The Obsidian Limited Entry Area, within the Three Sisters Wilderness, requires additional protection in an effort to preserve the natural beauty and wilderness experience; therefore a limited entry quota is in effect. Under this quota, 30 day hikers and 40 overnight visitors are permitted into the area each day.
Permits for the Obsidian Limited Entry Area become available for advanced reservation annually on May 1 for season dates beginning the Friday of the Memorial Day holiday weekend and ending October 31.
The road to the Obsidian Trailhead does not open to motor vehicles until the third Monday in June at the earliest, depending on snow conditions. The road is always open to non-motorized use.
This unique landscape encompasses crystal clear streams, wildflower meadows, rugged mountain views, young lava flows and obsidian cliffs. The cliffs were an important source of naturally occurring volcanic glass used by Native Americans to craft tools.
The area contains a number of lakes, streams and springs, including Obsidian Falls, which can be viewed from the trail. The trail also passes through lava flows and over ridges that offer breathtaking mountain views. Cross-country travel skills are necessary to access the high lakes and mountain peaks.
Obsidian is abundant throughout the area and makes up a large part of the areas rich cultural history.
Backpacking, day hiking, mountaineering and horseback riding are the most common forms of recreation in the area during the short summer season, after snow has receded. Opportunities for nature photography also abound.
Access to the Obsidian Limited Entry Area begins at the Obsidian Trailhead, located just off historic Highway 242. The Obsidian Trail #3528 climbs more than 2,000 feet in elevation, branching to the left to connect to Trail #4336. Both trails connect to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, providing a popular 12-mile, day-long loop for hiking or riding. Hikers and equestrians should obtain a detailed map of the area before planning a trip, and inquire in advance about trail conditions, particularly early in the season.
There are no facilities within the Limited Entry Area or the Wilderness Area. Facilities at the trailhead include parking, bathrooms, picnic tables, stock hitching posts and wilderness and interpretive information about the area. Visitors must practice "Leave No Trace" skills, including properly disposing human and pet waste and packing and carrying out all trash.
Recreation Pass required in addition to the Limited Entry Permit:
Use of the Obsidian Trailhead requires a recreation pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass, which must be purchased before arriving at the trailhead. Passes can be obtained at McKenzie River Ranger Station online (day passes only) or any of these vendors.
The Obsidian Limited Entry Area is along the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway on Highway 242. Many hiking and camping opportunities are along the highway. Major attractions include the Proxy Falls waterfall hike and Dee Wright Observatory. The Dee Wright Observatory was built into the lava rock at the top of McKenzie Pass, and it provides spectacular views of volcanoes in the area.