Elk Lake day hikes – PCT & bottom Sisters Loop

3 days covering a harvest moon and the fall equinox … what a time to be in the woods.

Cascades Lakes highway has much to offer regardless of your activity or gear … I chose Elk Lake for a 3-day set of day hikes, as the lake campground closest to PCT. The campground has small sites, close together up above the lake, with too many dogs. The lake has a resort and sailboats a-plenty. Access to PCT was a short 5 minute drive (Elk Lake TH). For day 3, a Devils Lake TH permit gave access to S Sister climber trail and the east side of the loop (a 10 min drive from Elk Lake).

The Plan

  • Day 1 – Elk Lake TH to PCT then south, turn around and back
  • Day 2 – Elk Lake TH to PCT then north to Mesa Creek (lunch), turn around and back
  • Day 3 – Devils Lake TH to Green Lakes tr north to burn, turn around and back

First impact on the plan, it snowed the day before and it was VERY cold day 1 and 2. While it made camping and mornings a bit harder, views were all accented with snow; and then on the third day, the clouds, wind and nasty weather threatened (but passed). Second impact was few humans day 1 and 2 – gave wildlife a chance to battle the cold without interruptions – yet day 3 was very busy on Sisters’ Loop. Wildlife seen: deer (~10x), marten, mink, and several types of raptors.

The map actually hiked over the 3 days

Red = day 1, Green = day 2, Orange = day 3 (included a scramble part-way up S Sister)

Pictures were plentiful and beautiful, so each day has a unique post.

Day 1 (PCT South)

Day 2 (PCT North)

Day 3 (Sisters Loop + S Sister)

Summary: The bottom of the Sisters’ Loop is one of my favorite spots – period. From Mesa Creek to Green Lakes there are few boring spots, and every time I see new things. The PCT south of Moraine Lake tr all the way to Charlton Lake is best left for thru hikes only (with the caveat that I saw more wildlife there than anywhere). Green Lakes is even more spectacular than Moraine. The cold on day 1 and 2 made things challenging, but a late September pass level hike was perfect.

Gear News: I finally admitted that my feet are not the same size. I either double socks on 1 foot (right) or buy different size shoes … i knew this 3 months ago, but tried to ignore it :(. My Gregory 30l day pack did not perform as well as expected and may be replaced as well – I am done w/ water bladder / hydro systems as I just cannot keep the pack balance over the whole day.

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