The name “Sisters Mirror Lake” inspires dreams of seeing beautiful South Sister reflected on a mirror-like surface of a beautiful alpine lake. Not to be a Debbie-downer, but if you make the journey up to Sisters Mirror Lake, this is not what you will find. In fact, you can only see the very top of South Sister from the southern shore of the lake. What you will find is a beautiful basin, packed with four named lakes and countless ponds, divided up by lush meadows, stringers of hemlock, and rocky ridges, all in less than 2 square miles. Sisters Mirror Lake is pretty, but as a destination is nothing special. It’s the exploring once you reach the basin that makes this hike spectacular.
Begin your hike from the Sisters Mirror Trailhead, just off of the Cascade Lakes Highway near Devils Lake. The trail heads out of the western end of the parking area and quickly dives into a thick forest of lodgepole pine and mountain hemlock. You will travel up and down some small ridges for the first half a mile until you reach the intersection with the Elk Devils Trail. Head straight across, staying on the Mirror Lakes Trail and cross over Sink Creek. The creek is small and easy to ford without having to get your feet wet.
After Sink Creek, the trail begins to slowly but steadily climb on its way up to Sisters Mirror Lake. At 1.25 miles from the trailhead, you will reach a couple of small ponds at the base of Kokostick Butte (that is one hell of a name). Continue up the trail as you begin to work your way past a series of interesting lava formations. A mile from the ponds, you will pass another small pond off to your right. Following this pond, the trees begin to open up some as you gain elevation.
At 3.3 miles, you will reach the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail and the Nash Lake Trail. Vere left on PCT and start heading into the Sisters Mirror Lake basin. At only a tenth of a mile from the junction, the trail will split again, with the PCT continuing to the left and an unmaintained user trail heading right. If you are content just making it up to Sisters Mirror Lake and would like to chill on its grassy shores, head left. You will encounter the eastern shore of the lake soon. Continue along the trail is it heads south and then head down towards the lake as the trail begins to pull away from the water. There will be some nice, meadows here and the southern shore is where you can see South Sister from.
If you are up for a little more adventure and are a able navigator, head right on the user trail and venture into the lakey (I just made that word up) paradise. I can’t really tell you were to go at this point, because there are trails everywhere and no trails at all in other places. There are pretty easy to follow trails that head along the north shore of Sisters Mirror Lake and on to both Bounty and Lancelot Lakes. I would highly recommend visiting Lancelot Lake, as its rocky shores are very beautiful and there is a good chance you will have the place to yourself.
If you want to see more, head southwest past Bounty Lake to Denude Lake. There is a kind of trail that will take you from the south shore of Bounty to Denude, but after Denude, it kind of disappears. Just east of Denude, you can find Camelot Lake sitting down below some cliffs and a nice view of South Sister to the north. While there aren’t really any trails east of Denude Lake, the landscape is pretty open so navigating is not too hard. Just keep heading east, staying to the north of a couple more ponds, and you will find yourself on the Red Hill Trail in no time. Once you do, head left and continue on back to the PCT and then back past Sisters Mirror Lake. Peel off the trail on the south shore to see your mirror like view, and then begin the long march home.
From Bend, follow the Cascades Lakes Highway west of town for 27 miles, or about 8 miles past Mt Bachelor. The trailhead will be on the right side of the road, just a little bit past the Devils Lake trailhead.
Passes:A Central Cascades Wilderness Permit is required to access this area between June 15th and October 15th. The permits will be available from recreation.gov and will go on sale in early April. A Northwest Forest Pass is also required to park at this trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: The Cascades Lake Highway usually opens around Memorial Day. Expect snow on the trail into July.
Flowers: Some flowers can be found along the upper trails and in the meadows, primarily late July into early August.
Bugs: Mosquitos can be bad during the melt season, usually late June through early August.