- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
This stunning hike near Bend starts from the scenic McKenzie Pass Highway, the trek along the Pacific Crest Trail to Belknap Crater features breathtaking views of the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington.
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Route Description for Belknap Crater
From the parking lot, head north along the Pacific Crest Trail 2000. For the 1.6 km or 3.2 km, you will travel along a less-than-clear dirt trail through a beautiful pine forest. Finally, you will exit the trees and enter the lava fields. As the trail ascends, the views get better and better.
Behind you will be two of the Three Sisters (North and Middle). To your right you will be able to see Black Butte and the fire lookout — check out our trail description for that awesome hike as well. Looking left, the steep rolling hills of the central cascades will induce awe, and make you feel small.
As the trail ascends gradually through black lava fields, Belknap Crater will be visible looming ahead of you. After nearly 4.8 km, you will pass the turnoff for Little Belknap Crater. Continue a short ways before leaving the trail to the left to bushwhack up and scree-hike up the steep slopes of the Belknap Crater, avoiding any snowfields.
Gorgeous views await! Mt. Washington looks like it’s plucked out of Patagonia, with an incredible summit tower formation. The crater itself is also awesome, and holds snow for much of the year. On our last trip the crater was totally filled in, looking like a snowboard half pipe.
Carefully “scree ski” down the slopes of Belknap then veer left to rejoin the main trail. Return down the way you came back to your car.
Insider Hints for Belknap Crater
- Bring study shoes for hiking through the lava field. Shoes with thin soles will transmit all the sharpness from the rock directly to the sole of your foot - Ouch!
- Early in the season there may still be snow patches along the trail. Bring hiking poles and traction devices for your boots to make crossings easier.
- Bring a few chocolate bars to share with the PCT hikers you may meet. You will make their day.
- The road up to the start of the hike (McKenzie Hwy) is closed during the winter, so ask in town before making the drive!
Getting to the Belknap Crater Trailhead
From Bend, head north on US-97 turning onto the US-20 west towards Sisters. Drive the 37.0 km to Sisters, then turn onto OR-242 (McKenzie Hwy) west for just over 24.1 km. After 4 passing over the Dee Wright Observatory watch out for a small parking lot on your right, with a tiny hikers sign and arrow.
Belknap Crater Elevation Graph
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Belknap Crater Reviews
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