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Three Sisters Wilderness

General Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Images
An iconic mountain scene of a small tent pitched amid the snow, looking up slope to rugged snow-covered peaks, drenched in rich evening light.
Library image #48: Tent with skis surrounded by snow, overlooking mountains.

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the Three Sisters Wilderness (map) in 1964 and it now has a total of 281,190 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Oregon and is managed by the Forest Service. The Three Sisters Wilderness is bordered by the Mount Washington Wilderness to the north and the Waldo Lake Wilderness to the south.

Description

The high, snowcapped Three Sisters (North Sister at 10,085 feet, Middle Sister at 10,047 feet, and South Sister at 10,358 feet) embellish the eastern side of this Wilderness, the second largest in Oregon. If you include Broken Top at 9,175 feet just to the south, you have 14 glaciers offering perhaps the best example of the effects of glaciation in the Pacific Northwest. Collier Glacier, between North and Middle Sister, is the largest sheet of ice in Oregon.

Here is a fabulous volcanically formed landscape of lava fields, waterfalls, alpine meadows, lakes and streams teeming with brook and rainbow trout, and a lush forest of Douglas fir, silver fir, subalpine fir, mountain hemlock, western hemlock, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, and true fir.

The headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Squaw Creek likewise emerge here. Only State Highway 242 separates Three Sisters Wilderness from Mount Washington Wilderness to the north. Waldo Lake Wilderness shares the southern boundary.

You'll find about 260 miles of trails, including 40 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail running north-south, and human traffic in multitudes estimated to exceed every other Wilderness in the state. Green Lakes, Obsidian, Sunshine, Erma Bell Lakes, and the climbing trail to South Sister are especially used and abused. The Chambers Lakes Trail leads 7.1 miles from Pole Creek to Chambers Lakes, all the while encompassed by the dramatic glaciers of South and Middle Sister, where ice can appear year-round, the growth is limited to wind-twisted pines, and the rock-rimmed beauty will take your breath away.

Planning to Visit the Three Sisters Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Three Sisters Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.



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