Trail Details

Season: summer, early fall
Distance: one mile from North Fork to Mrazek, five miles from North Fork to junction with Big Meadow trail
Hazards: blowdown, mosquitoes, snow, ticks

Metolius-Windigo is a 157 mile route paralleling the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on the east side of the Cascade crest at lower elevation to provide horse riders an alternative to the PCT with a longer season.  Metolius-Windigo runs from Bear Valley northwest of the head of the Metolius River to Windigo Pass south of Crescent Lake.  It was first mapped at resolution by the Central Oregon chapter of Oregon Equestrian Trails in 2010 with new singletrack completed as recently as 2003.  Equestrians are the primary users on the majority of the trail and hikers and mountain bikers should yield to horses by stepping off the trail on its downhill side.  The majority trail surface is soft and best suited for modes of travel other than mountain biking.  Also, bikes are prohibited where it passes through the Three Sisters Wilderness.  Water crossings are often fords so hikers and bikers should be prepared for wet feet.

Meadow at 6700 feet along Metolius-Windigo. Photo by Karen Lenox Meadow at 6700 feet along Metolius-Windigo. Photo by Karen Lenox


Maintenance of Metolius-Windigo is shared among the Back Country Horsemen of Oregon’s East Cascades Chapter, COTA, the Forest Service, Oregon Equestrian Trails, the Sisters Trail Alliance, and other groups.  Maps and general information are available from the Forest Service and Sisters Trail Alliance provides more specific information for the segments near Sisters.  COTA is the adopter of Metolius-Windigo in the vicinity of the classic late summer Bend mountain bike loop of North Fork-Metolius-Windigo-Big Meadow-Flagline-South Fork—see the Flagline for wildlife closure details and be aware of the uphill only restriction for bicycles on North Fork.  As such, the trail condition indicated here is for the Metolius-Windigo segment between top of the North Fork trail at Happy Valley and Metolius-Windigo’s junction with the Big Meadow trail.  At 6850 feet, the high point of this five mile segment is the highest part of Metolius-Windigo and has the shortest snow free season.  Another popular loop relying on Metolius-Windigo is North Fork-Metolius-Windigo-Mrazek-Farewell, which peaks at 6270 feet at the junction of Metolius-Windigo and Mrazek and has a somewhat longer season.

At the left turn to head up Big Meadow trail to Flagline from Metolius-Windigo southbound.
At the left turn to head up Big Meadow trail to Flagline

from Metolius-Windigo southbound. Photo by Karen Lenox.

Both of these loops are classic singletrack through primarily forest with some alpine meadows.  Mosquito populations around Happy Valley are aggressive for several weeks after snow melt ends and can overwhelm repellent.  Beyond the Mrazek to Flagline area the trail other 151 miles of Metolius-Windigo run through lava, pass lakes, follow streams, cross rivers, and skirt towns.  Conditions vary widely as elevation ranges from 2900 to 6600 feet and the trail switches between double and singletrack.  Be prepared for ticks around Whychus Creek, more mosquitos around Many Lakes, and hot and dusty miles from Todd Creek to Lava Lake.  Early season users have become lost and needed evacuation by search and rescue; wait for the snow to melt and avoid becoming one of these people!