News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Tie Trail is STA’s backyard secret

The Sisters Tie Trail is a frequently overlooked all-season outdoor opportunity that actually begins right in town. This trail is not at all wild, especially at the eastern, in-town end. However, it couldn’t be more convenient or accessible. This inviting path is part of the local trails network established and maintained by The Sisters Trail Alliance (STA) for the enjoyment of the public.

The trailhead is located off North Pine Street where the pavement ends. From the STA kiosk, the trail takes off north and west for a little over six miles to the Indian Ford Campground on Highway 20 west of town. There are so many access points along the way, however, that it’s easy to stitch together a little jaunt of almost any distance of your own choosing.

The trail is suitable for strolling, hiking, jogging, trail biking and horseback riding; and the best part is that it doesn’t require any advance planning, permits, or extensive equipment. It’s not usually very crowded, either. On our recent excursion we saw only a handful of other outdoor enthusiasts, and they weren’t even on the actual trail.

That’s actually one of the weak points of this trail. There are so many crossroads and alternative options that it’s sometimes hard to stay on the right path, in spite of the presence of a copious amount of trail signage. On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to get lost, since the entire area is completely surrounded by Sisters-area roads.

Still, be sure to pick up a free trail map at the STA kiosk. There are many good trail apps for your phone that will show your location along the route, but always remember that electronic devices can fail or lose power. For that reason, I recommend that every hiker always carry a compass and a map.

Yes, I know that’s old school; but I still consider a compass to be an essential safety device anytime you’re in the woods. As long as you have a compass on this trail, all you have to do is walk in a straight line in any direction; and you can easily find your way out to a road.

For the first couple of miles, at the south end of the trail, some of the route seems unnecessarily close to civilization. Cars can be seen and heard as the trail parallels Pine Street on its way out of town. Outside the city limits, this extension of Pine Street was formerly known as Squawback Road.

For joggers and dog walkers who want to escape from COVID isolation and stay off the busy roads, this is the route for you. This trail is about as flat as a trail can be and is suitable for everyone.

I’m a slow hiker but have covered the entire distance in a little over two hours. Heading north from town, the trail passes through National Forest lands of familiar second-growth ponderosa pine and juniper. The initial stretch borders Trapper Point and the Indian Ford Ranch subdivisions of Sage Woods and Indian Ford Meadows.

The first couple of miles constitute an area of particular potential confusion because of the multitude of old dirt roads and tracks, so keep an eye out for the “Sisters Trails” markers. The STA has done a good job of marking most of the trail. Still, there are a couple of spots where the proliferation of roads and paths make it necessary to pay close attention.

At about the halfway point, the trail turns west by an old gravel pit and becomes a little bit “wilder” and shifts almost entirely to a single track trail as the route roughly parallels Indian Ford Creek at a (considerable) distance.

The trail can be accessed at any number of intermediary points, and the gravel pit is one of them. The trail is not close to the creek but often parallels what we used to call the “High Ditch.” The High Ditch, which is no longer in use, carried irrigation water from the creek to portions of Indian Ford Ranch when it was still a “working ranch.” Back then, my father and I frequently rode this area on horseback. In those days, there were still many remnants of old abandoned homesteads throughout the area.

The northernmost end of Pine Street, near where it ends on Indian Ford Road, is another alternative access point. This northern end of Pine “Street” is extremely rough and in very poor condition. When we were there last week, there were large “pond-sized” puddles covered with ice. The most scenic parts of the Tie Trail are between here and Indian Ford Campground.

As the trail continues farther west, it’s obvious that this part of the forest receives more moisture, as there are many young pine trees popping up. We saw frequent signs of wildlife along this part of the route, particularly where the trail skirts the edge of a large and picturesque rock extrusion.

After diverting around the southern portion of a large block of private land, the trail creeps ever closer to Indian Ford Creek; and willows and aspens appear on your right. A short side trip will reveal the creek itself and lush wetlands full of life. You can also start your hike from the campground at the northwest end of the Sisters Tie Trail or explore just the most scenic parts of the trail from the campground.

The Sister Tie Trail really is an all-season outdoor playground. Case in point, even in the event of heavy snowfall, this flat and open forest area is also a perfect area for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Remember, however, even though it’s close to home, always be properly equipped for emergency winter conditions.


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