The Matthieu Lakes Loop offers a wonderful variety of terrain and scenery in a short distance. From green alpine forest and black lava flows to clear blue lakes and big mountain vistas, this 7-mile loop is a great way to tour this dynamic area. The route includes the option of camping at North or South Matthieu Lake. If you are looking for a shorter day trip, consider visiting one lake for a quick there-and-back hike.
Starting at the Lava Camp Lake Trailhead, the trail weaves through a fir and hemlock forest that flirts with the edge of a lava flow. A bright green carpet of huckleberry bushes flanks the trail, and small, tranquil ponds hold the winter runoff.
Once you reach North Matthieu Lake, look for a a small island that stands to one side of the lake against a backdrop of the black lava flow, a great destination if you are looking for a swim. If you'd like to hike on, continue on the trail around the lake and wind your way up to the South Mattieu Lake. While South Matthieu Lake is considerably smaller, the high alpine character of the lake and the amazing view of North Sister and Middle Sister makes this the apex of the hike. The waters are frigid, but this can be a welcome relief on a hot summer day in the exposed high alpine. Camping is permitted at both lakes. Due to the high volume of visitors, camping is only allowed in designated backcountry sites. There are seven campsites around North Matthieu Lake and three around South Matthieu Lake. Campfires are prohibited at both lakes.
When heading back to the trailhead, stay on the Pacific Crest Trail to enjoy big views north to Mount Hood and even a view down to the Lower Matthieu Lake.