You’ve just completed a wonderful ride into the Three Sisters Wilderness – a ride that included lava flows, alpine lakes, and spectacular mountain views. Now you’re back at Whispering Pine Horse Camp. The horses are fed, you’ve finished a nice dinner, and you’re relaxing beside your campfire listening to the evening breeze gently rustle the tall ponderosa pines around your campsite. “Hmmm,” you think to yourself. “I bet that’s where this horse camp got its name.”
A rider relaxes in her hammock with her horse and her dog at Whispering Pine Horse Camp.
Despite the fact that Whispering Pine is only 10 miles west of the town of Sisters, this horse camp has a pleasant away-from-it-all feel. The wind whispering through the trees just adds to the ambience. And Whispering Pine offers access to some very nice riding on trails inside and outside of the wilderness.
While there is a lot of riding out of Whispering Pine, there aren’t any officially-designated trails that lead out of the camp. Instead, you’ll follow unsigned forest roads to reach your lower-elevation destinations or to reach the nearby trailheads that will take you into the Three Sisters Wilderness. While this may sound a bit daunting, don’t worry. All of the routes are easy to follow and/or are well marked with tape flagging on the trees.
Some of the trails follow old forest roads.
Here’s a sampling of the rides you can do from Whispering Pine Horse Camp:
Follow a decommissioned forest road to Millican Crater Trailhead and do a fabulous 16-mile loop through the Three Sisters Wilderness that will take you over Scott Pass, past North and South Matthieu Lakes, along several impressive lava flows, and around the base of Millican Crater.
North Sister and South Matthieu Lake.
Follow a decommissioned forest road to the Scott Pass Trailhead and complete a delightful 9-mile loop that crosses Alder and Trout Creeks and then connects with the Millican Crater Trail for the return leg.
Crossing Trout Creek on the Trout Creek Loop.
Follow forest roads to Sisters Cow Camp, a lower-elevation 11-mile out-and-back ride that offers expansive views where it runs through the area burned by the Black Crater fire.
Black Butte dominates the horizon on the ride to Sisters Cow Camp.
Follow forest roads to the summit of Trout Creek Butte. This 10-mile ride provides good views (including North Sister) on the way up and down the butte, but the forested summit of the cinder cone has no views – other than the base of the fire lookout that towers above the treetops.
North Sister from the Trout Creek Butte ride.
Getting to Whispering Pine Horse Camp: From Sisters, go west on Hwy. 242 (McKenzie Hwy.) for 6 miles. Turn left on gravel Road 1018, drive 4 miles, and turn left on Road 1520. The campground is on the left in 0.1 mile. The route is well signed.
Season: Summer through fall
Facilities: Nine sites, each with a 4-horse log corral. All sites have room for two vehicles. One site has pull-through parking and the rest are back-in. All sites have fire pits and picnic tables. Vault toilet, manure bin, garbage cans. No drinking water, but stock water is available from Trout Creek, which runs along the west side of the horse camp. Whispering Pine has no day-use parking, but day riders can drive through the camp to turn around and then park on the side of Road 1520.
Fees: Camping fee
More Information: Whispering Pine Horse Camp and its nearby trails are covered in more detail in the Trout Creek Butte chapter of Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, Ponderosa Press, 2012.
Reprinted with permission from Northwest Rider Magazine, May 2016.