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Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
5.20 mi (8.37 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Short trail loop with lots of geographic variation and amazing mountain views.

Cons

Trail is very popular in the summer months.

Trailhead Elevation

5,269.00 ft (1,605.99 m)

Net Elevation Gain

720.00 ft (219.46 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Fishing
Geologically significant

Suitable for

Horseback

Location

Field Guide + Map

Comments

08/02/2018
This makes for a great, short backpacking or day trip, although do not expect solitude (even on a weekday). Last year's fire does not detract from the beauty of the area, and there are still untouched forests to hike through. The water in South Matthieu Lake was a very pleasant swimming temperature and views of North Sister were amazing. I highly recommend taking the PCT on the way back, as this article suggests- you'll be met with more solitude on the trail and epic views of Jefferson, Washington, and Three Fingered Jack with sweeping lava fields below you.

I also recommend hiking up Scott Pass a bit, which you can access right after South Matthieu Lake (see attached trail map photo). I hiked up a steep, short part of the trail to a flat area allowing for stunning views, again, and a closer view of North Sister. It was a great way to find some quiet (with the exception of the strong wind up there!)- in fact, I saw a woman backpacking in a small meadow area with North Sister directly in front of her tent. I can imagine super strong winds throughout the night, but way more solitude than down at the lakes.

I went on a Thursday night and camped at site 1 on South Matthieu Lake, which is the best site on the lake (in my opinion), because you have an entire hillside to walk along small trails and see different views of the landscape. There was a family at the site across the lake from me, including a loud teenage boy, and I could hear him yelling/talking throughout the evening and he woke me the next morning. Their three tents were also visible from my campsite. Again, be prepared to see and hear other people- I thought I could escape them on a Thursday, but that is not the case! I also saw at least three other groups backpacking throughout the evening as well. Still a beautiful trip.
07/28/2018
After the fires of 2017 I was afraid the trail to north Matthieu Lake would be depressing but I was delighted by the signs of new growth and the area around the lake was still pristine and beautiful.
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