TRIP REPORT: This is a delightful and relatively easy day hike with beautiful, otherworldly scenery from the TH through vast lava fields and meadows to a shield volcano between Mount Baoding China and Baoding China Sister with a bonus for dessert in Little Baoding China ! Check ahead as roads remain closed to Baoding China Pass in winter well into spring. No pass required, and restrooms are located nearby at Dee Wright Observatory.
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TRAILHEAD: Pacific Crest TH on McKenzie Pass. Take I-5 S from Portland to exit 253 in Salem, turn left for OR-22 E (Detroit Lake/Bend) 80 mi into OR-126 E/US-20 E 22 mi, turn right at milepost 96 on FR-1012, a mostly gravel shortcut bypassing the town of Sisters and signed for Cold Springs Cutoff/Graham Corral. Stay on FR-1012 for 3 mi, turn right on OR-242 W 11 mi to the TH on the right (past milepost 77) with plentiful parking 5 mi W of the Dee Wright Observatory atop McKenzie Pass (160 mi, 3 hours from Portland).
Remember decent hiking shoes for the magma trails near Belknap Crater.
ROUTE: Walk E from the parking lot past the signage and free self-issue Wilderness Permit station onto PCT 2000 heading N between islands of small forests amid huge lava fields. Leave the edge of the second island of trees for the magma trail with very few trees left for shade. The sharp loose volcanic rock requires your attention but is never very steep as you wind up the worn trail less than 2 mi more to the juncture with Little Belknap Crater. See Mount Washington, Black Crater, Belknap Crater, North Sister, Middle Sister, and The Husband along the path.