Today the weather improved and we wanted to do a nice long hike. We drove south to Bend and took the Cascades Lakes HWY 26 miles past Mt Bachelor to the trailhead for the Green Lakes Trail, an 8.4 mile round trip hike. We started up the trail around 11:30 am, it was a gradual climb, a 1,100 feet elevation gain, through beautiful large firs, cedars and hemlocks alongside a rushing waterfall-laden creek. After two miles on the path up Fall Creek we crossed over two single-log bridges with no railing to hold onto for support. No fear, we both made it across safely. Then we came to a strangely idyllic canyon walled by an enormous lava flow, and the higher up the trail we went we found snow, not too deep that we couldn’t get through it or around it. We finally reached the snow covered alpine basin of the Green Lakes, still mostly frozen, with spectacular views of the South Sister and Broken Top Mountains at opposite ends of the lake.
There are 28 campsites around the lake and in the summer it is very crowded, and I can understand why, this is wilderness at its best. The only problem with this trail is that the Green Lakes are icy cold all summer, too cold even for dogs. Ice-water literally pours off of South Sister into the Green Lakes. We ate our lunch on the edge of this pristine lake and then headed back for the 4.2 mile descent to the Jeep. This is everyone’s favorite trail and we definitely agree, as it was just as beautiful going down, and we were almost all alone the entire time. Normally there is too much snow to hike here in June as the road is closed until mid-July but due to the lack of snow this year we were able to hike the Green Lakes Trail.
On our way back we stopped in to see Sparks Lake and so glad we did for this is the most scenic of all the Cascade Lakes. The rugged lava-clad shoreline makes a perfect foreground framing for the South Sisters/Devils Garden/Broken Top to-die-for panorama. (Bob nailed it!) We took the one-mile loop trail along the scenic shoreline and through the lava fields, and marveled at the iconic mountain/lake scene even the clouds were perfection. Sparks Lake is a photographer’s dream and it was a favorite of Ray Atkeson, Oregon’s Photographer Laureate.