Fall Creek tumbles over one of many waterfalls near the Green Lakes Trail in Central Oregon. - Photos by Vickie Aldous

Log crossings are just half the fun

The Green Lakes Trail in Central Oregon provides views of one waterfall after another as it follows Fall Creek up into the Cascade Mountains.

At the beginning of the trailhead along Highway 46 west of Bend, Mount Bachelor looms to the southwest.

October snow has already brought several inches to the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort's slopes, although the ski area isn't slated to open until mid to late November.

Snow is also coating the top of rounded South Sister and jagged Broken Top to the north.

The Green Lakes Trail heads north 4.5 miles to the Green Lakes, which are snuggled between South Sister and Broken Top.

The trailhead has a large parking lot to accommodate the crowds of Central Oregonians and tourists who visit the trail in the summer, but with intermittent patches of snow starting to gather lower down on the trail, the crowds have thinned.

Close to the trailhead, Fall Creek is a broad, meandering stream flowing over relatively flat land.

Hikers soon cross over the creek on a large log spanning the water — one of several log crossings to come.

The trail begins its gradual uphill climb, and Fall Creek becomes a fast-moving torrent.

Within 20 minutes of walking, hikers reach the first major waterfall. The two-story-tall cascade would be a destination in itself.

But the Green Lakes Trail continues on, providing views of one significant waterfall after another about every five minutes, with numerous rapids and smaller waterfalls in between.

Patches of snow begin to appear on the trail's sides, growing more frequent as the well-maintained, easy-to-follow trail continues to climb.

Occasionally the snow blankets the trail, but the footsteps of October hikers mark paths through the snow.

At two miles into the hike, a wooden sign marks the trail to Green Lakes straight ahead and a side trail to the left that goes to Moraine Lake.

In late fall, few hikers make the side trip to Moraine Lake and it would be easy to lose the faint trail in the snow without footsteps to mark the way.

For a four-mile, round-trip hike, turn around at the wooden sign and go back down the trail following Fall Creek.

For an eight-mile-plus hike into increasingly snowy territory, continue on the trail in the direction of Green Lakes across a long, forest-covered plateau.

Fall Creek returns to a wide, meandering state as it crosses the plateau.

Glimpses of a towering wall of jagged, jumbled, cooled lava appear over the trees, along with views of Broken Top ahead and South Sister off to the left.

Snow on the trail becomes increasingly frequent.

After 4.3 miles, the trail reaches the high alpine Green Lakes and provides open views of the surrounding mountains.

This marks a good turn-around point on the hike.

Hikers who go on the Green Lakes Trail in October should be prepared with coats, gloves, hats and hiking shoes or boots with good traction to cross the occasional patches of snow.

The temperature at the 5,405-foot elevation trailhead parking lot was in the 40s on a hike earlier this month.

The temperature dropped into the 30s higher up on the trail, which hits 6,505 feet at the Green Lakes.

To reach the trailhead, travel on Highway 46, also known as the Cascade Lakes Highway, about 27 miles west of Bend.

You will pass the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort.

Once you reach a massive grassy meadow, look for the Green Lakes Trailhead to the right, just off Highway 46.

A Northwest Forest Pass or $5 day use fee is required.

Fill out a short wilderness use permit form at the beginning of the trail if you hike between Memorial Day and Oct. 31.

The trail leads into the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, where leashed dogs are allowed but mountain bikers are not.

There is no water at the trailhead or along the trail.

Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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