Ochoco National Forest Hiking Guide
Hiking is a great way to experience the natural beauty and solitude that the Ochoco Mountains offer. This page highlights some of the Ochocos' most magical places with options for all ages and hiking abilities.
Introducing the new Heart of Darkness backpacking loop
Do you prefer following elk tracks instead of footprints? Do you often seek the off-the-beaten path type of adventure? If you prefer coyote howls and dark starry skies over campgrounds and crowds, you will love the Heart of Darkness Loop in the Ochoco Mountains! This loop offers a rugged and breathtaking 39 miles of backpacking through some of eastern Oregon’s most remote and scenic landscapes. This strenuous hike is full of adventure and inspiration and offers a unique alternative to the often over crowded trails plaguing central Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. For those seeking adventure and solitude, this is the place to go within a few hours of Bend.
Lace up, and get ready for adventure!
Lookout Mountain is located on the south western portion of the Ochoco National Forest and is one of the closest recreation areas from Prineville, Oregon. At the summit of Lookout mountain there are panoramic views of the Cascades and Big Summit Prairie along with a multitude of wildflowers in the spring and summer. If the wildflowers and views are not enough to convince one to make the hike, there are giant old growth ponderosa pine trees and many signs of wildlife. Additionally, on some of the trails one can see historic mine sites.
Round Mountain is located near Lookout Mountain but offers more seclusion and difficult hiking than the main Lookout Mountain hikes. Round Mountain also provides beautiful vistas of the Cascades at the summit and the route up. Furthermore, there are beautiful alpine meadows, wildflowers in the right seasons, and old growth ponderosa pine trees.
This hike which leads to the 350ft. tall Steins Pillar is probably one of the most popular hikes in the Ochocos. The pillar is a 44 million year old monolith formed from welded volcanic tuff when the Wildcat Mountain Caldera collapsed. If one is lucky, one may see a rock climber on the pillar or one of the other surrounding rocks.
Spanish Peak is located in the north eastern portion of the Ochoco National Forest and it offers beautiful views of the entire Ochoco Forest, John Day, Cascade Mountains, and many other smaller mountain ranges. This area is more secluded with less maintained trails than the western section of the forest. For the adventurous hiker who is not afraid of a little bushwhacking on a marked route but not necessarily a cleared trail, this is the area to explore. For those who brave the trip to this side of the forest, they are well rewarded with views, seclusion, and wildflowers.
Walton Lake is a family friendly area to take a stroll around the lake, play in the water, fish, and look at wildflowers and birds.
Cougar Creek Trail is located on the north-western side of the Ochoco National Forest and traverses up and down Cougar Butte where sunlight is filtered by pine and fir trees. The trail crosses Heflin, Dodds and Cougar Creek.
All photos courtesy of Sarah Cuddy, Emma Gosser and Melissa Hubler