Broken Top Hikes

In my opinion, the premier hikes in Central Oregon are on Broken Top Mountain. There are three main trails to access the area. Starting with the lowest in elevation and therefore the earliest to be accessible and full of flowers is the trail up from Todd Lake. And don’t forget to check out the meadows around the lake. Lots of shooting star, bog saxifrage, elephanthead pedicularis and marsh marigold can be found there soon after the snow melts. Mosquitoes are also plentiful. The trail itself climbs steadily through stands of big, old mountain hemlock, passing by the occasional meadow with the usual wet-meadow-loving plants. As one comes out of the forest into the open country below Broken Top, monkeyflowers make an appearance all along the stream sides.

About the first of August, the meadows above the Ditch are full of wildflowers, with beautiful views of Broken Top in the background. Here are the instructions on finding those meadows. Drive west on Century Drive past Mt. Bachelor, and turn right on the Todd Lake road #370. The road is unpaved from this point and once past the Todd Lake trailhead is VERY rough and a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Proceed about 2.6 miles on road #370 to an unmarked road on your left. Take that road to its end in about a quarter of a mile. The marked trailhead is on your right. This trail follows Crater Ditch for about a mile on fairly level ground. All along the trail, notice the little low Lobb’s lupine, plus lots of buckwheat, pink monkeyflower and senecio.

When you come to a bridge, cross the ditch (now it becomes a creek), turn left and proceed a short way along the creek, crossing two small drainages. (You have left the trail and are on your own). Note the steep pumice hill on your right. Climb it. When you get to the top of the hill, just wander generally left and up and down hill through little drainages toward Broken Top until you get to the meadows. The meadows are full of arnica, lovage, monkeyflower, bog laurel and many other species, making a wonderful color mix. When exploring little wet depressions, expect to find white bog orchid, mixed in with paintbrush.

Here are typical views from the meadows along the creek.

Another approach to the meadows would be to cross the bridge and immediately find a way back to the left side of the creek and eventually the trail and the creek/ditch both head up hill. But to get to the best meadows, you must find a way across the creek. I usually do that and then complete a cross-country loop down the pumice hill to the bridge, but my first suggestion may be easier for those who don’t like creek crossings.

About the second week in August, the highest trailhead offers a route to higher meadows and on to Iceberg Tarn. That trailhead is reached by going further up Road #370 and turning left at the next intersection which is usually appropriately signed. This spur road is really awful. The trail goes downhill for a while and then starts up when the creek is reached. The flowers are great along the creek and damp meadows appear in another mile or so. There is a lot of Newberry knotweed all along, and as you hike these higher routes, new flowers appear along with the ones found down below earlier in the year. There are new species such as Tolmie’s saxifrage. There are a few that are listed as Threatened and Endangered (T&E). Pumice grapefern is one of these. Tread carefully if you see some. It’s a bonus to continue on to Iceberg Tarn and on up to the ridge between Broken Top and Broken Hand.