Central Oregon Hiking: Tam McArthur Rim

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Distance from Bend: 38 Miles (15 miles from Sisters)
Length of Hike: 5 miles round trip
Time: 2 to 3 hours
Elevation Gained: 2,400 feet
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

This trail will always have a very special place in my heart. When we first moved to Bend, about 10 years ago, I took each of my children, one on one, to the rim for an overnighter. I had a fantastic time with each of them hiking up to the lookout, exploring, watching the sun set and hanging out. The next day was different for each as they got to choose the adventure. We explored everything from the route to Broken Top to the wildflower fields south of the rim and the snow packs scattered across the plateau.

This Central Oregon hike is extremely intriguing because you climb up to 7,730 feet in just two and a half miles and the views are awesome. As you progress up the trail, the rim seems to watch you through the trees, inviting you to come up and join in the adventure.

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You can still hear the families playing in the lake below, as you continue to hike up the dusty trail.  It doesn’t take long before the voices fade and it becomes calm enough for peace to set in and you start to relax. As you’re walking, there are many opportunities to cut off the trail and look out over the rim at the beautiful views.

You will follow the trail above tree line fairly quickly and that makes the views even better. Sometimes it seems like you can see forever.

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The trail does climb a bit, but my kids love this hike and we just slowed the pace and took breaks when they were young. Before you know it, you’ll be at the rim lookout surrounded by 500 foot rock walls and a view that makes the climb up that rocky trail worth every step.

The exploration opportunities are endless from the rim lookout. You will find several snow packs to play in, wild flowers to admire, rock bluffs to climb or the meandering trail to follow.

Now that the kids are all strong hikers, we follow the trail to Broken Top. The kids love playing on the snowpack while climbing up the red ridgeline to Broken Hand. We’ve followed the faint goat trail around the left side of the cliffs and we have veered right and played in the snow down into the plateau and hiked around those ominous rock walls.

Either way, we hike our way to the base of Broken Top and marvel at the glacier lake on its north side.  It is so peaceful and relaxing to sit, take pictures and take-in the beauty.

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Depending on how much extra traversing you decide to enjoy, the trip to Broken Top will add up to about twelve miles round trip.

As usual, the trip back goes quick. Most of the time, we pass several campers setting up for the night along the trail heading back to the lookout.  Sometimes it will be a Boy Scout troop and other times its just one or two people enjoying Central Oregon. There are plenty of nice camp sites for everyone to get a great spot.

The stars filling the night sky are amazing from up there. Enjoy!

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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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