This spectacular Three Sisters Wilderness ride has it all: dense forest, lava flows, a burn scar, picturesque lakes, and expansive views. Beginning in 2021, you’ll need a Limited-Entry Permit to do this ride, but it’s SOOOO worth the extra hassle!
- Moderate difficulty
- 10.5 miles round trip
- Elevation 5,200-6,100 feet
The ride starts at Lava Camp Lake Trailhead, off Hwy. 242 (the McKenzie Highway) about 14 miles west of Sisters. You’ll follow the Millican Crater Trail past its namesake cinder cone, traveling for a time through the area burned by the 2017 Milli Fire.
Then you’ll turn onto the Trout Creek Tie Trail, which will take you to the Scott Pass Trail.
The Scott Pass Trail will take you over Scott Pass, with its panoramic views of lava flows and cinder cones.
Then you’ll reach a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Turn right on it, and in a short distance, you’ll come to South Matthieu Lake, which offers a good view of North Sister over the lake. At this point, you can choose to stay on the PCT or detour on the North Matthieu Lake Trail.
The North Matthieu Lake Trail is more scenic, so take it. You’ll travel past North Matthieu Lake and an impressive lava flow, then rejoin the PCT. Then you’ll turn off on the Lava Camp Lake Trail to return to the trailhead.
Limited-Entry Permits go on sale the first Tuesday of April each year when the Forest Service releases 20% to 50% of the coming summer’s permits. The remaining 50% to 80% of the permits will become available seven days before the permit’s date. If you like to plan things, you can buy your permits in April for your choice of dates and trails for the coming summer. Or, you can wait until a week before your ride to get your permit. Permits cost $1 per person for day rides and are available at www.recreation.gov.
Learn more about the Millican Crater/Matthieu Lakes Loop in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.