Fires in Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

August 17th, 2017

Multiple fires are now burning along the PCT in the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail is closed between Elk Lake (mile 1,950) and Lava Camp Lake (mile 1,980) near McKenzie Pass and Highway 242. Much of the rest of Three Sisters Wilderness is also closed and will remain closed at least through the eclipse.

Update at 8:25 pm on 8/17/17: we no longer recommend walking from Elk Lake to Sisters. The fires in this area are growing. It’s probably best to sit tight. Read more about how to react to wildfires.


Closure map

As of 8/17/17 there is no current closure map. We are told that the closure is expanding. Stay tuned for an updated map from the Forest Service.

How to get around the closure

This closure, combined with the Whitewater Fire closure on Mt. Jefferson, means that it is hard to hike much of the PCT in Central Oregon.

There are lots of ways to handle these closures. Here are a few ideas.

If you are in the area during the eclipse, note that significant overcrowding is expected. Hotels and campgrounds—anything reservable—is already reserved. Traffic will be bad on days around the event. On eclipse day, gridlock is predicted along highways in the totality zone. This can seriously affect people trying to start a hike, end a hike, or resupply. Long-distance hikers hoping to pass through Sisters or Bend immediately around the event will be impacted.

1) Hike north from Elk Lake on the east side of Three Sisters to the town of Sisters, Oregon

Update: the Milli Fire grew towards Sisters and we no longer recommend walking any alternate from Elk Lake to Sisters. We recommend leaving the trail at Elk Lake. We’re leaving this information up for a while in case any hikers are already on the alternate.

Map from the afternoon of 8/17/17 shows thick smoke on the alternate (green line)

Download and print this detour map: Elk-Lake-to-Sisters-PCT-detour-map-8.17.17 (21mb PDF). This is a GeoPDF that can also be opened in the Avenza app.

This route combines some very scenic hiking with some road walking.

  1. Exit the PCT at mile 1950.1 by heading east on Island Meadow Trail #3 for one mile (towards Elk Lake)
  2. Take Cascade Lakes Highway Forest Service road #46 to the north  approximately 5 miles to Devils Lake
  3. Head North on South Sisters Climbing Trail #36 (located at the turn in the Hwy) for 1.9 miles
  4. Head East (turn right)  on Moraine Lake Trail #17.1 for 2.5 miles
    NOTE: This alternate was modified from here north on 8.17.17 as the Milli Fire grew. Ignore previous directions and go this way instead:
  5. Head north (turn left) on Green Lakes Trail #17  for 7.9 miles to Park Meadow Trail #4075
  6. Head east (turn right) on Park Meadow Trail #4075 for approximately 5.6 miles to the Park Meadow Trailhead
  7. Travel north on Forest Road #16 for approximately 16 miles to the town of Sisters.

Then, either walk up Highway 242 (not recommended unless the road closes to cars) or shuttle north in a car. To resume walking north and the open portion of the PCT (a 28 mile section, from mile 1980.1-2008.7, is open before you get to the Whitewater Fire closure), head west on 242 to the Lava Camp Lake trailhead.

Doesn’t sound like something that you want to do? You might just head to Bend from Elk Lake and skip walking to Sisters.

2) From Sisters, Oregon

Evening update on 8/17/17: Highway 242 is now closed due to the Milli Fire. Some residences in the Sisters area are apparently under evacuation.

A) The “hike as much of the PCT as possible” option still requires car support

The trail is open from Highway 242/McKenzie Pass (mile 1980) to Marion Lake Trail (Trail # 3437)/Minto Pass (mile 2008.5). It’s a beautiful section if it’s not smokey. Highway 242 is a twisty mountain road that we don’t recommend walking. To get back to the PCT from Sisters, we recommend getting a ride in a car.

Because Highway 242 is closed, you won’t be able to walk from McKenzie Pass to Santiam Pass. If you make it to Santiam, you could head north for a bit. But realistically, with these fires, you probably should just wait for the situation to evolve or skip north.

You’ll then hike north to the Marion Lake Trail. Take the Marion Lake Trail and then the road, west to Highway 22 near Marion Forks. From there, you should get in a car and travel through the town of Detroit and then back to the PCT at Britenbush Lake. We don’t recommend walking the highway in this area. From Detroit, drive up road 46 to road 4220 (a somewhat rough dirt road) and up to Britenbush Lake.

From Britenbush Lake, hike north and have a wonderful time!

B) Take public transit further north to near Mt. Hood <- perhaps the best option at time of writing

Depending on the day of the week, you can take a series of buses from Sisters, through Bend and/or Redmond and on towards Government Camp near Mt. Hood. It seems like using public transit will require overnighting in Redmond, Oregon.

Try asking the last bus driver to drop you off where the PCT crosses Highway 26. It’s at Wapinitia Pass, 7.2 miles before Government Camp. There is a trailhead parking area there. It’s near Frog Lake. This is mile 2084 on the Pacific Crest Trail.

For public transit information, here’s some information

C) Get a ride north to Britenbush Lake

If you have someone to drive you to Britenbush Lake, it’s a pretty good option. You’ll skip the Whitewater Fire closure, rejoining the PCT at the northern boundary of the closure.

D) How about going to Eugene and up the west side?

To us, it seems easier to stay on the east side of the Cascades. But if you have some other good idea, go for it!

How about continuous footsteps?

We’ve spent considerable time looking into obscure trails and dirt roads to get you around these closures and have come up short. Especially for the Whitewater Fire, we couldn’t find a good, safe, legal and efficient way to walk around the closure. The idea of walking the Deschutes River all the way to the Columbia River Gorge has been floated, but it’s so, so far away from the trail that we won’t be exploring its feasibility.

Whitewater Fire on Mt. Jefferson, Oregon

August 16th, 2017

Due to the Whitewater Fire in Oregon’s Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, the PCT is closed from the Marion Lake Trail (Trail # 3437)/Minto Pass (2008.5) north to Breitenbush Lake (mile 2037).

The trail will remain closed through the eclipse. Read the announcement.

Pacific Crest Trail hikers traveling north have the option to hike along the PCT to the Marion Lake Trail and exit to the west, picking up the trail again at Breitenbush Lake (be sure to check if the road is open or closed), or exit at Santiam Pass, south of the Marion Lake Trail.

To the south, the Three Sisters Fires further complicate the situation

Please head on over to the Three Sisters Fire page for information about that closure, and a combination bus/walking alternate that skips both of these fire closures.


Closure map

Agency detour map


Alternate suggestion

Sorry, we recommend shuttling around the closure. We looked into dirt roads to walk around the closure and couldn’t find any reasonable options. The highways are largely shoulderless and we don’t recommend walking them.

Spruce Lake Fire in Crater Lake National Park

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August 16th, 2017

Major portions of the official Pacific Crest Trail are closed in Crater Lake National Park.  However, the West Rim Road and the Rim Trail are open.

Immediately to the south is the Blanket Creek Fire.

The PCT remains open from North Rim Road, northward out of the park. It is closed everywhere else in the Park.

If you’re a hiker that still wants to hike through, there aren’t any good options. Smoke is thick in the park. You may want to avoid the area even if it’s open. Check out our satellite images. 




Blanket Creek is the southern fire. Spruce Lake is the northern fire.


Blanket Creek Fire in Sky Lakes Wilderness and Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

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August 16th, 2017

The Blanket Creek Fire is burning west of the Pacific Crest Trail in Sky Lakes Wilderness and the southern part of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. The Spruce Lake Fire is burning just to the north. Together, now called the High Cascades Complex, they have closed much of the PCT in Crater Lake National Park.

In short, the only section of PCT open in the park is from North Entrance Road to Highway 138. That’s the northern part of the park. But the Rim Trail recently reopened, and that’s the most popular route around the lake.

We are told that signs have been posted at the southern end of this closure at the junction of the PCT and the Sevenmile Marsh Trail and that that would be the easiest and last place to bail off the PCT before the National Park.




Blanket Creek Fire is the southern one. Spruce Lake fire is the northern one.


Indian Creek Fire in Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

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August 8th, 2017

The upper Eagle Creek Trail and other trails are closed due to the Indian Creek Fire. The official PCT remains open but the Indian Springs Campground (mile 2125) and the Wahtum Lake Campground (mile 2128) along the PCT are closed to camping. Water will still be available at the Indian Springs Campground.

Camping update from August 14, 2017

Download a PDF version of the document below.




Hazardous snow conditions on Crater Lake’s rim

By: Ian
July 13th, 2017

As of mid-July, Crater Lake NP staff is asking PCT hikers to avoid walking the Rim trail due to hazardous snow conditions and road construction on the West Rim Drive. PCT hikers are being asked to stay on the official PCT route west of the Rim. And please note, due to the lingering snow pack on the PCT some sections of the PCT have not been logged out yet. So, please plan accordingly. Hikers can visit the Rim Village to view the lake but please return to the main PCT route as you continue your journey. The PCTA and CLNP staff thank-you. Good luck and be safe!

snow pack too deep to find trail – Deschutes National Forest

By: Rachel Guthrie
July 12th, 2017

As of last week, the initial PCT section of the Diamond Peak Loop (after cutting over from Yoran Lake) was covered in at least 6-10 feet of snow and we had to turn back before even reaching our first night to camp. Those experienced at using GPS and who have appropriate snow gear might succeed but we did not (we were stopping every 10 minutes to consult GPS and topo maps as trail was hidden and frequently found ourselves off course). Due to the melting snow, the mosquito populations are dense and mosquito netting, bug spray and clothing head to toe is recommended.

Early season snow has now covered section D

By: Adda
October 26th, 2016

Recent storms have dropped significant early snow on this section. Snow line seems to be ~5300ft, so most of this section is now under snow. Some patches are only ankle deep, but a few days ago it was up to knee deep in other areas. There is enough snow to make spotting the trail challenging. Cut fallen logs are still visible, so that helps spot the trail. Blazing is so-so, and combined with limited visibility conditions to spot topographical landmarks non-GPS navigation could be challenging through this area. It has been raining on the snow so it’s heavy and wet currently. Melting may occur near 6000ft, but there is enough snow I think likely this section will not melt out again before true winter. Plenty of water from snow and snow melt streams. Forest road 60 up to windigo pass PCT trailhead has over a foot of snow on it near the pass, making trailhead access difficult. High-clearance 4WD vehicle with snow tires required.

Photo by: Nathaniel Middleton