Key points: Broken Top, No Name Lake, Todd Lake
Mileage: Between 13 and 16 round trip with roughly 2,400′ elevation gain.
What to bring: Sunscreen, a hat, a light jacket, snacks, water, trekking poles, and good soled shoes.
Summer 2017, Oregon was ablaze with wildfires and so many of the beautiful and wild places we love were being threatened. I was living along the McKenzie River Corridor at the time and working for the Forest Service. Our house and office were within miles of a large wildfire complex and the heavy smoke had been around for weeks. On a plea to find some fresh air we woke at 4 am on Saturday of Labor Day weekend and headed for the Three Sisters Wilderness. This was the last day of my 24th year around the Sun and I wanted to summit South Sister. We wound through the Cascade Lakes Highway and arrived by 7 am at Devils Lake Trailhead to find a big fat TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO WILDFIRE sign. Working for the Forest Service I totally anticipated this but had no back up plan what so ever. Thankfully we had cell service and I quickly loaded the specs on the Sisters neighbor, Broken Top. Turns out with our early start we would have plenty of time to complete the moderate but lengthy 15 miler hike.
We parked our car at Todd’s Lake but instead of heading out on the Todd Lake Trail we walked past the gate up NF road 370 towards the Broken Top Trail head. If you have a high clearance vehicle you can drive up to this Trail head and skip the extra 2ish miles of road walking. Along this road there are great views of Mount Bachelor and Broken Top itself, additionally there are quiet a few camping spots near Middle Fork Tumalo creek. After a few slow miles take a left at the NF 380 road and park in the designated lot for Broken Top Trail.
From the Broken Top trailhead you head through a beautiful high alpine forest of White Bark Pine and Fir. You’ll come to a creek bursting with Penstemon and Indian Paintbrush, a great place to snag some pictures and shade as the remainder is a mostly exposed and sun baked trail.
Cross the creek and you’ll get your first real glimpse of Broken Top, then take the forked trail to the right that winds around and follows the creek showcasing a few stunning mini waterfalls. The trail will leave the creek for a few miles and you’ll be greeted by small snow fields.
The trail will follow the creek one last time, there are a few user trails take any that will bring you across the creek. A few more steady miles and snow field crossings and you’ll be nearing the No Name Lake! The last snow field crossing is a bit tricky as the lake creates a small stream that flows underneath the ice. Cross carefully and head up the side screes to see one of the most protected lakes in Oregon.
The lake is an amazing opaque blue, spotted with floating ice burgs and lined by high alpine wildflowers. Truly breathtaking photo opportunities await! We pickniked lakeside and tried many times to ease our legs into the water but its literally freezing!
On our way back used the Soda Creek and Todd Lakes trail to make the hike into a loop. We were pretty exhausted by the last few miles of the trip but the scenery was so gorgeous! There were multiple creeks and meadows that certainly beat our road work from the morning. I would totally recommend starting at Todd Lakes if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle that can take you straight to the broken top trail head.