Hiking up to the North Matthieu Lake and the South Matthieu Lake is one of my favorite hikes and I have been to these lakes on three separate occasions in the past few seasons and it has been a different adventure each time. I love to swim in the waters of the North Lake and the views of the area that the South Lake provides are unmatched.
HOW TO GET THERE:
How to get there: The beginning of this one will go from the pretty little town of Sisters,
Oregon. The Town of Sisters is located at the junction of Hwy 126, Hwy 22 and The Hwy 242 (The Mckenzie Hwy) at the base of the Central Oregon Cascade Mountains. Sisters is also known as the gate way to the Cascade Mountains as many activities that occur in the mountains occur there.
You will find the Mckenzie Hwy (Hwy 242) on the west end of the town, take in the beauty of an old western town that the city of Sisters has become while you drive thru if you are coming from the east. If you are coming from the west I recommend taking a quick spin thru town just to see it. No trip to the city of Sisters is complete without stopping at the Sisters Bakery for a scrumptious doughnut or an apple fritter. (Truly the best I have ever had)
Now I experienced that if you come to early in the season for hiking this area that the gate to the highway is closed. There is a Ranger station on the west end of town as well that can tell you if the gate is open or not before you go. If it is still June it is best to stop and ask and save yourself about 35 miles of driving.
Once you find the Mckenzie Hwy (you can ask any local, they will give you directions as they are a very friendly group.) Take the Mckenzie Hwy out of sisters and follow it to the beginning of the Lava fields. This will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 miles or so. If you want you can continue on for a few miles to the Dee Wright Observatory and get a view of where you will be hiking.
Once you get to the edge of the la
va fields start look for the entrance to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) it is also the turn for the Lava Camp Trail. The road getting back to the trailhead is rough so be prepared to dodge pot holes and avoid rocks.
AT THE TRAILHEAD:
The Trail head is on the west side of the parking lot and heads off into the green straight for the lave field. Parking is by permit during the summer months so make sure you register and pay. Try to find a place that will provide shade for your car while you hike because it will get warm while you are gone, get there early as this parking lot fills up quickly.
FILL OUT THE FORMS.
Also fill out a hiking and use form and let them know how many in your group, where you are going and when you expect to be back. This is for safety in case search and rescue needs to look for you it will give them a starting point. Remember, safety in the mountains is paramount to everyone that comes here and please remember to let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back.
WHAT TO TAKE:
Take you basic hiking gear for a day hike, I have a list click basic hiking gear list and download the page. If you plan to stay overnight I have another list of the things you will need. Below is a basic add on list to what you will come across on this particular trail.
Make sure you have at least a quart of water and some trail snacks before taking off on this hike. It is a dusty trail but shaded most of the way, we went in early July and it was very warm. Also if you go at that time bring some Mosquito repellent as well because there is a lot of standing water along the side of the trail and the little buggers are all over in late June thru late July. I recommend some swim wear and a towel for those of you planning to swim. The water is great!!!
We ran into a group of young people heading up to the North Lake to camp and they had not taken any repellent with them. They were swinging towels and scratching their limbs as we passed them. We offered them what repellent we had left with us and wished them well for the rest of the night.
THE TRAIL MAKERS.
The first marker that you will come to along the trail will be the one for the PCT, you will want to turn south here towards the Matthieu lakes. It is about another mile or so to the next marker which will give you the choice to take the PCT to the South Matthieu Lake or split off and Head to the North Matthieu Lake. There is a trail to get to the South Lake from the North Lake as it will loop back to the trail at this point.
I have gone up to the South Lake using both trails and both are great for just about anyone to hike on. The last trip up we went in a group of people whose ages range from twenty one to sixty two and all made the trip easy with some effort required. If you have health problems like issues with your heart or lungs then I don’t recommend going on this trail. It will wind you and the air is a little thinner in this area due to elevation. Always be safe.
The Trail to the North Lake is an easy to moderate hike, my friend John has leg braces and can make it to the North Lake so unless you are in a wheel chair you should be able to make this one. There will be some challenges, so take them slow and just enjoy the trip. The trail to the South Lake is a bit more challenging as it goes up quickly and can get a little steep now and then.
Depending on which way you choose to go will be your challenge as both trails offer beautiful scenery. Going up the PCT is not hard but it is a steady climb to the South Lake but it has spectacular views of the mountains to the north and when you crest the top of the trail the view of the Sisters Mountains is awesome on this trail. It is the way that we chose to go for this trip.
THE DESTINATION IS ALWAYS WORTH THE EFFORT.
The view of the Sisters Mountains (North Sister and Middle Sister only) at the South Lake is also very awesome, you are close and from the South side of the lake the PCT takes off again to zigzag along the western side of the mountains and you can see it in the distance. From this point you can see Husband and various other cinder cones.
MAKE SURE YOU KEEP YOUR ENERGY UP.
We ate a quiet and peaceful lunch at the South Lake before heading back to the trail on the north end of the lake. There you will find a marker for the loop that goes down from the PCT to the North Lake. From this vantage point the walk is down and very easy about 1 mile This will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 miles or so. southeast corner of the North Lake. This lake is more suited for camping and fishing as the wind on the South Lake can get a bit uncomfortable any time of the year.
CAMPING IS GOOD HERE.
The campsites at the North Lake are clearly marked and they do come to check to see if you are camping at them. The lake itself is cold and great for swimming and fishing. The bottom is soft and muddy so for those of you that are a little squeamish about that sort thing either get used to it because it is common with mountain lakes or get used to not smelling friendly along the trail (LOL).
We were just there for a day hike and we had forgotten our swim wear so we at a nice snack here and then moved on down the trail back to the car. The trail has a lot of different things to offer. Flowers for my wife, she loves hiking in the late spring and early summer as the wild flowers are out and everywhere.
WINDING UP BACK WHERE YOU STARTED IS A GOOD THING.
The Trail has challenges also that were good not just for me, The Fat Guy, as I get back into shape for hiking, I stayed on the main trail but there are also challenges for my son, The Adventurer, who decided to climb up a cinder cone to get a better look at the Sisters Mountains. I get excited for him when he conquers a new challenge and discovers that he has what it takes to take the challenges on and grow from them.
Hiking back from the North Lake down the loop trail you go through some of the most beautiful forest in Oregon. There are many snow melt ponds and areas that are muddy from the recent snow melt. It takes about an hour to get back to the PCT. Once we were at the trail marker for the Lava Camp Trail we were tired but knew that we had made it back okay. We also had enjoyed the 6 mile loop to the lakes and talked about when we would next visit them and try to remember to bring fishing poles and swim wear.
I enjoyed writing this almost as much as I enjoyed hiking the trail. Leave me some comments on your experiences along the trail, I will enjoy reading and answering them.
I am always at your service,
THE FAT GUY.
More Pictures in the Matthieu Lakes Gallery