Broken Top Crater Hike

Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

Central Oregon, Oregon

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Broken Top Crater Hike


  • Lewis' monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii).- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis).- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) along the canal.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Partridgefoot (Luetkea pectinata).- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View of Mount Bachelor looking back southeast.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Trail along the canal.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View of Broken Top (9,175') and Ball Butte at right.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Incredible wildflowers along Soda Creek.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Magenta paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora).- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View south, looking at Diamond Peak (8,743').- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Cobwebby paintbrush (Castilleja arachnoidea).- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View looking south, with the lush meadow at Sparks Lake at center.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Broken Top (9,175')- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • - Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Broken Top Crater.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View looking back at Broken Top Crater.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View of Three Sisters from Broken Top's east ridge.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View northwest, from left to right: Mount Washington (7,795'), Three Fingered Jack (7,844') and Mount Jefferson (10,495').- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Mertens' rush (Juncus mertensianus).- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • View south of Crane Prairie Reservoir and Mount Thielsen (9,182').- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • The top of the ridge just south of the lake provides excellent views of the Three Sisters.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • Wildflowers thrive by the spring melt in the lake's higher bed.- Broken Top Crater Hike
  • The moon rises over Broken Top- Broken Top Crater Hike
Overview + Weather
Incredible panoramic vistas. Wildflowers.
Very rugged 4x4 access road.
Central Oregon, OR
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,300.00 ft (396.24 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
8.40 mi (13.52 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,900.00 ft (2,103.12 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


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.

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(63 within a 30 mile radius)

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(150 within a 30 mile radius)

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