An intermediate 5.3 mile out and back trail nestled deep in the Deschutes National Forest in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. The trek begins near a crystal blue mountain lake called Three Creek Lake.
As you gain altitude, you can see the lake takes the shape of a heart. The pines needles on the dirt path are intoxicating. The sometimes steep climb to the top is rewarded by magical views of the Cascades and a second lake called Little Three Creek Lake.
Get Ready: Tam McArthur is southwest of Sisters, Oregon. From Bend, it’s a little more than an hour drive to the trailhead. Take Highway 20 to Sisters for about 30 miles. Once you hit the town of Sisters, be sure to gas up; it’s your last chance before you head into the woods. You’ll turn left onto South Elm Street and continue on as the road turns into Three Creek Road. Three Creek Road will then turn into NF-16. Stay on this road until it dead ends at Three Creek.
Get Set: There will be an area to park along the road. This is an easy drive, appropriate for any style of car. Animals are welcome as long they’re leashed. The trail is best used in the summer months until about October. Pro tip: there’s camping at the lake. Make a weekend out of it.
Go: The Tam McArthur Rim Trail is a steady incline upwards. Weave through pine trees on switchbacks. Within the first mile the most incredible view of Three Creek Lake emerges. The trail marches alongside it for some time and takes the shape of a heart as you climb higher and higher. This trail is truly a panoramic beauty the entire time.
Views of the Cascades are never ending.
From the pine forest, you will emerge into a stunning open meadow. You will walk through sagebrush all year long and wildflowers in the summer months. Once in the meadow, the view of Broken Top looming above is sure to astonish. From the meadow you will weave up and along the rim. The sweeping view of the blue lake, green trees below and black/red lava rock is breathtaking. You won’t want to walk back down.
Effort: This hike takes moderate effort. You will gain a little under 1,500 feet of elevation gain. There are a decent amount of flat parts mixed in to give your muscles a small break before the next charge upwards. You’ll want to spend plenty of time on the top soaking it all in, which will also give your joints time to recover.
Takeaway: This is truly one of my favorite hikes in the Three Sisters Wilderness. I think getting started early is always a good choice. You usually beat the crowds. I, however, did not take my own advice. I began my hike late in the day with only a few hours of sunlight left. The last mile or so down was in complete darkness, a move I would not recommend. I will say that sunset on top of the rim was something I will never forget. Next time, I would love to camp on top to catch both dawn and dusk. In the summer bring bug spray and sunscreen as you’re exposed on the top. In the winter or fall, be sure to bring layers.