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Strawberry Mountain Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Onion Creek Meadow and Strawberry Mountain (bobcat)
Strawberry Lake, Strawberry Mt. Wilderness (bobcat)
Paintbrush and buckwheat, Strawberry Mountain (bobcat)
Slide Mountain from Strawberry Mountain (bobcat)
Rock willow herb (Epilobium obcordatum), Strawberry Mountain (bobcat)
The in and out hike to Strawberry Mountain (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo

Contents

Hike Description

Strawberry Mountain is the highest summit in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, and on a clear day you can literally see for miles in all directions without any intruding peaks to block your view. This hike first takes in popular Strawberry Lake and then passes a waterfall. There's an optional extension to lovely Little Strawberry Lake before you begin a picturesque traverse up through wet and dry meadows into a subalpine parkland of whitebark pines. The final switchbacking ascent to the summit of Strawberry Mountain zigzags up a slope of loose shale and offers ever-expanding vistas. The numerous habitats along the way offer varied wildflower displays in the summer, and wildlife, including mule deer, chipmunks, ground squirrels, Clark's nutcrackers, and even the occasional mountain goat, is an added bonus.

At the kiosk at the parking area, fill out your wilderness permit, and then hike up the Strawberry Basin Trail #375 in a coniferous woodland carpeted with huckleberry bushes. You'll enter wilderness only about 200 yards from the trailhead. The tread continues up this slope under grand fir, western larch, and ponderosa and lodgepole pine to make a couple of wide switchbacks. About a mile from the trailhead, come to the first Strawberry Basin-Slide Basin Trail Junction and keep right. After traversing along a slope, hike above the remains of the landslide that created Strawberry Lake to keep right again at the second Strawberry Basin-Slide Basin Trail Junction. Next, stay left at the Strawberry Basin-Strawberry Lake Trail North Junction to head along the east shore of Strawberry Lake. Shortly come to another trail junction: go right here to take the trail which hugs the shore. There are a number of popular campsites tucked into the woods here on the left side of the trail. You'll get views across Strawberry Lake to the rocky ridges on its west side: the ridges conceal any vista towards Strawberry Mountain, which lies behind.

At the marshy south shore of Strawberry Lake, arrive at the Strawberry Basin-Strawberry Lake Trail South Junction. Make a left here and then, after 45 yards, go right to join the main Strawberry Basin Trail as it crosses Little Strawberry Creek and then heads up the Strawberry Creek valley. After about 3/4 mile you'll arrive below Strawberry Falls, which splashes about 50 feet down a rock face. The trail makes two big switchbacks from here to cross Strawberry Creek on a footbridge and come to the Strawberry Basin-Little Strawberry Lake Trail Junction. See the Little Strawberry Lake Hike for a description of the trail from the junction to the lake: a diversion here adds about 1.2 miles to your day.

Keep right to continue up the Strawberry Basin Trail. In another quarter of a mile, you'll get a clear view from the ridge down to Strawberry Lake. Soon after this pass across a spring-fed meadow that blooms with paintbrush, bog orchid, monkshood, and monkey flower in summer. Continue up the slope on dry meadows that host sagewort, penstemon, subalpine daisy, columbine, lupine, and Oregon sunshine. The gradient becomes gentler as you skirt a lush meadow that offers views ahead to Strawberry Mountain. This wide bowl contains the headwaters of Onion Creek. Above the meadow, look for the collapsed remains of an old cabin to your left: near here, you'll find a couple of good camping spots and the year-round Strawberry Spring. The trail now traverses up a dry open slope offering views to the north and east and crosses over the rocky ridgecrest into a whitebark pine parkland with many dead and dying trees. Lupine, yarrow, and Oregon sunshine form a pretty carpet. You'll continue to ascend on the west side of the crest until you come to the signposted Strawberry Basin-Onion Creek Trail Junction.

Keep right here to cross back over the ridge and begin the long traverse up Strawberry Mountain's open east slope. Startlingly pink clumps of rock willow herb (Epilobium obcordatum) stand out in the loose shale that forms this mountainside. The path enters a whitebark pine woodland carpeted with grouseberry and arrives at the Onion Creek-Summit Trail Junction.

Now begin your final 330 feet of ascent to the summit. Soon exit the woodland and make the first of nine switchbacks: there's a temptation to shortcut, and others have obviously done so, but please keep to the main track to lessen your impact on this fragile environment. Once at the summit, take in the spectacular views, arguably the best in the Blue Mountains. To the west, you can follow the John Day River valley and make out Sheep Rock, Canyon Mountain, and Baldy Mountain in the western part of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness; to the east, see Slide Mountain and Ironside Mountain; to the south, you can discern Indian Spring Butte, the Rabbit Ears, and, on the horizon, Steens Mountain. Even up here on this exposed windswept rocky peak, there are wildflowers blooming, including sulfur buckwheat, alpine collomia, mountain phlox, and cinquefoil. In addition, a couple of twisted strands of guy cable attest to the former presence of a lookout cabin.

Hike back the way you came. Another option is to make a loop by hiking north on the Onion Creek Trail until you reach the northern access road (FR 6001) and then walk south 1 1/4 miles up the road to the Strawberry Basin Trailhead: this descent is a little shorter but less scenic than returning via the Strawberry Basin Trail.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Restrooms at trailhead
  • Fee campground at trailhead
  • Self-issued wilderness permit

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Strawberry Lake Trail #375 (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Strawberry Mountain and Monument Rock Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management: Southern Blue Mountains
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Malheur National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Eastern Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Hiking Central Oregon & Beyond by Virginia Meissner
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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