Mink Lake Area (Backpacking)

Shuttle • 24 mi • 1600 ft

The south half of the Three Sisters Wilderness has a totally different character than the north. There are no tall peaks, no glaciers, few meadows, and only limited views. What the hiker will discover, however, are miles of pleasant forest trails and enough lakes to impress even Minnesota natives. Every turn of the trail seems to reveal another lovely mountain pool ranging from a small pond to a large lake. Each is different enough in character that lovers of lake fishing, swimming, rafting, or just viewing can stay happy for weeks. The second nice thing about this country is the easy hiking. Since almost everything is at roughly the same elevation, extended ups and downs simply don’t exist—which means a lot less work for tired backpackers. This trip is perfect for hikers of advancing years with knees that suffer on long downhills, or as a first long backpack for younger travelers. Easy trails and numerous lakes allow for short hiking days and lots of time for lazy afternoons.
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Sunriver
Length: 24 total miles
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
Trail Type: Shuttle
Skill Level: Easy
Duration: 3 days
Season: Usually open July to October; best late August to September
Local Contacts: Bend Ranger District
Local Maps: Geographics - Three Sisters Wilderness
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Recent Trail Reviews


This area is gorgeous in a simple way. The Mink Lake area is also a relatively easy hike, especially the first seven or so miles. At first, starting from the parking area and hiking into the Winnopee Lake trailhead, a hiker has to deal with the recreational lake users en masse. Especially in the summer months. Once you reach the trailhead, these boaters and water skiiers are behind you. It is common to find people using pack animals such as horses or Llamas on these trails. So, in my case at least, there was a sense of car camping on some of the lakes, because they were able to pack in a lot of gear. But, there are so many nooks and crannys to find in this area to camp that it shouldn't be a problem if what you seek is solitude. The bottom line: Mostly flat, gorgeous lakes, and an eye opening view of burn areas.

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