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Additional Hikes in the Malheur National Forest

Bog saxifrages, buttercups, cinquefoils and elephant heads in bloom across Logan Valley with the crest of the Strawberry Range in the distance...............July 1, 2010.

Bog saxifrages, buttercups, cinquefoils and elephant heads in bloom across Logan Valley with the crest of the Strawberry Range in the distance...............July 1, 2010.

Since Logan Valley is approximately a 6 hour drive from Portland or Salem, we hope that those who attend the 2011 Native Plant Society of Oregon's Annual Meeting at Lake Creek Camp in Logan Valley will opt to come a day or two early, or stay some extra time to enjoy the diverse scenery, wildflowers and wildlife which can be found in the area. Or come back and visit the area at a different time of year! The area is suitable for birders and botanists to explore from late May through September. Generally the high country isn't fully floriferous until mid July (or mid-August in high snow years). You will find below links to other recommended hikes and trips in the surrounding Malheur National Forest. In planning for your day's hikes, consider that you will be travelling on forest service roads that are generally of good quality, but remember you won't be able to drive as fast. A good rule of thumb to remember is that it takes about one hour to one and one half hours to drive to reach trailheads from one side of the Strawberry Range to the other.

Malheur National Forest: The official USFS website with contact info if you are in the area at other times of the year. If you are planning a trip to the area either early or late in season, it doesn't hurt to contact one of the forest service offices to check on trail or road conditons!

Aldrich Mountain: Located at the western end of the Aldrich Mountains, this destination is probably best done as an auto trip done in conjunction with visits to the Cedar Grove and Murderer's Creek, or perhaps in conjunction with a hike to the summit of Fields Peak if you are especially fit. The road to Aldrich Mt. should be opening up around Memorial Day (give or take a week or so). There are numerous road stops to view wildflowers along the road, especially by late June, and the views from the lookout atop Aldrich Mt. are stupendous.

Blue Ridge: Blue Ridge is a low east-west trending ridge of serpentine-like rock found between Murderer's Creek and Deer Creek to the south of the Aldrich Mountains. It's a great place to walk the ridgeline cross country around Memorial Day, or into late June during especially moist years. Generally though, its flora begins drying up by mid-June although the summer-blooming flowers will be visible here into early July (a plus since it blooms earlier than most of the other hikes on this page).

Calamity Butte Lookout: Calamity Butte is a high rocky bald with both a modern lookout and historic lookout cabin on its summit. This is highly recommended for travellers driving between Burns and John Day on US Highway 395. The views are great and the wildflowers should be at there peak between late June and mid-July. The King Mountain Lookout several miles further south (and accessed from the highway just north of Idlewild Campground) also is highly recommended.

Cedar Grove Botanical Trail: A short 2 mile hike to visit a rare east-Cascades grove of Alaska yellow cedars (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). A forest fire burned through much of the area in 2006 so it is more open than the hike that was led hear during the 2003 NPSO Annual Meeting.

Dixie Butte:  A moderate hike  up to 3 miles RT, 800' elev. gain (6800-7600'). Dixie Butte is a high rocky bald located off US Higway 26 to the north of Prairie City. Expect to find a number of wildflower species not further south. Great views to the Elkhorn and Greenhorn Mts. It is a good site for a one-half to two-thirds day hike from the John Day area. Unless you have a high clearance, 4WD vehicle, it is best to park where FS Road 2610 reaches a small grassy clearing (with an access road that descends wetward) where the forest begins to open up. There is a manned lookout tower at the summit. 54 mile RT from John Day, OR. 84 mi drive RT from Logan Valley.

East Fork Canyon Creek Trail: This is a peaceful hike along East Fork Canyon Creek which flows down the south-central portion of the Strawberry Range. It is largely under the forest canopy so is highly recommended for high temperature days!

Fields Peak: Fields Peak (7363') is a highly rated trail recommended for botanical hikers (and for lepidopterists by mid-July). It is the highest point of the Aldrich Mountains but its fairly open south-facing slopes are generally mostly snow free by mid-June. The views from the summit ridge are fantastic and because the subalpine slopes are more arid, the plants here are a bit different than those found at Strawberry Mt. The trail to the summit of Fields Peak works its way to the north side of the peak where there is a large snow field which may prevent many from attaining the summit until mid-July, so the walk east towards McClellan Mt. is recommended for most June hikers. The hike can be done as a one-half to two-thirds day trip (including the hike east along the open ridgetop towards McClellan Mt.) by those who are more fit while those who need to hike much more slowly would need to attempt this as a full day trip.

Malheur River National Scenic Trail#303: This hike follows the western bank and slopes above the scenic Malheur River to the south of Logan Valley. This can be done as an out and back hike, or if you have several vehicles, as a car shuttle with vehicles left at both trailheads. This is especially recommended if you are in the area on a hot, sunny day!

Monument Rock Wilderness: The Monument Rock Wilderness is one of my favorite places to visit when I'm in this part of the Malheur National Forest. The manned lookout at Table Rock offers stupendous views of mostly uninhabited timberland with great views across drier rangelands extending east towards the Snake River. An old road can be followed across the mostly level ridgetop filled with wildflowers and butterflies in mid-July, although I've visited hear during Labor Day during a high snow season with the same result. Most likely the upper portions of the wilderness won't be accessible during the 2011 NPSO Annual Meeting (but we will let you know if it is open!). Very few people hike the trails here (except during hunting season), so it's a very peaceful place.

Murderer's Creek: Murderer's Creek is a renowned salmon and steelhead fishery. The riparian area and surrounding meadows and upland forest offer ample opportunity to view the wildlife and wildflowers of the area from mid-May into late summer. The cabin at the old work center can be rented for overnight use, and camping is plentiful in meadows along the creek or at the Oregon Mine Camp.

North Fork Malheur Trail #381: Like the Malheur River National Scenic Trail, this hike offers plenty of solitude as it follows the west bank of the river through numerous wet meadows and into patches of coniferous forest. The river is an excellent place to fly fish (the bull trout are catch and release) and the nearby North Fork Malheur Campground offers a pleasant place to set up a base camp for this hike and many of the others on this page.

Shaketable Research Natural Area: Like Blue Ridge, this is a wild area that is lower in elevation than most of the others listed on this page. It should be nearing its peak around Memorial Day although the mid-summer flowers will be blooming by late June. The RNA offers a variety of habitats in decent shape (See the plant list.). It is located just south of Murderers Creek at the western edge of the Malheur National Forest. There are no established hiking trails, so this is off-trail country. Carry plenty of water (especially if it's warm out) along with a map to help you navigate the area. This can also be done as a car trip with short hikes from the road.

Sheep Rock via the Indian Creek Trail #364: This trail accesses the north central portion of the Strawberry Mt. Wilderness between Baldy Mt. in the west and Strawberry Mt. to the east. Sheep Rock is an outcrop of serpentine-like rock with a correspondingly unique flora. There should be interesting flowers and birds to be viewed along the trail, or if one is well-versed in scrambling cross country up rocky slopes, Sheep Rock might be a suitable destination for a day's trek. The lower portions of the trail should be open by late-June while the full trail which extends to the summit ridge of the Strawberry Range should be open by mid-July most years.

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness: This is the destination for many people wishing to have a wilderness experience in this portion of central Oregon. Backpackers will traverse the summit ridge from west to east (or viceaversa) while day hikers have numerous options for day hikes. The flora and fauna varies greatly depending on your entry point (east vs. west or north vs. south), so try several different trails during your stay!

Strawberry Mountain: (accessed by trail from the south): Strawberry Mountain (as accessed from the south) is probably one of the most visited areas during the hiking season in the Malheur National Forest. There is a chance the trail will be partly open in late June, with a few early season wildflowers to be found, including: Brown's peony (Paeonia brownii), steershead (Dicentra uniflora), mountain prickly currant (Ribes montigenum) and ballhead waterleaf (Hydrophyllum capitatum var. alpinum). Much more should be in bloom 3-4 weeks after the trail first becomes open!

Vinegar Hill-Indian Rock Scenic Area: This area is located along the east-west oriented ridgeline to the north of the Middle Fork John Day River. Most years, this won't be open until early to mid-July. The ridgeline is the boundary between the Umatilla and Malheur National Forests. Check with each forest for road and trail conditions depending how how you intend to enter this area.

Paul Slichter E-mail