An amazing hike awaits you in the Three Sisters wilderness. The Tam McArthur Rim Trail hike starts at Three Creek Lake and continues for around 4 miles onto the Broken Top trail. You have a clear view of Three Sisters and Broken Top at 3.5 miles. It gains an elevation of roughly 1700-1800 ft at the tallest point on the trail. It takes around 90-120 mins (times may vary) for an average hiker. The views (above) further up from the summit of an unmaintained trail are simply stunning. At an elevation of 8000 odd feet, be ready for snowfields as late as July.
You get clear views of the Three Creek Lake (above) and Mt Bachelor (below) along the trail. The trail climbs quickly, then relaxes a bit with a very gradual gradient and then steps up again.
You reach a cliff (below, visible from the lake) at 1250 feet and around 2.5 miles into the trail beyond which the trail is not maintained. I camped 0.5 mile further up from this point for a night and came across fresh cougar paw marks in the snow fields on the route ahead. Beware this is bear country.
Panorama at clarity of a 50mm fixed lens for amateurs interested in orology.
One of the best sites for overnight tent camping lies probably half way (at 0.9 miles) through the roughly 1.9 miles to the summit. You gain an elevation of 1100 ft to the summit of Bachelor mountain and may take around 45-60 mins (times may vary). You witness Mt Jefferson upclose.
The trail offers views to the South Cascades, esp peaks to Mt Washington North & South Sisters, Broken Top, Three Fingered Jack, Mt Bachelor, as well as Mt Adams to the North.
There are two ways to get to the trailhead in the Santiam wilderness and one of the ways (FR 1168/430) is simply not meant for passenger cars, or you may just be relying on your luck. The other one is gravel with potholes and uneven patches in some sections. Please do your research. I may be an exceptionally good driver to have managed to escape without a broken axle. 😉 Moonlight camping offered a pretty sight.
2014 Update: Night camping in a cloudy setting
2016 Update: Enroute to Coffin Mountain
Another personal favorite, great for a second or third hike at the start of the season. It not only offers generous views of the SW face of Mt Hood, but also extends its greatness 🙂 to include St Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Jefferson and Mirror Lake. You cover an elevation gain of roughly 1700 feet in 2.9 miles and takes around 90 minutes for the average hiker (times may vary). I shall definitely recommend summer (July) as the trail may carry a fair amount of snow as late as June.
Mt Hood close-up
Mt Jefferson at a distance