The Brokentop Circuit is a 42-mile route circumnavigating Brokentop. This page describes the version of the route I usually cover. However, my version skips a really stunning section of trail that traverses from No Name Lake to Tam McArthur Rim, so I recommend visiting this area on day 2 by extending the route with an out & back.
- Map: Brokentop Circuit - CalTopo (all mileages given on this page reference this map)
- Distance: 42 miles, with a lot of options
- Elevation gain: 5900 feet
- Generai terrain: Smooth, well-travelled dirt trails, rocky in places. Long hills but not steep. A few creek crossings, but none require wet feet.
- Permit: To camp in the wilderness you need a Central Cascades Wilderness Overnight Permit. If you follow the map above, you will be entering the wilderness at Tam McArthur Rim, so you need the Tam McArthur Rim Trailhead permit from that page. See How to book a permit for the Three Sisters Wilderness.
- Warning: The Bridge Creek Trail is less worn in many places and it will be helpful to use a GPS track through this section. There may be trees down, blocking or obscuring the trail.
- Tumalo Falls - Mile 3 and 39
- Tam McArthur Rim - Mile 13
- Park Meadow - Mile 22
- Green Lakes Pass - Mile 25
- Green lakes - Mile 26
- Brokentop views - Mile 30
- Bridge Creek watershed - Mile 34
I like this as a 2-day route, appropriate for a laid back fastpack trip. For the first day, start at Skyliners Sno Park and camp at Golden Lake. On the second day, loop around back to the start.
The first day begins with a long, consistent uphill to mile 13 at Tam McArthur Rim. It's worth taking the out & back as mapped on my Caltopo link above, to get the really good view at the top of the rim. After this, descend to Three Creek Lake. I find this to be a great lunch spot.
Fun fact - Three Creek Lake is not "Three Creeks Lake", but you'll often see people mistakenly calling it this (understandably). Instead it's named for Three Creek. Just downstream of the lake is Three Creek Meadow, where three creeks join to form Three Creek. This is the source of the name.
Find the Little Three Creek Lake trailhead. I like to cross the dam, continue between two campsites, and turn right on the road to find the trailhead. Head toward Park Meadow, passing through a burn area and crossing a few creeks along the way. From Park Meadow, it's about a mile uphill to the unmarked Golden Lake turnoff, then another half mile to the lake.
After camping at Golden Lake, proceed over Green Lakes Pass, past the lakes, and across the south side of Brokentop. Take the Crater Ditch Trail out of the wilderness and the Bridge Creek Trail back down to Tumalo Falls.
As mentioned above, the Bridge Creek trail can be difficult to follow. Use a GPS track to guide you through the meadows and to consult if a fallen tree is obscuring the trail. This is the best spot to observe wildlife. I've seen a bear, elk, and even wild turkeys on this trail!
- From the Green Lakes area, you can do an out-and-back to (almost) summit Brokentop
- (recommended) From the Crater Ditch trail intersection, you can continue up to No Name Lake and to the saddle above it for an outstanding view. Return back to the main loop the way you came. 2 miles each way.
- The first 7 miles of the route contain frequent access to Tumalo creek and its tributaries, until you leave Happy Valley. Clean water, reliable year round.
- Mile 8.8 - Bottle Creek is marked as intermittent on most maps, but at this spot it reliably contains water year-round as there is a spring nearby. Fill up here.
- Mile 15.7 - Get water from Three Creek Lake or the outlet creek just below the dam. There are one or two more small creeks in the next mile.
- Mile 19.3 - Snow Creek, reliable and clear
- Mile 20.7 - Whychus Creek. Usually silty, but a small reliable tributary feeds into it here. Cross Whychus and find the tributary to your left as you proceed along the trail.
- Mile 21.9 - Park Creek, reliable and clear. Lots of mosquitos here through August.
- At camp, you can get water from the outlet or inlet creeks to Golden Lake, or the lake itself.
- Mile 25.9 - Creek between two of the Green Lakes, reliable
- Mile 27.3, 27.6, 28.6 - Creek crossings
- Mile 30.5 - I've always found water somewhere around here but it's difficult to predict because the city of Bend sometimes routes these creeks into Crater Ditch. Sometimes Crater Creek has water, sometimes Crater Ditch has water. If the ditch doesn't have water, then the top of Middle Fork Tumalo Creek won't either.
- Mile 35 - Even in the dry part of the season, you'll see water by the time you get to this point of Middle Fork. From here, there is occasional creek access until the end of the route.
- 0 - Starting at Skyliners Sno Park, take the Tumalo Creek Trail 3 miles to Tumalo Falls.
- 3 - Take the North Fork Trail past the falls to Happy Valley.
- 6.6 - Cross the bridge, taking the Metolius Windigo Trail northbound.
- 7.7 - Continue on Metolius Windigo trail by crossing the road intersection.
- 9.8 - Turn right on the Tam McArthur Rim horse trail and immediately cross the road, continuing on the trail.
- 12 - Reach the lower part of Tam McArthur Rim. Drop pack at the intersection and go up to the "End of trail" for a great view from the rim. Turn around and follow the rim down, pick up your pack, and go down to Three Creek Lake.
- 15.7 - Take the Little Three Creek Lake trail, hanging right at an intersection a short distance in.
- 16.6 - Keep straight at the 4-way intersection to skip going to Little Three Creek Lake.
- 19 - Reach intersection with Metolius-Windigo / Park Meadow trail. Take the Park Meadow trail westbound toward Park Meadow / Green Lakes. Cross Snow Creek, Whychus Creek, and Park Creek.
- 22 - At Park Meadow, turn left on the Green Lakes Trail toward Green Lakes. Proceed about a mile uphill.
- 23 - Turn left on an unsigned trail toward Golden Lake. The trail is marked with a small stack of rocks. It's about 0.5 mile to the Golden Lake campsites. In the morning head back to the main trail at this point which will be mile 23.9. Turn left to continue uphill.
- 27.1 - At the south end of Green Lakes, turn left on the Brokentop trail. This junction is not totally obvious and it looks like you're walking toward one of the Green Lakes campsites.
- 30.7 - Turn right on the Crater Ditch Trail
- 32.3 - Leave the trail and continue out the forest road
- 32.7 - Left on forest road.
- 33 - Right onto Bridge Creek Trail. Unsigned but marked with two 4x4 wood posts. The trail exists as a faint double track at this point.
- 33.4 - Cross Metolius-Windigo Trail, sharp downhill into the Bridge Creek Watershed
- Use a GPS track to keep you on trail through this section.
- Upon reaching Tumalo Falls, head back along the creek toward the sno park.