FATMAP difficulty grade
This begins Section E of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon, proceeding northward into the Three Sisters Wilderness.
The furrowed landscape, shaped both by volcanoes and glaciers over time, is cloaked in deep forest and dotted with little lakes.
These woods of fir, hemlock, and lodgepole burst with understory where the canopy is thick, and also where fire has cleared swaths for new growth.
Timbered lakeshores provide water and campsites aplenty throughout this stretch.
Late summer is most pleasant, when mosquitoes subside at the lakes and huckleberries ripen in the forest. From the highway at Willamette Pass (NB mile 1907.9) the PCT heads immediately uphill, climbing steadily through forest to reach the Rosary Lakes.
After passing each of the three lakes with good campsites next to them, broad switchbacks lead up a ridge with panoramic views (NB mile 1912.7).
You’ll look over the string of lakes and the Pulpit Rock formation presiding above.
The trail then carries on a long stretch, with ups and downs through continual forest, interrupted occasionally by boulder fields, meadows, and ponds. After descending from the rock-strewn slope of a hill called The Twins, the PCT comes to Charlton Lake and several comfortable campsites (NB mile 1925.3).
Next, it crosses an unpaved road and skirts the base of Charlton Butte, then enters a vast burn area (NB mile 1927) of skeleton trees, which it traverses for a few miles.
There are patches of unburned trees and colorful flowers among regenerating growth, but the sun can be intense on a hot day. The next water is at Taylor Lake (NB mile 1930.3), which also offers good campsites.
Just north of this lake is another dirt road and entry to the Three Sisters Wilderness (1930.7).
This sprawling wilderness is cloaked in forest and studded with little lakes.
Shade, water, and campsites are plentiful for the next several miles as the trail weaves among conifer-clad volcanic hills.
Horseshoe Lake (NB mile 1943.4) or Dumbbell Lake (NB mile 1947.20) make particularly attractive places to camp. Eventually, the PCT meets the junction with Elk Lake trail (NB mile 1952.6 ), which leads to the Cascade Lakes Byway and [Elk Lake Resort](https://elklakeresort.net/) just 1 mile east.
The resort has a restaurant, small store, and campground with showers.
From there, hikers may hitch into Bend, and section hikers may set a car at Elk Lake trailhead.
There is also a small [Forest Service campground](https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/deschutes/recarea/?recid=38950) 1 mile south along the road. Permits: Much of this stretch is within the Three Sisters Wilderness, which requires the [Central Cascades Wilderness Permit](https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/willamette/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fseprd688355] for camping, unless you already have the [PCT long-distance permit](https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/pct-long-distance-permit/).
Note that section hikers who get the wilderness permit may also need the [Northwest Forest Pass](https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/passes-permits/recreation/) for parking at certain trailheads.
It is the responsibility of all users to know and follow regulations that apply based on location and season in the wilderness area. Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/deschutes/recarea/?recid=79444 https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recarea/?recid=4355 https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/ https://pctwater.com/