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Hike These Trails Before They Close For The Season

Steins Pillar in the Ochoco National Forest

Hikes to hit when the crowds and temperature are in decline.

Steins Pillar in the Ochoco National Forest
Steins Pillar in the Ochoco National Forest

As hiking season gives way into ski season, the window of reduced trail traffic, mosquitos, and sun rays allows an opportunity to hit any hikes you might’ve missed this summer or find a new favorite without the crowds. With winter trail closures or snowpack shutting off access to many hikes in the area, here are some hikes to hit before hibernation.

Green Lakes

One of the area’s most popular trails closes with the Cascade Lakes Highway in mid-November this year. The trail follows Fall Creek up into the scenic Green Lakes Basin at the foot of both South Sister and Broken Top. Unfortunately for summer hikers, the proximity to the creek and heavily-wooded trail means prime mosquito territory. In fall, this issue is much less prevalent and views of shiny obsidian in the Newberry Lava Flow, the various waterfalls on Fall Creek and the alpine lakes come unimpeded by the thriving mosquito population. Plus, most of the tourists have left, and if you time it right—early in the morning or on a weekday—you could have the trail to yourself.

Distance: 9 miles out and back
Difficulty: Moderate
Parking: Green Lakes Trailhead $5 for a day pass or NW Forest Pass required
Open: Through mid-November

Broken Top Crater

Another hike dependent on the Cascade Lakes Highway, Broken Top presents a more challenging approach than Green Lakes, but rewards hikers with a panoramic view of the Cascades. If your vehicle isn’t up for the five-mile trek on a rugged dirt road, you can opt for the longer hike from the Todd Lake Trailhead. Those with off road capability can expedite their summit by taking the unmaintained Road 370 from the Todd Lake parking area and turning left on Road 380 cued by a “Broken Top Trailhead” sign. The trip to Broken Top Saddle from the trailhead is about 2.7 miles of relatively steep climbing on bedrock with sparse tree cover, but picturesque No Name Lake and views of the Cascades from the saddle are well worth the sore quads.

Distance: 5.4 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Parking: Todd Lake Trailhead or Broken Top Trailhead, $5 for a day pass or NW forest pass required
Open: Through mid-November

Lookout Mountain

For those looking to branch out from the Cascades, Lookout Mountain, the highest peak in the Ochocos, offers a great introduction to the area. The ascent begins at Independent Mine Trailhead and winds through young ponderosa pine forest and various alpine meadows populated with wildflowers like desert parsley, mountain bluebells and paintbrush. Upon reaching the summit, a sprawling plateau created by lava flow, the climb becomes more gradual and the landscape begins to open up. Fork left at the first junction (about 1.3 miles in) then continue straight at the second junction for approximately one hundred yards on an unmarked trail to access the peak’s best viewpoint. This sheer overlook has a wealth of sights in all directions highlighted by the westward view of the Cascades including Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams and Mount Hood.

Distance: 3.4 miles out and back
Difficulty: Moderate
Parking: Free at Independent Mine Trailhead
Open: Through early fall

Black Canyon Trail

One of the most trafficked trails in the Ochocos, Black Canyon may disappoint those looking for sweeping views, but wildflower enthusiasts will find an extensive selection. The array includes heart-leaf arnica, mountain lady slippers, mule’s ears and lupine strewn throughout the meadows and plateaus. Those looking for a more adventurous hike can explore the nearly-abandoned Coffee Pot Trail that runs into and out of the Black Creek Canyon.

Distance: 7.1 miles out and back or 8.9 with Coffee Pot Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Parking: Free at Boeing Field Trailhead
Open: May-November

Steins Pillar

This trail brings hikers to the most recognized landmark in the Ochocos, the 350 feet tall Anthracite pillar named after Enoch Steen, a civil war hero and Western explorer. The trail runs alongside large boulders and significant patches of balsamroot and indian paintbrush. Glimpses of the Three Sisters come and go along the route, but the real prize is the view of the pillar itself juxtaposed with the green carpet of the Ochoco hillsides.

Distance: 4 miles out and back
Difficulty: Moderate
Parking: Free at Steins Pillar Trailhead
Open: April-November

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