Matthieu Lakes – Dee Wright Observatory

The Matthieu Lakes Trail, located on Highway 242 about 15 miles west of Sisters, Oregon, takes you through a pine forest bordering lava beds up to two small, idyllic lakes, with spectacular views of the North and Middle Sisters, Mt. Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood along the way.

Photo By: Andrea Niemiec

Location:Google Maps – Directions from Eugene

Approximately 1.5 hours from Eugene, Oregon. To reach the Matthieu Lakes trail head, from I-5 south near Eugene, take OR 126/McKenzie River Highway east for approximately 55 miles, and look for the OR 242/Old McKenzie River Highway turnoff to the right. This portion (OR 242) of the road is closed seasonally due to snow. Approximately 25 miles along 242, you will see the parking lot and sign for the Dee Wright Observatory on your left. 0.5 miles beyond the Observatory parking lot is the Lava Camp Lake campground and the Matthieu Lakes trail head. Continuing on OR 242 will bring you to Sisters, Oregon in a short 15 minute drive.

Time Involved:
Matthieu Lakes trail loop can be hiked in 2.5 hours, but plan on spending some extra time savoring the views and enjoying lunch beside one of the lakes.

Adventure Specifics:

Hiking – An easy 6 mile loop between the two lakes, with an elevation gain of 800 feet round-trip. This trail is along part of the PCT trail, so including it in a longer backpacking trip along the PCT is a possibility. Continue on past S. Matthieu Lake on the PCT several more miles to the Scott Trail junction in order to explore more of the lava lands and a nearby crater.

Camping – There is a pleasant no-fee campsite with well-maintained pit toilets at Lava Camp Lake, the departure point for the Matthieu Lakes trail. Make sure to bring in your own water, as no running water is available at this site. In addition, camp sites are available in designated locations at both of the Matthieu Lakes. These sites are rustic (no toilets/no running water) but very scenic. In particular, S. Matthieu Lake offers some exquisite views of the North and Middle Sister from the campsites.

Trail-Riding – The Lava Camp Lake has a horse camp, and the Matthieu Lakes trail allows horses and other pack animals.

Warnings: Bring insect repellent earlier in mosquito season (June/July). Hike on windy days or later in the season (August/September) to avoid insects. The usual wilderness backpacking rules apply as to waste disposal and camping further than 100 feet from bodies of water.

What to Bring: Water, sunscreen, first aid kit, and food. Be sure to also bring a camera; the views along the trail will leave you wishing you had!

Amenities: Pit toilets at trail head.

Best Time to Go: June through early October. Highway 242 (along which the trail is located) is closed most of the year due to heavy snowfall. Mosquitoes (particularly at dusk) can be an annoyance in June, shortly after the snow has melted.

General Comments: If you want to experience the Cascades up close and personal, this is an easy hike with minimal elevation gain and maximum scenic reward for your efforts.

Other Adventures Nearby: Stop by the Dee Wright Observatory (less than a mile from the Matthieu Lakes trail head) for panoramic views of the Cascades, and an up-close encounter with the otherworldly landscape of the lava flows. Highway 242 has several posted trail heads on the way from Eugene to the Matthieu Lakes; highlights include Proxy Falls, and the lovely creek side Limberlost campground (pit toilets/no running water).

Find more photos and information on this post at Andrea’s Blog – Shoestring Traveler