- Trip Name: Broken Top Loop
- Trip Length: 33.4 Loop
- Trip Time: 3-4 days
- Best time to visit: Summer to early fall
- Difficulty rating: 5
- Views: 8
- Wilderness experience: 8
- Recommended activities: Backpacking
- Best for: Backpackers
- Restroom: Yes, at Green Lakes/Soda Creek trailhead
- Permit: Northwest Forest Pass ($30 annual pass, $5 day use fee payable on-site)
- Click here to download our FREE topo trail maps
- Click here to purchase the GPS file for this hike ($3)
- Click here to check out our photos from this hike
- Click here to download this trail Guide as PDF
Trip Technical Data
- Trailhead: Green Lakes / Soda Creek
- Trailhead Elevation: 5,450 feet
- Elevation Gain: 5,795 feet
Driving Directions to trailhead from Bend:
Travel Time: 45 minutes
Heading out of Bend on Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway you will pass the large sign seen to the right. From this sign you will follow Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway for 23.5 miles to the trailhead. Although this is a very popular trailhead the turn into it is unmarked. You will reach it 0.6 mile after passing the well marked Sparks Lake Recreation Area.
This 33.4 mile loop is a great three or four day backpacking trip that displays several types of terrain and forest that the Central Oregon Cascades has to offer. You will start your trip among spruce, fir and pine trees of the Cascade Crest Mountain Forest, and wander in and out of mountain meadows. After the first several miles you will enter the Cascade Subalpine ecoregion with spectacular views of South Sister and Broken Top before dropping back into the forest for quite some time. The middle half of the trip displays a couple of the destructive forces that change our forests. There are several miles each of beetle killed forest followed immediately by a section destroyed by the 2012 Pole Creek Fire. In the last third of the hike you will again gain elevation to the subalpine zone before passing Green Lakes and making you way along Fall Creek back to the trailhead.
Starting from the Green Lakes / Soda Creek trailhead find your way to the east end of the parking area to the Soda Creek Trail. Be sure to fill out your free wilderness permit here before beginning your hike. The Soda Creek Trail is easy walking for the first 1.5 miles through forest and meadows. You will then begin your ascent to the hikes high point, at 7,200 feet, in the alpine region at the base of Broken Top and Ball Butte. At 3.9 miles into the hike you will intersect the Todd Trail, turn left and stay on the Soda Creek Trail. At this intersection, over the small ridge in front of you, there is a small pond that makes for great break spot or even a swim. Follow the Soda Creek Trail for another one mile to its end at the Broken Top Trail. During this stretch of trail you will begin to obtain unobstructed views of Broken Top which will continue for several miles.
Turn right (east) on the Broken Top Trail and follow it for 2.1 miles, across several stream crossings, to the Broken Top trailhead. This is a seasonal trailhead and was still closed when we visited in mid July 2013. From the trailhead follow Forest Service Road 380 downhill for 1.3 miles to the intersection with Forest Service Road 370. Cross Road 370 past a trail sign and continue on the obvious trail into the woods for 0.2 to the intersection of the Metolius-Windigo Trail. Turn left (north) at this trail intersection. Stay alert on the Metolius-Windigo Trail as it is a very popular mountain bike trail. Shortly after joining the Metolius-Windogo Trail a small stream and several meadows make for a possible campsite.
In 3.1 miles the Metolius-Windigo Trail intersects the North Fork Trail at North Fork Tumalo Creek in Happy Valley. At this creek crossing there are many options for camping along the north side of the creek. Here, head left crossing a foot/bike bridge, to stay on the Metolius-Windigo Trail for another 1.2 miles to a Forest Service Road crossing. Once at the road intersection the Mrazek Trail goes downhill to your right and you will want to find the continuation of the Metolius-Windigo Trail across the road, to your left, as it begins to rise. Here you will see a trail sign post pointing you to Three Creek Meadow. As you enter into this section of the hike be sure that you have plenty of water with you. The next 6.4 miles to Three Creek Meadow are dry, exposed and hot. North Fork Tumalo Creek behind you is a good reliable water source. There is also Bottle Creek 1.0 mile from the Forest Service Road intersection just mentioned. I cannot attest for its reliability, however I can say it was flowing well in mid July when we passed through.
This 6.4 mile section of trail is a classic example of the beetle and drought plagued forests of the Central Oregon Cascades. Once you make your way through this somewhat easy but very hot and dry part of the trail you will end up on Forest Service Road 16 with a great view of Tam McArthur Rim directly in front of you. Cross Road 16 and head toward the Three Creek Meadow Horse Camp where you will find a vault toilet conveniently placed near the midpoint of this hike. Three Creek Lake and Driftwood make good campsites on the four day option of this hike. Follow the road to the left through the horse camp where the trail continues as it crosses a bridge over a small stream. We found this stream an oasis after the long and hot previous 6.4 miles and the barren 4.7 mile section on the Park Meadow Trail you are about to enter, through the 2012 Pole Creek Fire zone. Although this area is nearly void of life there are several stream crossings which make quenching your thirst easy.
The Pole Creek Fire zone is certainly a surreal experience offering a view into the life cycle of our forests. Although at the time we walk through here it had been only a few months since the fire was finally extinguished, there were small signs of life already starting to return. The lupine in the photo to the right, and many like it, were the ones pushing the return to life in this region.
After crossing the stream at Three Creek Meadow Horse Camp stay straight at the four way trail intersection entering into the aforementioned Pole Creek Fire zone, walking in a generally northerly direction. In 0.6 mile turn left to join the Park Meadow Trail / Metolius-Windigo Trail and continue for 1.8 miles to where the Metolius-Windigo Trail and Park Meadow Trail split. Here, head left to stay on the Park Meadow Trail. Follow the Park Meadow Trail for 3.0 miles to East Fork Park Creek and Park Meadow and the end of the Park Meadow Trail. Park Meadow is a perfect stop for the night if doing the three day option of this hike. There are many campsite options with spectacular views of South Sister and Broken Top.
Crossing East Fork Park Creek you will merge with the Green Lakes Trail. Turn left (south) towards Green Lakes. In 1.1 miles there is a well worn, unmarked, trail to Golden Lake. Golden Lake is a great camp spot if completing the four day option of this hike. It is also worth the side trip just for the view. Weather you go to Golden Lake or not, from this side trail, make your way 3.2 miles up and over the saddle between South Sister and Broken Top down to the south end of Green Lakes. Here, there is a trail intersection where you want to continue straight to stay on the Green Lakes trail heading towards Green Lakes trailhead.
The final 4.2 miles to Green Lakes trailhead descends a bit over 1,000 feet, passing Moraine Lake Trail 2.2 miles south of Green Lakes. This section of the trail follows the east side of Fall Creek with impressive lava flows on the west side of the creek. Living up to its name there are many waterfalls to stop and gaze at along Fall Creek before getting back to your car at the trailhead.
This loop of backpacking is a great way to spend several days in the Central Oregon Cascades. There are several options for your trip itinerary. See below for three and four day options.
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Three day option (camp sites):
Day 1: North Fork Tumalo Creek 11.4 miles
Day 2: Park Meadow 13.6 miles
Day 3: Out 8.4 miles
Four day option (camp sites):
Day 1: Meadow near unnamed stream 8.9 miles
Day 2: Three Creek Campground 10.4 miles
Day 3: Golden Lake 6.7 miles (plus 0.5 mile side trail to lake)
Day 4: Out 7.4 miles (plus 0.5 mile side trail from lake)