In my mind, the Ochoco National Forest is one of Oregon’s best stretches of woodlands. The trails are springy with fir needles, the air is light, aromatic, and dry, and the terrain is wonderfully diverse.
One less-traveled hike in the area is the south end of the Lookout Mountain Trail, which starts off as a gentle ramble through open grasslands in meadows bordered by old-growth ponderosa pines. You’ll see some cows grazing in the area, but they’re friendly and mind their own business. Just shy of the two-mile mark you’ll see a sign guiding you to the Lookout Mountain Trail. Take a right at this junction and start the gentle walk uphill through a thick fir forest.
The trees start to clear as you reach the top of a mountain plateau. But up here above the timberline the ground is rocky, and the trail is harder to see. Follow a faint path along the ridge to a trail junction, then turn southeast until you hit an old wagon road. This will guide you up to another ridgetop, where you’ll encounter a fallen down wire fence. The trail continues from here southwards, and then east through sagebrush scrub and grassy hillsides until you hit the summit of South Point.
You’ll have just hiked 8.4 miles with 1,100 foot elevation gain, so feel justified in flopping down here at the peak. From this rocky outlook you can see sweeping views of the Crooked River Valley, the Maury Mountains in the distance, and Big Summit Prairie to the east. Rest here and maybe have a picnic lunch before retracing your steps back to the trailhead.
- From the southwest corner of Big Summit Prairie, take paved Road 42 until you hit Road 4215.
- Take this road for about 9.4 miles, then turn to the right onto Road 4220.
- Follow this road for 1.1 miles, then turn left onto Road 257.
- Drive 0.8 miles to the Line Butte trailhead sign.
For current trail and road information, visit the Forest Service website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/cs/recarea?ss=110607&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&cid=FSE_003738&navid=110240000000000&pnavid=110000000000000&recid=38714&actid=51&ttype=recarea&pname=Lookout%20Mountain%20Trail%20
Map of the area: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3794948.pdf