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Lookout Mountain Extended Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View SW from the summit of Lookout Mountain (romann)
Partial view of Big Summit Prairie to the east (romann)
Dry meadows of the upper plateau (romann)
Wildflowers in July (romann)
  • Start point: Round Mountain TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Round Mountain Trailhead
  • Hike Type: Loop, with some out-and-back ("lollipop loop")
  • Distance: 8.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1800 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: mid June-October for the loop, lower trail accessible by May
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for kids over 8
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

This hike follows a popular Lookout loop counter-clockwise, but starts right above paved FR 42 so you don't have to drive the last rocky, slow mile to Mother Lode Mine trailhead. Instead, you hike that mile up pleasant (if sometimes steep) trail through old ponderosa pine forest, meadows with plenty of wildflowers in early June, and nice views. The downside is this lower trail addition has some unsigned, confusing junctions (described below), but overall it's in good condition and much quieter than the upper loop.

Start at big gravel parking lot, which is - oddly - signed for two trailheads at once; the far end is signed as Round Mt. South Trailhead, the near end has a sign for Lookout Mt. Upper Trailhead (but since it's lower trailhead for Lookout Mtn, this misleading sign can be removed at some point in the future). Park at near end of trailhead lot. Walk across the access road, and just uphill you'll see a sign for Lookout Mountain Tr. No 804, the start of our hike.

In about 1/3 of a mile, our trail will merge with a double-track trail. Go straight on double-track, and in about 100 yards it splits - keep right and soon it will turn into single-track again (there's no signs but a couple of rock cairns will mark the way). In the next half mile the trail comes to what looks like big, long-forgotten gravel parking lot overgrowing with grass - go across it and a good trail will resume on the other side. Past here, the going is straightforward - just ignore a few small trails to your left. Big ponderosa pines are really nice here, and open hillside on your right has plenty of views. In late May and early June, you'll see a lot of wildflowers - blue larkspurs, red paintbrush, and yellow balsamroot-like Wyethia (aka Mule's Ear). In the fall, a small grove of aspens will take turn at adding color to landscape. At 0.9 miles from the start, you'll keep right at a junction with your return trail near Mother Lode Mine trailhead, and soon you'll see abandoned mine buildings on the hill to your left.

In the next 2 miles you'll be climbing in pleasant shade as subalpine fir replaces pine and juniper; the forest will be interrupted a couple times with large meadows, with spectacular flower displays in July. About 3.3 miles from the start you'll come to junction with Mother Lode Mine trail #808A - keep right, still staying on trail #804. The climb is now almost over as the terrain gradually flattens out, and here on the plateau it gets a lot drier - instead of shady fir forest you've just seen, here you'll see groups of lodgepole pines and junipers, and wide sagebrush meadows (look for abundant flowers among sagebrush, especially red scarlet gilia - hummingbirds' favorite). Soon after that junction, you'll see a spur trail on your left, signed for snow shelter. This historical, 3-wall structure with a stove and wooden roof is just a short way from the main trail, and worth a visit. There are good places to camp under the trees around the shelter (and of course, the shelter itself - but expect some company) but if you camp, you'll need to bring water with you.

Back on the main trail, you will come to another junction in less than 1/3 of a mile, in the middle of a large sagebrush meadow. For the summit, keep straight on unsigned trail and in less than 100 yards the trail will abruptly end at the top of a cliff, with incredible views to the west, north, and south. There are old foundations of (presumably) former lookout building and of the corral on the windswept rocky top. On a good day, you'll see most of Central Cascade's snow-capped volcanoes, including Mount Bachelor, Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams, and all the smaller summits in between. Looking back, you'll see a glimpse of Big Summit Prairie through the trees to the east.

After soaking up the views, head south (right if facing away from cliff edge) on trail #807A. You'll descend fairly steep for 0.6 miles to the next signed junction, where you'll continue on trail #808. The trail goes in and out of forest, through the meadows with large amounts of nicely sculpted - but poisonous - false hellebore plant. In the bottom of big gully, you will cross Brush Creek - the only reliable water source on this loop. Next mile and half after Brush Creek is mostly open terrain, dry rocky meadows with impressive variety of flowers. If you come here in early June (which means crossing some snowfields on the way), you may see wild peonies in bloom; their flowering time is very short, and only a few lucky hikers will time the trip right. However, other flowers last well into July, so there's always something to see. The trail approaches good viewpoints as it comes close to the north edge of the plateau.

The trail makes a sharp switchback left as it leaves the plateau, and gradually descends through much greener, forested north side of the mountain. In just over a mile you'll come to Mother Lode Mine trailhead. Cross trailhead parking area and the road, and find a trail going downhill. In about 50 yards, it comes to Lookout Mountain Trail #804 you hiked up - turn right to return to your car.


Lookout Mtn Extloop final.jpg


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Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • No pass requirements are posted at the trailhead


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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