The Story Behind the Three Sisters
The Three Sisters. Look to the horizon anywhere in central Oregon and you’re sure to see them, standing proudly side by side against the skyline. These iconic peaks have stood tall for thousands of years, helping to shape and support the landscape and communities they watch over. Today, they play a crucial role in the area’s tourism industry and bring joy to thousands of brave explorers every year.
Like any important landmark, the Three Sisters have a rich story to tell. From their explosive formation thousands of years ago to their popular peaks today, their tale is rich in history, adventure, and of course – beauty. Here’s the story behind the Three Sisters.
What Are the Three Sisters?
The Three Sisters are a trio of volcanic peaks just 10 miles south of Sisters, Oregon in the Three Sisters Wilderness. They form part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a 700-mile ridge of the Cascade Mountains made of extinct and active volcanoes.
They’re often grouped as a set but are actually three individual mountains known as North Sister (Faith), Middle Sister (Hope), and South Sister (Charity). Though they stand close together, each mountain has its own geography and eruptive history, making the trio a popular destination for mountain climbing and hiking.
The History of the Three Sisters
The history of the Three Sisters starts back – way back. They were formed thousands of years ago by flowing magma and other eruptive materials that hardened into their impressive peaks. They stood, eruptive but undisturbed, for many years before our historical history begins at the end of the last glaciation.
Like most of the area, the Three Sisters were originally explored by indigenous Pauite and Molala tribes. They were first used by western explorers in the mid-1800s as landmarks and travel routes. As western expansion began, they soon became grazing land, a source of timber, and a common connector between the Willamette Valley and the gold-rich mines beyond.
The Three Sisters are as timeless as the Oregon wilderness. No one person can be attributed to their discovery or naming, though a popular story says they were nicknamed Mount Faith, Mount Hope, and Mount Charity (north to south) by Methodist missionaries from Salem in the 1840s. The collective “Three Sisters” comes, no doubt, from the way they stand as siblings, closely related yet uniquely charming.
As settlers continued to flood into the area, Indian wars broke out around the mountains. A military camp known as Camp Polk was established nearby to protect miners and settlers from the indigenous tribes that lived in the area. In 1888, the camp was relocated to present-day Sisters and re-named after the dramatic mountain range that started it all – and that still towers over its horizon.
Since then, the Three Sisters have been a defining trait for Sisters and the surrounding area. So much so that in 1964 the United States Congress formed the Three Sisters Wilderness; this 287,000-acre area around the Three Sisters is a popular destination for all types of wilderness exploration.
The Three Sisters Today
Today, the Three Sisters attract explorers from across the globe to scale their peaks and explore the nearly 300,000 acres of wilderness that surrounds them. Their varied geographies and thrilling summits make them one of the most challenging (but rewarding) spots for mountain climbing in the state.
North Sister (Faith) is a 10,090-foot shield volcano and the oldest of the Three Sisters. Its heavy erosion and slippery, steep slopes make it the most difficult of the three to scale. It shouldn’t be attempted by novice or unprepared climbers.
Middle Sister (Hope) is the smallest and most poorly studied of the three. It’s far icier than its siblings, with a cone-shaped peak and heavy glacial erosion. It’s considered a moderate climb but can be rewarding in good weather conditions.
South Sister (Charity) is the youngest, tallest, and most active peak of the Three Sisters. Its last eruption was a mere 2,000 years ago, and future eruptions are possible. South Sister is the easiest mountain to scale and doesn’t require special equipment to reach the peak. Climbers love seeing Teardrop Pool, the highest lake in Oregon that sits in its protected summit crater.
Book your Sisters, Oregon Vacation
To keep the Three Sisters in view, book a stay at one of our Sisters, Oregon vacation rentals just 10 miles from the peaks! Our Sisters Mountain View Cabin is a luxurious retreat right outside of the city with stunning mountain views and a plenty of quiet seclusion. Book your stay today!