The Obsidian Trail is a Central Oregon Treasure

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Bend Premier Real Estate 200009031

The Obsidian Trail is Available Only by Paid Permit

We had heard about the Obsidian Trail for years, and how hard it is to reserve a time to hike it. Located in the Willamette National Forest off Hwy 242 (McKenzie Pass), access to the Obsidian Trail is limited - first due to Hwy 242's annual closure from October through the middle of June - and second due to demand for the hard to get passes which limit use to 30 day hikers and 40 overnight visitors. We reserved our time 2 months in advance, hoping the weather and wildfires would cooperate with our hike.  The Green Ridge Fire and the Lions Gate Fire were both burning On September 5, 2020 when we took our hike, but neither had yet exploded into the heavy wildfires that burned much of McKenzie Canyon and caused the choking smoke that is still impacting Oregon.

We arrived very early at the trailhead, just past sunrise, and were surprised how few cars were parked in the parking lot. But this does make sense.  When you have to reserve your time so far in advance, scheduled recreational hikes may have to give way to changes in financial or personal circumstances thus bringing use of the trail to even fewer people.  During our Obsidian Trail hike, we past two parties who had spent the night in the area and were hiking out plus were past by a party packing in with horses. Other than these people, we saw no one else on the Obsidian Trail except for a party hiking in at the end of the day as well as a second group of people packing with horses.  However, the Obsidian Trail loop, if taken, does utilize the Pacific Crest Trail where we saw a number of day users and backpackers.

The Obsidian Trail is named for the obsidian stones and pebbles which are very evident in certain areas of the hike - and which will glitter beautifully when the sun hits them. The hike gains 2139 feet in elevation and provides for stunning views of North and Middle Sister, including vistas of Collier Glacier.  Obsidian Falls and wonderful lodgepole and hemlock forests are also treats to see along the way. Lava fields, mountain meadows, small alpine lakes and, when the loop is followed, views of Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson are also visible. We also saw the smoke from the Green Ridge Fire, but it did not impact our enjoyment of the area during the day. The full loop was just under 12 miles, but we did take a side trip up the flank of Middle Sister, hoping to find the trail which we have heard exists to the summit, but failed to locate it.

Obsidian Trail Hike

Obsidian Trail Hike Obsidian Trail Hike Obsidian Trail Hike

Comments (10)

Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


That is lovely and I enjoyed your picture and text.  I hope you air has cleared up and your fires more contained.  A

Sep 22, 2020 12:55 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Lynnea:

Thanks for taking us on your hike - what beautiful photos from what must have been a very special place.


Sep 22, 2020 12:56 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Lynnea - during typical times, Oregon is a hiker's paradise.  Hope you continue to be safe and healthy.  

Sep 22, 2020 03:36 PM
Lynnea Miller
Bend Premier Real Estate - Bend, OR
Premier Real Estate Service in Central Oregon

Hi Ron and Alexandra Seigel . The air is better than it was, but not perfect.  It was so bad we couldn't see more than 300 yards.  We can again see the mountains through the haze - it varies based on the wind.

Sep 22, 2020 03:50 PM
Lynnea Miller
Bend Premier Real Estate - Bend, OR
Premier Real Estate Service in Central Oregon

Thank you, Michael Jacobs .  The fires are still burning, but the air is cleaning due to some rain.  Hopefully it will continue to get better.  We have hundreds of people who have lost their homes, however. 

Sep 22, 2020 03:51 PM
Lynnea Miller
Bend Premier Real Estate - Bend, OR
Premier Real Estate Service in Central Oregon

Hi Jeff Dowler, CRS .  Ever since Covid hit, our weekly hikes have been our outlet.  Couldn't do it last week due to the heavy smoke, but it is better now.

Sep 22, 2020 03:52 PM
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Morning Lynnea.

If it took you all day, it is way too long for me to walk.  Just curious, how long was the hike?

Sep 23, 2020 12:51 AM
Realtyna Inc
Realtyna - Newark, DE
Realtyna- MLS RETS Integration software & services

Simply magesitc. Thanks for sharing, Lynnea!

Sep 23, 2020 02:33 AM
Lynnea Miller
Bend Premier Real Estate - Bend, OR
Premier Real Estate Service in Central Oregon

Hi James Dray - that hike was just under 12 miles with 2139 feet of elevation gain.  However, we took a little spur off to try to get part way up the mountain on the right of my last photo (Middle Sister) which probably added another mile to the hike.  We were stopped by dangerous climbing conditions.

Sep 23, 2020 10:09 AM
Lynnea Miller
Bend Premier Real Estate - Bend, OR
Premier Real Estate Service in Central Oregon

Hi Realtyna Inc .  Thanks for checking in!


Sep 23, 2020 10:10 AM