Tucked away on the east slope of 9,175-foot Broken Top* is one of the most well protected lakes in the Central Oregon Cascades, not to mention the Three Sisters Wilderness. Make the hike to the 8,150-foot Broken Top Crater to view a gem replete with a deep, turquoise pool and a sweeping view of the Three Sisters and much of Eastern Oregon. Unless you choose to trek over fields of continuous snow, the hiking trail is only clear for a few months a year, and getting to the trailhead requires a high-clearance four-wheel drive capable of slogging through some deep ruts and steep pitches. The rough access and short seasonal window of opportunity makes this hike to Broken Top Crater all the more alluring.
Just after the wilderness permit information board, the trail follows a near level, man-made canal called Crater Creek Ditch. After approximately half a mile you will reach the drainage canal's end and leave the forest of mountain hemlock. The trail signage at many of the subsequent intersections can be somewhat confusing, but remembering the adventure's name does help. Contrary to what the name "Broken Top Crater" implies, you are not heading into the main, south-facing caldera of the extinct volcano where Crook Glacier lies. Rather, "Broken Top Crater" is a bowl-shaped moraine nestled on the mountain's east side. If you are ever in doubt as to which trail leads up to the "crater", simply follow the second creek that flows down between Broken Top and Ball Butte. This trail will lead you to the forever memorable top.
* Broken Top, the fourth highest peak in the Three Sisters Wilderness, is an extinct and extensively glacially-eroded stratovolcano similar to Goat Rocks in central Washington. Geologists estimate that the volcano last erupted some 100,000 years ago.
Depending on how ambitious you are, as either a driver or hiker, you can also hike to Broken Top Crater from the Todd Lake Trailhead. However, hiking this beautiful route through the Three Sisters Wilderness is a serious undertaking that is roughly 14 miles there-and-back, with 2,380 feet of net elevation gain.