Today, we are featuring a loop to the summit of Lookout Mountain, in the heart of the Ochoco Mountains of Central Oregon. Oregon Wild will be leading this very hike on Friday, July 26th, and you’re invited to join! The trip will be led by Jamie Dawson, the Ochoco Mountains Coordinator, and Chandra LeGue, the Western Oregon field coordinator and author of the new hiking guide, so you will surely be in good hands and learn a ton about the area and its incredible forests. Click here for more info and to SIGN UP!
Lookout Mountain - The Hike
Distance: 7 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 1300 ft
First, Some Background:
Lookout Mountain is located in the Ochoco Mountains. This area is known for its astounding ecological diversity and is home to giant pine trees, rare trout, sparkling streams, wildflower meadows, and great recreational opportunities. Conservationists have long sought to protect this incredible area, which has faced significant threats, including a proposed Off-Highway Vehicle trail system that would disrupt wildlife and damage the ecosystem (this proposal was rejected by 2 judges, but the Forest Service later appealed the decision; we are waiting to find out if this case will move up to the 9th Circuit Court). A group of conservationists, including Oregon Wild, teamed together to form the Friends of the Ochocos coalition dedicated to working to protect the Ochocos. The group is currently seeking to designate over 300,000 acres as a national recreation area, including a 25,700 acre wilderness area and over 100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. This thoughtful designation strikes a balance between conservation, recreation, and restoration.
How to Get There:
From Bend, head north on US Highway 97 toward Redmond for about 15 miles. In Redmond, turn right to follow Oregon Route 126 east for about 17 miles toward Prineville. In Prineville, OR 126 becomes NW 3rd Street and US 26E. Continue on US 26E for about 13 miles. Turn right onto County Road 123 and go about 7.5 miles. Stay right at the junction of Forest Roads 22 and 42, and continue on FR 42 for 7 miles. Turn right on FR 4205, pass the Round Mountain Trailhead, and continue on this rough (but drivable) road until it ends in about 1.5 miles. The trailhead for Independent Mine Trail 808 is on the far left out of the parking area at the end of the road.
This hike begins on the Independent Mine Trail 808, located to the left of the parking lot. Follow this trail for about 3.5 miles to the summit of Lookout Mountain. Along the trail you will walk through Douglas-fir and old-growth ponderosa pine as well as an abundance of wildflowers. The trail descends toward Brush Creek, and from there it is about another mile and a half to the summit, with some steep stretches along the way. The last half mile to the summit takes you right along Lookout Mountain’s ridgetop through more beautiful wildflowers, sagebrush, and gnarled ancient juniper scattered about. On a clear day, the summit offers incredible views of the entire Cascade Range, from Mount Shasta in California to Mount Rainier in Washington.
To complete the loop, descend from the ridge-line to the northeast, making sure to stay on Lookout Mountain Trail 808 (do not follow trail 804 to the northwest.) About a half mile into the descent, you’ll reach a junction with Trail 808A. Here, take a left onto Lookout Mountain Trail 804. The trail will take you through dense pockets of old-growth trees and across the lush headwater springs of Canyon Creek. About 3 miles into the descent, to the right of the trail you will find the remains of Independent Mine, an old cinnabar mine. A half mile past the mine you’ll make it back to the parking lot.
Get your hands on Oregon Wild’s new book, Oregon’s Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide, to have access to nearly 100 hikes around the state. The book is chock full of information about the history, ecology, and protection status of Oregon’s incredible ancient forests, along with stunning photographs and detailed hike descriptions. Purchase your book in stores or online now!
Follow along for book updates and event info on Facebook at Oregon’s Ancient Forests, and Instagram @oregon_ancient_forests. And in return, we’d love to follow along on your ancient forest adventures! Tag your forest photos with #OregonOldGrowth and #ORAncientForests.
For more hikes and outdoor adventures, check out our suggested outings page.