Now that it is after Labor Day, I decided it was time to visit Matthieu Lakes. It’s a popular trail off of McKenzie-Santiam Scenic Byway, so I wanted to wait until the crowds died off. In addition, the trail also passes through some marshy areas, so I wanted to give the bugs plenty of time to die off as well.

Trip Report

This morning we hiked the short three miles from Lava Camp Lake trailhead to both North and South Matthieu Lakes. The trail starts off in the shaded forest, but when the trailhead spur connects to the PCT you get your first view of the barren lava fields that dominate the Santiam Pass Area.

Lava flows interrupt the forest along the trail to Matthieu Lakes

Lava flows interrupt the forest along the trail to Matthieu Lakes

From the descriptions I had read of this trail, I expected several marshy areas. Consequently, BUGS. As you can see in the photo above, one of these ‘marshy’ areas is now quite dry and bug-free. And people-free! September is great.

The lower (North) Matthieu Lake is tucked among the trees, though you can get some peeks at the lava flows and even North Sister. For the better view, continue up the trail to South Matthieu Lake, the higher of the two.

North Matthieu Lake

North Matthieu Lake and Lava Flow

From South Matthieu Lake you get a better view of North Sister.

Thor at South Matthieu with North Sister in the background.

Thor at South Matthieu with North Sister in the background.

On the return, we turned the hike into a loop by connecting with the PCT. It contours a higher ridge above the lakes and provides some amazing views of the Cascades, from Belknap Crater all the way north to Mt Hood.

View from the PCT

View from the PCT – Belknap Crater, Mt Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt Jefferson, and Mt Hood way in the distance.

I highly recommend doing the loop in this direction due to the views. However, don’t forget to turn around – there are some nice views of North and Middle Sister as well.

Reverse View towards North and Middle Sister

Reverse View towards North and Middle Sister

This hike comes with a bonus. A short ~1/2 mile up the road from this hike’s trailhead you’ll find Dee Wright Observatory. This is an Observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1927. From the tower you get unobstructred views of miles and miles of lava flow, as well as all of the peaks we could see from the PCT on our hike. It’s worth a quick stop!

Dee Wright Observatory

Dee Wright Observatory

Photo Gallery: Matthieu Lakes Loop Hike

Map and GPX: Matthieu Lakes Loop Hike

Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Mountain sports addict. Dog Mom. Craft beer drinker. Tech nerd. The best days are those spent above 10k ft. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +


Lisa Heuer · September 18, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Rebecca, would you mind sharing where you got Thor? He is stunning! (PS – love your blog too!)

    Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd · September 19, 2016 at 12:22 am

    He comes from a breeder we found in central CA – We got to visit and meet the dogs and see their facilities, plus I talked to other owners of their dogs. He’s so wonderful, we love him to pieces and we do get a lot of compliments on his looks!

      Lisa Heuer · September 20, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      Thank you for the info!

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