06084, -121.688274

Continue straight (northeast) on Broken Top trail.

BTP037

Location: 44.061635, -121.68806

Watch for more places to set up camp: here, there are sheltered campsites near trees and exposed camp sites below in meadow.

BTP038

Location: 44.061659, -121.683895

Turn north along an intermittent social trail and hike .8 mile to the gap between Broken Top and 8,091-foot Ball Butte.

BTP039

Location: 44.069865, -121.68594

Trail fork; veer right (northeast), following use trail up through gap.

BTP040

Location: 44.071664, -121.684127

Gap between Broken Top and Ball Butte; follow use trail northeast across plain.

BTP041

Location: 44.072278, -121.682789

Trail junction; turn left (north) on another use trail.

BTP042

Location: 44.074464, -121.682534

The trail becomes braided here: be sure to keep right at the two forks.

BTP043

Location: 44.076326, -121.682691

Natural spring.

BTP044

Location: 44.081266, -121.683648

Cirque lake outlet; drop packs and scramble left (west) on faint, rocky trail through gap to view crater lake and glacier. To continue loop, continue cross-country below Broken Hand's slope.

BTP045

Location: 44.081111, -121.685472

Broken Top's east cirque lake and glacier.

BTP046

Location: 44.081096, -121.679764

Cross over a year-round snow bridge to where the drainage turns south. Head northeast.

BTP047

Location: 44.084405, -121.67252

Head upslope, between gap to the left (north) of a cluster of trees and pick up faint use trail.

BTP048

Location: 44.084483, -121.671871

At a trail cairn, veer slightly southeast for an easier passage.

BTP049

Location: 44.084194, -121.66764

Trail cairn.

BTP050

Location: 44.08424, -121.666382

Trail cairn.

BTP051

Location: 44.084972, -121.665586

Contour northeast around a red cinder slope.

BTP052

Location: 44.087215, -121.661525

Bear north across cinder plain.

BTP053

Location: 44.089172, -121.661648

1.4 miles from the snow bridge, pick up the Tam McArthur Rim trail at right (east).

BTP054

Location: 44.091885, -121.646516

Big viewpoint: pick out Middle and North Sisters, Three-Fingered Jack, and Mts. Washington, Jefferson, and Hood; Little Three Creek Lake below.

BTP055

Location: 44.091233, -121.641989

Stay left to head east, keeping near rim.

BTP056

Location: 44.08727, -121.629048

Take a left (east), beginning long descent to Three Creek Lake.

BTP057

Location: 44.10087, -121.622292

Cross the lake road and head back to trailhead parking to close the loop.

Junction Meadow

Location: 44.104968, -121.636076

Choose to side trip to Little Three Creek Lake, or continue on the loop from the trail fork in a wide meadow.

Little Three Creek

Location: 44.102502, -121.6429

In the shadow of the Tam McArthur Rim, Little Three Creek Lake offers pleasant lunch and camp sites.

Sisters Wilderness

Location: 44.127151, -121.667318

Hike several miles of cool, forested trail on the north side of the Broken Top loop.

Park Meadow

Location: 44.116338, -121.705041

Park Meadow offers nice camping with big, open views of South Sister and Broken Top.

Golden Lake

Location: 44.103304, -121.714354

Surrounded by meadows, in the shadow of Broken Top, Golden Lake has nice campsites with views of the Three Sisters.

Sisters Pass

Location: 44.106817, -121.729245

Approaching the 7,000' pass above the Green Lakes basin.

Upper Lake

Location: 44.093318, -121.731005

Upper of the three Green Lakes.

Middle Lake

Location: 44.088448, -121.72946

The middle, and largest, of the three Green Lakes, backed by South Sister.

Green Lakes

Location: 44.078768, -121.727915

The Green Lakes basin, with lower lake in the foreground, and South Sister behind.

Pumice Plain

Location: 44.075624, -121.724095

A slope of light-colored pumice and cinders spill from the flank of Broken Top.

Crater Creek

Location: 44.060854, -121.690235

Crater Creek flows down from the Crook Glacier, deep in the bowels of Broken Top's south-facing cirque.

Cross Country

Location: 44.065325, -121.684356

A light use trail heads upwards towards Broken Top's massive crater-like cirque.

Crater Lake

Location: 44.080957, -121.685321

A milky lake fills this crater-like cirque below the remains of the Bend Glacier.

Broken Hand

Location: 44.082005, -121.677017

Completion of the Broken Top loop trail requires a cross-country route below the rocky slopes of Broken Hand.

Rim Trail

Location: 44.089527, -121.659894

Finish the Broken Top loop by connecting to the Tam McArthur Rim trail.