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Lookout Mountain Short Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Summit cliffs of Lookout Mountain (romann)
View north from Lookout plateau (romann)
Dry plateau is half meadows, half islands of forest (romann)
Snow shelter (romann)
  • Start point: Mother Lode Mine TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Mother Lode Mine Trailhead
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 7.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1350 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: mid June-October; accessible from sno-park in winter @ Round Mountain trailhead
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for kids over 8
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

Ochoco Mountains' highest peak, Lookout Mountain has wide, rolling summit plateau with high desert meadows, islands of forest, and lots of views. In June and July, the meadows have rich assortment of flowers. There's a lot of wildlife. This area melts out much earlier than alpine areas of the Cascades, so it's good for getting used for elevation in late spring and early summer. It's more sunny and drier there than in the Cascades - just watch for thunderstorm forecast. This page describes the most popular loop on Lookout Mountain (shared with bikers and horses, but the rules prohibit motorized use). I describe the loop counter-clockwise because this way it's harder to miss an unsigned junction near the trailhead.

Begin at Mother Lode Mine trailhead (old topo maps show it as Independence Mine TH). There are 3 signed trails starting from this trailhead, look for Lookout Mtn Tr No 804. You'll go slightly downhill through trees for less than 100 yards, then take left at "Y" junction - the sign here was broken as of 2013 - and before long you'll see abandoned cinnabar mine shaft on your left. Look uphill to see abandoned buildings of Mother Lode Mine (the public is not advised to visit the buildings). The trail then crosses a stream and starts climbing through old stands of subalpine fir.

In the next 2 miles you'll be climbing in pleasant shade; the forest will be interrupted a couple times with large meadows, with spectacular flower displays in July. About 2.4 miles from the trailhead, 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 moist fir forest you've just seen, here is mostly see lodgepole pines and junipers, interrupted with sagebrush meadows (look for balsamroot, lupine, blue larkspur, and red scarlet gilia under sagebrush). Soon after that junction, you'll reach another 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 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 the corral on the windswept lava bed. 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 the 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. Hummingbirds are commonly seen in that area. There's some good views to the north as you come to the edge of the plateau. Then the trail makes a sharp switchback as it comes onto steep, forested mountain side, and makes the final descent to the trailhead.


Lookout Mtn loop 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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