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