Central Oregon Hiking: Green Lakes Trail


Distance from Bend: 27 miles
Length of Hike: 8 miles out and back
Time: Varies, but generally 4-6 hours
Elevation Gained: 1,150 feet
Difficulty: Easy/moderate

The Green Lakes Trail is one of the most memorable hikes in Central Oregon! It’s not just a beautiful walk in the woods, it’s an engaging experience that will randomly emerge from your memory and bring a smile to your face. Getting there is easy – just drive toward Mt. Bachelor on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and look for the trailhead sign about 27 miles from Bend.

The hike up to the three lakes is a fairly easy 8 mile round trip on a well maintained trail that quietly winds its way through a gentle forest of beautiful trees that seem to have something interesting to say when you stop and listen. As you’re listening to the breeze whispering through the branches your attention is captured by the rush of water and the crash of waterfalls on Fall Creek. Standing in awe of the rushing and falling water, you notice the brilliant colors being highlighted by the warm sun and you realize that there’s something enchanting about this hike and you let go of all pretense and just enjoy the peaceful beauty this trail delivers.


Just past the trailhead, the trail crosses Fall Creek and dives into the forest. The trail stays close enough to the creek to see all the amazing water features. Fall Creek is a beautiful creek so keep your camera ready.

The first waterfall is easy to miss if you’re not listening to the rush of the creek. You can hear the water change and the crash will lead you back down the creek to a fantastic little spot where the cold mist from the waterfall can take your breath away when you get up close.

After getting back to the trail you will follow it up a little, through some of the whispering trees.  The next waterfall is easy to see from the trail and you may have to wait in line to get your picture taken in front of this beauty. There really aren’t any more waterfalls along the trail, but the Fall Creek delivers so many striking scenes that are picture worthy you won’t want to miss any of them. Listen to the water and you will be able to see most of the beautiful scenes.


The trail finally breaks out of the trees and skirts around the South Sister lava and up to the lakes. The mirrored lakes reflect the South Sister and Broken Top. You can walk around the lakes and enjoy the view from either side. We usually sit and relax, quietly admiring the reflections in the icy water as we eat our snacks and I finish off my french press coffee.

On our way back we start out going slow so we can see the beautiful settings from another angle. Eventually, we are at a quick pace and it seems like we get down the trail pretty fast.


Joe Bales
Joe Bales creates adventure with his children. He opens doors to amazing wilderness experiences and splashes excitement and intrigue into the journey. He wars against the sedentary lifestyle with spectacular outings, capturing attention and standing in awe of natural beauty. He tweets about his adventures @alpinehikerdad and blogs at
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