Adventure in Ochoco National Forest

Aaron in the background and myself in the foreground near the summit of Lookout Mountain

I had been craving a trip to the Ponderosa Pine forests of Central Oregon for a few weeks so I figured why not make it a backpacking trip. To make it even better I asked Scarecrow, a guy I hiked a good 1,800 miles with on the Pacific Crest Trail.

We decided on the general area we would hike; Lookout Mountain near Prineville, Oregon. Lookout Mountain is the highest point in Crook County.At 6926 feet it provides outstanding vistas of nearly all the peaks in the Cascades as well as epic views east to the Strawberry Mountains.

We started off from the lower trailhead which is near the CCC camp and ranger station. As the trail started up there were more and more ice patches and snow leftover from a previous snow. The trail as easy to find for about the first 8 miles. After that all bets were off. Once we hit deep snow( about knee deep and much worse postholes) we decided we were just going to head for the highest point we could find. After a fairly strenuous climb up lose rock and icy snow we found a decent spot set up out of the wind. We dug down into the snow and made a fire pit in the middle of our walled area. It stayed pretty warm despite the high winds and chilly temperatures( 15-20 degrees).

One of the surviving buildings from Independent Mine


Day 2 we started off toward the summit of Lookout Mountain. The route we took was pretty crazy. Mostly on rocky, icy, snowy ridge with a sheer drop on the west side. Once we hit the top we found a trail marker for the Independent Mine trail and the snow shelter we had wanted to stay at. After some looking for the snow shelter we gave up and started to head down the mountain searching for Lookout Mountain road. We found the road after about 3 miles post-holing fun in a dense forest.

Once we hit the road it was an easy walk down. We found the Independent Mine, which was trashed but cool. There was little snow on the road so the walk was pretty easy. We decided
to set up camp along Canyon Creek a few miles before the trailhead.

The allure of pizza and beer was too much so two of us walked down the the truck and headed to Prineville. We hit up Tom and Charley's. Which was damn good. Got a massive pizza, I'm talked barely fit in a car big, for 27 bucks. Once back at the campsite we got the fire raging and sat back enjoying our beer and pizza.

The wind started picking up and then the insane snow started. At first we thought it would stop, but Scarecrow was lacking in shelter so we decide heading back to Redmond was probably a good life decision.

It turned out it was. It's been snowing and insanely windy all night.

I can't wait for my next trip to the Ochoco Mountains!

View from near the summit of Lookout Mountain


Scarecrow with the Cascades in the background

Awesome spot for camp near the summit of Lookout Mountain


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