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Camp Lake Trail

The Camp Lake Trail is a spectacular high-elevation Central Oregon trail that offers a truly memorable horseback experience.  This ride will take you through old growth forest, past fractured rock outcroppings, across a glacier-fed creek, and above timberline to a pretty lake surrounded by the Three Sisters.  The close-up views of Middle Sister’s glaciers are a bonus.

Camp Lake Trail
Camp Lake and South Sister.

Difficulty:  Challenging.  The upper section of this trail is not appropriate for inexperienced horses or riders.

Distance:  13 miles round trip

Elevation:  5,300 to 7,000 feet

Camp Lake Trail
On the trail to Camp Lake.

The Ride

You’ll follow the Pole Creek Trail, the Green Lakes Trail, and the Camp Lake Trail to reach Camp Lake.  Most of the ride is moderate, with reasonable elevation gains as the trail travels through the forest.  However, as you approach the lake, the trail becomes steep, rocky, and narrow.  About 4.5 miles into the ride you’ll cross the North Fork of Whychus Creek.  The creek is fast-flowing, and so filled with glacial silt that you can’t see the bottom.  Crossing it is an interesting experience.

Camp Lake Trail
The North Fork of Whychus Creek is filled with glacial silt, so you can’t see the bottom as you cross it.

Luckily for all of us, this area was not burned by the 2017 Milli Fire, so the trail should be open and accessible when summer comes and the high-country snows melt.  As you ride, please send a mental thank-you to the hard-working volunteers who use cross-cut saws to clear the fallen trees that block this Wilderness trail.

Camp Lake Trail
You’ll enjoy close-up views of the glaciers on Middle Sister.

Getting There

The ride starts at Pole Creek Trailhead, located about 12 miles south of Sisters, Oregon.  From Sisters, drive west on Hwy. 242 (McKenzie Hwy.)  In 1.5 miles, turn left on Road 15.  In 2.5 miles you’ll pass the entrance to Sisters Cow Camp.  Continue on Road 15 for eight more miles, to the trailhead at the end of the road.  The trailhead is very popular with people who are backpacking around the Three Sisters, so be sure to park so that your trailer can’t be blocked in by hiker cars.

The closest horse camping is at Sisters Cow Camp.

Camp Lake Trail
The Three Sisters, from near Camp Lake.

Learn More

You’ll find more information about the trail to Camp Lake in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2012), available at

Reprinted with permission from Northwest Rider Magazine, January 2018.

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