Views Worth the Hike at Broken Top
Broken Top is a volcano that has been eroded by glaciers, exposing the cone. The hike is about 3 miles long, with a 1,400-foot elevation gain, and the summit sits at 9,175 feet.
Dogs are allowed on the trail and there are plenty of opportunities for them to drink water from the stream that runs alongside or nearby the trail throughout the hike. There is also a small lake at the top which dogs can drink from or swim in.
The trail starts off easy with beautiful views of Mt. Bachelor and the Broken Top Crater from between the trees. At about .8 of a mile in make sure to stay to the right and continue uphill at the fork. As you finish climbing the first short uphill stretch the trail crosses the creek and will follow near it throughout the rest of the hike. The path is packed dirt, but contains areas of loose rock and sandy slopes, so it can get a little dusty at times. I found myself hoping that every one of the steeper uphill stretches was my last but only because I neglected to look at a single trail map before heading up towards the crater. Luckily it was a very easy route to follow and most of the steep portions of the trail are broken up by flat stretches so I was able to catch my breath.
Throughout the hike I paused to take in the scenic views of the mountains and Cascade Lakes in the distance, all framed by the surrounding hills which were covered in late summer wildflowers. As I neared the top, I started to notice patches of snow that were still around in September along the creek bed, some of which formed into interesting shapes and ridges. My dogs were brave enough to test their strength (as I yelled at them not to) and I was surprised that most of the snow was hardened and could support them easily.
The short final climb to the lake was the most treacherous part of the trail, but as I reached the lake I saw that an 8-year-old and her grandparents had done it faster than me. In my defense, I was recovering from an ankle injury and trying to herd a couple of dogs along the way. I like to think that normally I would walk faster than a small child. Arriving at the turquoise water of the lake with the reds and purples of the layered rocks behind — it was stunning.
The surface of the water on the far side was still covered in ice and snow that hadn’t melted, which meant my dogs would be swimming alone. Especially because I had forgot to bring my jacket. A couple of people I passed going up the trail earlier on told me that the lake was their turning around point on the hike. I do not recommend this at all. The one last steep stretch from the lake to the peak is tiring but it is 100% worth it. At least half of the photos I took of the hike were at the peak, partly because I’m not a real photographer and couldn’t figure out how to get a panoramic photo, but enjoying the views from the top was worth climbing the last stretch of the trail.
*The National Forest roads that lead to the Broken Top Crater trailhead are an off road adventure on their own and definitely require a vehicle with 4×4. The 3 miles of potholes, ruts, and rocks were somewhat easy to drive over in my Explorer, but I was very impressed to see a couple of cars make the drive successfully too.
Directions: Head to Todd Lake on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Drive through the parking area for Todd Lake and at the end continue up road NF 370 for about 3 miles. You will pass a turnoff on the left for road NF 378 shortly before road NF 380. Turn left at NF 380 and continue half of a mile to the Broken Top Crater trailhead parking area and bathrooms.