Green Lakes is my number three spot in the Cascades right after Jefferson Park and Sky Lakes Wilderness. I spent a weekend there because my first choice did not work out, but this park-like valley nestled between South Sister and Broken Top is worthy of a visit on its own merits.
You might have a bug-free opportunity to enjoy these splendid lakes about half an hour west of Bend near Mt. Bachelor. In the Cascades there is usually a little window of time in late spring near the end of the snowmelt when there are few bugs. The trade-off is mud, but shoes are washable! If there is a window this year (snow is lasting into the hot summer) it will probably be short, so backpack into these lakes in the next couple of weeks or so.
However, I would recommend visiting during the week. The Bend area seems populated by hikers, bikers, and runners. When I was there on an August weekend the trail was crowded!
The four mile trail steadily ascends along the bank of Fall Creek. During most of the trip you will see and/or hear water. About a mile from the trailhead you will pass a waterfall.
There is a big lake with a couple of smaller lakes around it. Scattered among these are numbered campsites. If they are full you must continue past the lakes into the Sisters Wilderness to camp, or you must turn around. When I was there, they all filled up by Saturday night.
If you have kids with energy and ambition, then you will like this area. The trail to Broken Top takes off from the southeast corner of the main lake. You can hike, then scramble a bit along a ridge to the landing below the peak. It will take mountaineering equipment to get to the very top.
There is also a trail that ascends through the rocks to South Sister from the west side of the big lake. It meets up with the main trail from Cascade Lakes Highway, then climbs to the top along a wide ridge of loose lava. It reminded me of climbing a sand dune. The views from the top will be remembered for a long time!
I usually highlight quiet, meditative spots, but that could be hard to find in this area. However, God made us social beings so I would recommend visiting Green Lakes and climbing South Sister for the purpose of enjoying the company of other like-minded nature lovers. The main trail on the ridge to the top of South Sister can be a veritable highway with perhaps 100 hikers on it, but everybody is friendly and makes way for those going up and down.
When you get ready to leave Green Lakes you might consider returning by the Soda Lakes trail. It completes the loop by leaving the valley on the southeast and bringing you to the parking lot on a circuitous and scenic route. It will drain lots of energy from those bouncing kids! Consider it a natural treatment or prevention for ADHD.
by Ed Lyons, 6/9/17