Now that it’s largely the off-season with time for planning trips, it might be a good time to think about what’s ahead on your camping calendar. A good destination for some beautiful camping is always the Three Sisters Wilderness area. Located in the Cascade Mountains just outside of Bend, Oregon and up the road a few miles from Mt. Bachelor, there are a number of lakes that have camping available. There are also parking places for trailheads that go up into the Wilderness area.
The road from Bend into the mountains is known as Century Drive and is an experience in itself. The lakes on this drive just sparkle and the trees are a little bit different than on the West side of the mountains. Also, there is nothing quite like the desert air and the scent of rabbitbrush when driving through Central Oregon on your way to the mountains. The city of Bend is rumored to have 300 days of sunshine per year and if you’re from Portland, or other lush, green spots it’s nice to take a drive and be able to see for miles.
Green Lakes is about a five and a half mile hike from the parking lot on Century Drive up through the Wilderness Area. So if you do decide to camp there, you would need to have backpacking gear. If you have no experience it would be good to go with a group for your first few trips and good to go in late summer or early fall before the snow gets started. Notes about the trail by the Forest Service suggest that the trail is crowded and camping is likely to fill up early on a Friday for the weekend.
Sparks Lake, a good car-camping alternative is located about 23 miles West of Bend on the Cascade Lakes Hwy/Century Drive. It is also a feast of scenic beauty and is much easier to get to.
If you enjoy winter sports, you could tour the area now and take in the scenery near Mt. Bachelor. The folks at the ranger station, (541-383-4000), recommend parking at Dutchman Flats to do any winter recreation, because the gate across the Cascade Lakes Highway is closed nearby.
Directions from Portland: Take Hwy 26 over Mt. Hood, take the Hwy 97 exit toward Madras/Bend for 43 miles, take exit 138 to downtown/Mt. Bachelor. Then turn right on NW Colorado Ave, take the roundabout to get to the 2nd exit onto SW Colorado Ave. Then take the 3rd roundabout exit, then the 2nd exit to get to the Cascade Lakes/Century Drive turnoff. (Or stop and get directions!…and snacks..) Follow it to Mt. Bachelor and beyond until you reach the closed gate in winter or continue to further hiking and camping destinations in summer. To give you an idea of how far these destinations are from Bend, Mt. Bachelor and Dutchman Flats are about 20 miles, a turnoff for the Broken Top trail is 21 miles and Sparks Lake is about 23 miles.