Tag Archives: ochoco national forest

North Point and Round Mountain – Ochoco National Forest

For Father’s Day weekend we headed over to Central Oregon to visit my Dad and our Son. On Saturday we headed to the Ochoco Mountains for a pair of hikes.

Our first destination was North Point in the trail-less Bridge Creek Wilderness. We started our hike near Pisgah Springs along Forest Road 2630. We made the mistake of following Google’s suggested route which led us over an extremely rough section of that road which we could have avoided. We had turned right off of Highway 26 at a sign for Walton Lake and Big Summit Prairie onto Ochoco Creek Road which becomes Forest Road 22. Just before crossing Ochoco Creek, Google had us fork left onto Road 2210 before turning right onto Rd 2630. That was where the road deteriorated quickly into a muddy, giant hole filled mess. Had we stayed on Road 22 past Walton Lake we could have turned left onto Road 2630 a mile and a half beyond the entrance road to the lake. That section and the remainder of Rd 2630 was a fairly good gravel road. We followed Rd 2630 to a fork at a Bridge Creek Wilderness sign where Road 450 went left and 2630 continued to the right.

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Road 2630 became rougher beyond the fork but nothing like the earlier section Google had taken us on. A May 2016 trip report mentioned that the road improved after the first couple hundred yards and this was still the case. A total of two miles from the fork we arrived at an old jeep track near Pisgah Springs.

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We pulled off the road at the jeep track which at one time went all the way out to North Point. Much of the wilderness burned in 2008 and many of the left over snags have begun falling and we’d heard that the track had a good deal of blowdown. Looking uphill from the jeep track we decided to angle left and skirt around the side of a stand of trees.

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The cross country travel was easy through the sagebrush but our pace was slowed due to stopping to admire the many wildflowers along the way.

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Brown’s Peony

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Parsley

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Paintbrush

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IMG_2864Old man’s whiskers

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The terrain began to level after the initial climb (which was short and not at all steep) revealing some open meadows among the trees.

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We encountered additional flowers in and around these meadows.

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IMG_2888Big-head clover

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We took a line along between the meadows and a line of dead trees.

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Using the GPS we eventually veered to the right stepping over a couple of downed snags then briefly following the jeep track toward the rim of the plateau.

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We arrived at the rim between point 6607 to the west and North Point to the east.

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The view to the north was amazing and included some very interesting topographical formations.

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Behind us to the south lay Mt. Pisgah and the Mt. Pisgah Lookout

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We made our way along the rim to North Point which was marked with a cairn.

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From North Point we could see parts of the Cascade Mountains from Mt. Bachelor to the south to Mt. Adams in Washington to the north. The only problem was a single line of clouds moving north right in our line of sight for the snowy volcanoes.

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We spotted a few additional flowers on North Point.

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IMG_2940Balloon pod milk vetch

After taking in the views on what was shaping up to be a beautiful day we made our way back to our car amid the ever present sound of birds.

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The hike to North Point had only been 2.2 miles round trip and we were heading for hike number two of the day, but first we wanted to check out Big Summit Prairie. After passing the point on Road 2630 where we had emerged from the apocalyptic section of road from the morning we continued on the gravel road .8 miles to NF-22 where we turned left. After 4.2 miles on NF-22 we turned right onto gravel South Howard Road for 1.6 miles then right again onto Badger Creek Road (NF 4210). We followed this road for 2.3 miles to Canyon Creek Road (NF-42) where we turned left. We drove 9.7 miles on NF 42 which travels along the southern side of Big Summit Prairie.

Covering several thousand acres in the middle of the Ochoco Mountains, Big Summit Prairie sports some impressive wildflower displays from April through Mid-June. We were hoping that we weren’t too late for the show, but alas we seemed to be on the tail-end of the last flowers.

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We stopped near the North Fork Crooked River bridge and took a look at our next goal, Round Mountain rising to the west.

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We drove back on NF-42 12.7 miles to a sign for the Independent Mine on the left. We had been here before in 2014 when we hiked to the summit of Lookout Mountain.

We parked at the same trailhead as before just a few hundred feet up Road 4205. A good sized parking area here doubles as the Lower Lookout Mountain and the Round Mountain South Trailheads.

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From the trailhead the Round Mountain Trail descended into a small meadow before entering some trees and climbing up to a crossing of NF-42.

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The trail climbed gradually through wildflower filled meadows to a view of little Prospect Pond.

2017-06-17 10.54.46Crab spider

IMG_2975Torrey’s peavine

IMG_2985Lupine

IMG_2997Tortoiseshell butterfly

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IMG_3003Balsamroot and larkspur

IMG_3007Death camas

IMG_3009Vetch

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IMG_3019Prospect Pond (and Lookout Mountain beyond)

As the trail continued to follow a ridge uphill the wildflower displays kept getting better.

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The trail briefly leveled off at the wide Onion Pass.

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We soon got our first good look at our goal, Round Mountain.

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Shortly after crossing a road at the 2.3 mile mark the trail traversed an open slope with views of several Cascade Mountains.

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The flowers continued to impress along the entire trail with the pink Oregon geraniums being some of our favorites.

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After another short level stretch along what appeared to be an old road track the trail finally began to climb with some urgency through a series of hellebore meadows.
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The trail was in great shape with only a minor slide which was easily passable.

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The trail wrapped around under the summit of Round Mountain to Round Mountain Road (yes it is possible to drive up).

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We followed the road up past the signed junction with the Round Mountain Trail coming up from the northern trailhead near Walton Lake.

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The 360 degree view from the 6755′ summit did not disappoint. The clouds that had hidden parts of the Cascades had mostly burned off (except for over Three Fingered Jack) and Diamond Peak joined the line of snow covered volcanoes.

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IMG_3131Diamond and Maiden Peaks

IMG_3132Mt. Bachelor

IMG_3133Ball Butte and Broken Top

IMG_3134The Three Sisters

IMG_3062Mt. Washington

IMG_3140Three Fingered Jack

IMG_3141Mt. Jefferson

IMG_3143Mt. Hood

IMG_3147Mt. Adams

The plateau of the Bridge Creek Wilderness was visible to the NE.

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Lookout Mountain rose across NF-42 to the south.

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While Big Summit Prairie stretched out to the east.

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We spotted a couple of flowers near the summit that we hadn’t seen lower including a few pink phlox, a patch of purple silky phacelia, and some yellow bells along the road.

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silky phacelia

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We returned the way we’d come. After crossing NF-42 we spotted a doe which seemed fitting since we were close to a road and we seem to see more deer from the roads than we do on the trails.

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It was a great day in the Ochocos and it had felt really nice to finally spend some time in the mountains. Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Point & Round Mountain

Lookout Mountain – Ochoco National Forest

We recently returned from a long weekend in Central Oregon. We had a few hikes that we were wanting to try in June in that area starting with Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco National Forest. Roughly 26 miles east of Prineville, OR the summit of Lookout Mountain is the 2nd highest point in the Ochoco Mountains. The summit is part of a broad plateau of sagebrush and wildflowers which also offers a 360 degree view.

There are a couple of options for reaching the plateau. For our visit we decided to start at the Round Mountain Trailhead on road 4205 just after turning off of road 42. We could have shaved nearly 2 miles form the hike by continuing up road 4205 to the Independent Mine Trailhead but the road is quite rough and I would rather be hiking than bouncing around in a car. The 0.9 mile path between the trailheads was pleasant enough with a number of wildflowers and a deer sighting.
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We accidently left the trail and wound up on road 4205 across from signs for the Independent Mine and the Baneberry Trailhead.
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Our version (2008, 2nd edition) of 100 Hikes in Eastern Oregon didn’t give any information about this trail but a sign at the Round Mountain Trailhead made mention of extensive trail work and renaming starting in 2010. Our book did show an old road leading down to the mine though so we decided to check it out. We reached the Baneberry Trail before getting to the mine and saw that it was an interpretive nature loop. Thinking it would loop us around to the mine we turned on the trail and began the loop. It was evident why the trail was named Baneberry as the forest was full of the plant.
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Many benches and interpretive signs were located around the trail telling of the mining activity, forest, and wildlife.
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As we continued on the loop it became evident that we were not going to loop to the mine site but instead were heading around in the opposite direction. When we had almost completed the loop a trail shot off uphill to the left which we took thinking it might take us up to the Independent Mine Trailhead. We lost the tread in a small meadow but we could tell the trailhead was just on the other side so we followed what looked like it might be the trail through the meadow and popped out at the trailhead.
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From the trailhead we had more options. Straight ahead up the shorter steeper trail 808A, right on what was now named trail 804 or left on trail 808. We chose 808 based on the suggested route in the book. The trail passed through several meadows full of hellbore with views nice views to the north with Mt. Jefferson visible on the horizon.
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The trail then turned south and we climbed up onto the sloped plateau. From here the trail climbed through open ground covered with wildflowers and sagebrush and the occasional stand of trees.
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Big-headed Clover
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Brown’s Peony
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Looking ahead from the lower plateau
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We crossed Brush Creek
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and found some leftover of snow
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There were some small lilies in this area as well as a few shooting star and mountain bluebells.
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We came out of a clump of trees into another sagebrush covered meadow where we could see the summit of Lookout Mountain.
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There were more flowers as we climbed through the sagebrush toward the summit. Balsamroot, paint, larkspur, and columbine dotted the landscape. There were other flowers both known and unknown to us as well.
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Old Man’s Whiskers
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The lupine was yet to bloom.
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A sign stood at a trail crossroads giving directions.
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From the summit we could see Cascade Peaks from Diamond Peak in the south to Mt. Hood in the North.
Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters in the distance:
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We also spotted a very strange plant on the summit which thanks to some detective work form the folks at portlandhikers we identified as balloon-pod milk-vetch.
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On our way down we stopped by a snow shelter built by the Oregon National Guard and U.S. Forest Service in 1989.
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We spotted another deer on the way down and the butterflies started coming out as the day wore on.
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Just before reaching the Independent Mine Trailhead on trail 804 we passed a left over mining building and an abandoned mine shaft.
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We saw what must have been the same doe on the way down as we saw on the way up. She came out of the exact same group of trees and we wondered if she might not have a young fawn bedded down in them. We didn’t want to disturb it if there was so we continued on back to the Round Mountain Trailhead and our car. Day one had provided a great 10.3 mile hike and we had three more days to go. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644735166968/
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Steins Pillar

In our last post I said we had completed our final planned hike with less than 1000ft or elevation gain for the year. I chose the word “planned” because I knew I needed to leave open the possibility of an unplanned hike. It only took a week for that to prove wise. We had a hike free weekend but wound up with the opportunity to go on a hike in Central Oregon with my parents and assist them with trying out their new Garmin GPS unit. We had planned on meeting them last weekend after our hike in Detroit, but a deer had different ideas and they were unable to make it.

This was our first chance to take a hike together and we decided on hiking to Steins Pillar in the Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville Oregon. This was a new trail to all of us, but we had seen the pillar last year when we hiked to the Twin Pillars in the Mill Creek Wilderness. The trail clocks in at 4 miles round trip with just under 700ft of elevation gain. The trail head is near a small meadow surrounding a little spring. A number of bright yellow flowers as well as large solomonseal and wild strawberries were present. While we were getting ready to begin the hike I spotted a fritillary which was the first of that type of flower we’ve encountered.

We were all pleasantly surprised by the diversity that the trail had to offer. The forest seemed to shift constantly from firs to ponderosa pine to juniper and back. The collection of wildflowers was even more diverse with white death camas, yellow balsamroot and arnica, purple larkspur and phlox, and various shades of paintbrush.
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A number of others were present as well including desert parsley, giant-head clover, penstemon, and naked broomrape (an unfortunate name for a cute little flower). In addition a large number of lupine leaves promised a good show within a couple of weeks.

A nice opening offered a view toward the the Three Sisters but on this day low clouds ensured that the Cascade peaks were mostly hidden. It mattered little though as the wildflower show more than made up for the missed view. After 1.8 miles the trail finally offers the first glimpse of its goal -Steins Pillar.
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From the viewpoint the trail descends for 0.2 miles to the base of the pillar. The pillar is made of rhyolite ash that has been compacted. The area at the base makes for a nice lunch spot with views across Mill Creek to the Twin Pillars. Much of the elevation gain is due to the climb back up to the viewpoint up several sets of stairs.

As usual most of the wildlife we spotted was from the car on the way to and from the trail head. We saw several deer from the road but the trail offered a Northern Pacific Treefrog and a few Golden Mantled Squirrels. In all this was a very nice hike and a great time of year for it. Until the next time, Happy Trials.

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