|Season: summer, fall|
|Distance: 35+ miles|
|Hazards: remoteness, primitive conditions, exposure|
The most classic loop in the Ochoco National Forest is the Round Mountain / Lookout Mountain loop, just east of Prineville, OR. This can be split into Round Mt. only (loops or out-n-back), Lookout Mt. (best as a loop) or the whole enchilada. Riding both together in one day can take up to six hours for 35 miles with 5800′ of climbing. There are other trails to ride in the Ochocos but this pair is easy to find, fun for riding and a very rewarding back country experience.
All options begin at the old Lookout Mountain Guard Station at the base of Lookout Mt. You begin both ride options with a road climb – for Round Mountain head left one half mile above the Guard Station toward Walton Lake, for just Lookout Mt. stay on that road to head to toward Mitchell.
Round Mt. Trail starts across the road from the entrance to Walton Lake. Take this trail to just below the summit of Round Mt. (the summit itself has radio & cellular towers on it – not very scenic). Then proceed on a trail heading South toward Lookout Mt. The Round Mt. trail itself ends at a large, flat parking area in the saddle betweent the two mountains and very close to an abandoned mining village called “Independent Mine”.
To ride only the Lookout Mt. section you first ride the paved road toward Mitchell for 6 miles to the Round Mt. trail at Independent Mine. Do not descend on pavement. There is a very steep one-mile single track leaving from the South end of that parking lot that takes you up to another trail head called Mother Lode Mine. The preferred route to the summit of Lookout Mt. continues out of this upper parking area to the left or East, climbs up to a scenic view, descends to cross Brush Creek, then climbs again to reach the summit of Lookout Mt. where the site of an old FS lookout stood. All that is left at this site is a small rock wall. Several hundred yards below the summit to the Northeast in the trees is a Shelter, but the Lookout Mt. trail stays on the long ridge line heading generally Northwest. In the first mile of this descent there is some significant exposure and technical, rocky sections. During the descent there are three healthy climbs, the last one being the longest. The last stretch back to where you parked is fast and flowy.
Directions to Ochoco Mountains:
From Bend, head East on Hwy. 20 to the turnoff for Alfalfa. Follow this road until it “T’s” into Hwy 126 and turn right. Take this highway to Prineville and once past town proceed several miles to the turnoff for Walton Lake and “Lookout Mt. G.S.” Park at the Guard Station. The Lookout Mt. Trail ends on this road at a long “pull-out” on your right. Expect the drive time from Bend to take about one hour.