- Trip Name: Tam McArthur Rim
- Trip Length: 5.3 mile out-and-back
- Trip Time: 2-3 hours
- Best time to visit: Late spring to early fall
- Difficulty rating: 5
- Views: 8
- Wilderness experience: 6
- Recommended activities: Day hike
- Best for: Hikers, families, dogs
- Restroom: Maybe, porta potties at trailhead
- Permit: FREE Wilderness permit, self-serve at trailhead
- Recommended map: Central Oregon Hiking Trail Map by AdventureMaps.net
- Click here to download our FREE topo trail map
- 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 a PDF
Trip Technical Data
- Trailhead: Tam McArthur Trail
- Trailhead Elevation: 6,545 feet
- Viewpoint Elevation: 7,730 feet
- Elevation Gain: 1,410 feet
Driving Directions to trailhead from Bend:
Travel Time: 1 hour
Head west on Highway 20 into Sisters, Oregon. Once in downtown Sisters turn left onto Elm Street. There is a brown sign on your right pointing you to Three Creeks Lake (although it is a bit hidden by buildings). As you continue, Elm Street turns into Forest Service Road 16 (FS-16). Follow this road for 14.9 miles to a fork in the road. This fork will come about one mile after the pavement ends and you are on a gravel road. Stay right at the fork on FS-16 and continue for about 0.8 mile to the trailhead. There is a small parking lot at the entrance to Driftwood Campground and there is also plenty of room to park on either side of the road.
The Tam McArthur Rim Trail is an easy, but steep in some sections, trail that leads to great close up views of the Central Oregon Mountains and long distance views extending north to Mount Adams in Washington State. After navigating several switchbacks the trail leads to an open plateau before its final ascent to the cliff edged viewpoint at the official end of the trial.
Starting from the trailhead off FS-16, marked by the Wilderness Permit station, the trail immediately starts to climb. This climb is gentle at first as you rise above the road and gain views of Three Creek Lake. You'll come to the first of the many switchbacks about a half mile into the hike and will have gained nearly 600 vertical feet by 0.9 mile. The ascent gets a bit easier for the next 1.3 miles as you walk along the plateau above the rim.
Once you reach the hike's 2.2 mile mark you will be at the bottom of the final climb to the rim overlook. This section could be very hot in the mid-summer because there is no shade to be found. This last little climb measures only half of a mile and gains 330 vertical feet. At the top there is a sign marking the official end of the trail. Turn to your right to find the obvious cliff edge viewpoint.
From the viewpoint, starting from the south (to your left) and going north you will see Broken Top, South, Middle and North Sister. On a clear day you may also see Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood and maybe even Mount Adams.
Although the trail officially ends here its does continue west along the rim top and then a bit more to the south traversing along a red cinder cone before it ends at the base of Broken Hand. Even though this trail is well worn, as always, use extreme caution when traveling off trail.
The trail is technically an out-and-back hike but you will see an obvious split in the trail just after you leave the view point and head back down. This split to the left will lead you along and old section of the trial closer to the rim edge giving you several viewpoints to the north over Three Creek Lake and Little Three Creek Lake. From the split you will rejoin the trail you ascended in 0.8 mile. Follow the main trail the remaining 1.6 miles back to the trailhead ending your 5.3 mile hike.
Who the heck is Tam McArthur? Lewis "Tam" McArthur worked for the Pacific Power and Light Company and was also the secretary of the Oregon Geographic Board. Check this out for more info.
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