What are the ultimate Oregon half-day, full-day and overnight backcountry hikes?
I definitely have some suggestions. Here are some of my favorite half-day, full-day and overnight backpacking hikes:
Tumalo Mountain (Bend, Central Oregon): Tumalo is about 4-miles round-trip. The trail up Tumalo starts from Dutchman Flat parking area on Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and offers a steady climb rewarded with alpine wildflowers and beautiful views of Broken Top, the Three Sisters and the Cascade volcanoes to the north.
Mt. Bachelor (Bend, Central Oregon): Mt. Bachelor is about 6-miles round-trip. The trail starts from just right of the ski lift. Park along the side of the road at the Sunrise Lodge entrance (the parking lot is closed and gated), then walk toward the ski lift and look for the trail to your right. It winds up through the trees and pops out above treeline. The rest of the trail picks its way over lava rock, but the it’s easy to follow and the rock offers decent footing (though be careful on the descent). It will take you up to the summit ski lift, then you can continue up to the true summit via several trail options through the scree. On a clear day, you can see south all the way to Mt. Shasta in California and north to Mt. Adams in Washington. All around, you’ll see the Cascade Lakes that speckle the wilderness around Central Oregon.
Bald Mountain on the west side of Mt. Hood: This is a gorgeous area with stunning views of Mt. Hood’s rugged west side and the Sandy Glacier. Keep an eye out for huckleberries along the trail! The moderate hike is about 6.5 miles round-trip.
Here are some other great hikes near Mt. Hood. Most of these could be a half-day to full-day hike.
Mt. Defiance in the Columbia River Gorge: It’s about 12-13 miles round-trip and gains about 5,000 in elevation. It is challenging for sure! However, you’re rewarded with amazing views of the Columbia River, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood (at the top), and it’s one of the less-crowded hikes in the Gorge. I’d recommend looping back via Warren Lake Trail and jumping in the lake if it’s hot outside, then taking the Starvation Cutoff Trail back down to the trailhead. Note: This hike is very steep! Step carefully, or better yet, carry trekking poles.
Paradise Park from Timberline Lodge (Mt. Hood): This hike is about 12 miles round-trip and offers spectacular views of Mt. Hood, wildflowers in August and dramatic vistas of Zigzag Canyon. You can loop back on the famed Pacific Crest Trail through beautiful forest (and shade!)
Green Lakes/Soda Creek Trail (Bend, Central Oregon): This moderate hike is extremely popular for good reason; you’ll have the best experience coming on a weekday. It gradually climbs along a tumbling creek into a basin between South Sister and Broken Top mountains, with several pristine blue/green lakes. Take a side trip to Moraine Lake (adds about 4 miles) or continue past the first two lakes you see to another one that’s definitely less crowded. Jump in and swim if you dare! Return via the Soda Creek trail, which is amazingly beautiful and for some reason sees WAY less traffic than Green Lakes Trail. It’s about 9 miles out-and-back to Green Lakes, and 12 if you return via Soda Creek.
Any of the above full-day hikes could be make into overnight trips, especially Paradise and Green Lakes.
Matthieu Lakes (McKenzie Pass, Central Oregon): This is a relatively easy 6-mile out-and-back with plenty of camping, beautiful lakes, and great views. Drop your packs, and continue up the PCT as far as you want to go for ever expansive views of North Sister and other Cascade volcanoes.
Benson Lake & Tenas Lakes (McKenzie Pass, Central Oregon): This hike is about 6-8 miles out-and-back, including options to continue to about a mile to Tenas Lakes and climb up Mt. Scott for expansive views of the surrounding areas.
Camp Lake & Chambers Lakes (Three Sisters Wilderness, Central Oregon): This is a moderate 14-mile out-and-back trip to a pristine alpine lake nestled between Middle and South Sister. Camp here, and scramble over the moraine to the west to see more glacial lakes (called Chambers Lakes). Or if you have an extra day, summit Middle Sister via the trail on the southeast ridge!
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About Ask Oregon Expert Allison Miles
Allison Miles feels at home with dirt between her toes, snowflakes in her eyes and sweat dripping off her chin. She tests her limits while exploring Oregon's wild and beautiful secrets, taking on crumbly volcanic peaks, remote trails and less-traveled ski lines.