Malheur National Forest
 
From the splendor of a stand of towering pines, and the hypnotic beauty of a shimmering stream, to the awesome spectacle of crisp, white snow on a jagged mountain ridge, the Malheur National Forest offers a wealth of stunning vistas and sublime visual experiences. With nearly 17 million acres and elevations from 3300 to over 9000 feet, there are countless opportunities to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of alpine lakes and meadows, Wild and Scenic rivers, sagebrush steppes, and forests of pine, fir, larch and spruce.


  
The jewel in the crown has to be the 68,700 acre Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Here, rugged ridgelines and daunting rock faces, cracked by frost and adorned with red and yellow lichens, tower above talus slopes and alpine lakes. Basalt, sandstone and granite rocks show diversity of color matched only by their unpredictability of form. Scattered subalpine fir and late blooming wildflowers find homes among rock crevices and thin rocky soils.

Below the ridgeline, the occasional dry, open ridge or wet meadow is surrounded by stands of lodgepole pine and subalpine fir, framing distant views to the expanses of Bear Valley to the south or the John Day Valley to the north. Snow fields cling on through mid summer, their melt waters flowing down through pristine drainages where waist high columbines and lush thickets of red alder cast dappled shade on a creek more easily heard than seen. All types of wildlife call the Wilderness their home, offering good chances of seeing a red tail hawk soar overhead, hearing the bugle of a bull elk echo across the valley, or glimpsing brown trout jump in the cool mountain air. While the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness has an abundance of visual delights, many other special and beautiful areas exist around each of the Ranger Districts of the Forest.
 
The Blue Mountain Ranger District has the Vinegar Hill/Indian Rock Scenic Area, a place where natural features and processes have combined to produce diverse landscape patterns. Upland meadows are divided by clumps and ribbons of fir, and populated with outcrops of basalt and granite. Large expanses of burned forest stand with silver and black stems, needles and limbs consumed in one of the many wildfires run through this area. Below them, green shoots signify new life and the cyclical process of life and death in the forest. Much of the rain and snow in the Scenic Area drains to the Middle Fork of the John River. Designated as a State Wild and Scenic River, the Middle Fork flows through grassy meadows and stands of pine, below rimrocks and the leap of returning steelhead. In the heart of the District, Magone Lake Recreation Area offers camping, fishing and boating enclosed by majestic "pumpkin" pines, ponderosas with their deep orange bark and characteristic black furrows.
  
Magone Lake, in the Malheur National Forest, about 26 miles north of John Day, is one of Grant County's most popular lakes. Angling for 8-to 15-inch eastern brook and rainbow trout is consistently good. The U.S. Forest Service rebuilt a 22-space campground, a boat ramp, and covered picnic area near the lake a few years ago. This area offers swimming, hiking, fishing, geology viewing, and wildflower viewing.
  
Magone Lake covers about 50 acres and features both deep holes (up to 100 feet) and shoals on the north side. Some of the best fishing is in the weed beds that cover portions of the northside shoals. A hiking trail circles the lake so that people can fish easily from the shore. A float tube or rubber raft is handy, especially for fly fishing. Every year brook and rainbow trout are planted and grow quickly. Three-pound brookies are caught occasionally.

Magone Lake is open year-round, allowing for ice fishing for those who ride snowmobiles into the lake. The ice usually comes off by April. Access roads are usually snow-free by late May or early June.
 
To get to Magone Lake from the west or northwest, drive south on Highway 395 past Long Creek and turn left on Forest Road 36. The road leads east to the lake. The other road access, (26 miles north of John Day) is from Hwy. 26 to County Road 18, then turn onto Forest Service Road 36, which leads to the lake. A Malheur National Forest map would be helpful and can be found at Forest Service offices in John Day and Prairie City and at sporting goods stores.
 
For more information about road conditions, or to reserve the group campground (it accommodates about 20 people and has room for motor homes or fifth-wheels) or the picnic shelter, call the Blue Mountain Ranger District at (541) 575-3000. There is drinking water, and each space features a picnic table, fire ring and cooking grate. There is no electricity or garbage collection.
 
Monument Rock Wilderness
 
At the southernmost edge of the Blue Mountains, this area's alpine, once-glaciated ridges offer views across much of eastern Oregon. This Wilderness can be accessed from Prairie City via County Road 20 and Forest Road No. 13 and 1670. The lichen-covered 8-foot cylindrical stone monument atop Monument Rock may have been erected by pioneer sheepherders. This is a new Wilderness in the old landscape of the eastern Strawberry Mountains. Established in 1984 by the Oregon Wilderness Act, the 19,620-acre Wilderness spills from the Malheur National Forest onto the adjacent Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The northern end of the area lies across a watershed divide that separates drainages of the South Fork Burnt River, as well as two National Forests. The area ranges from about 5,200 feet in the lower regions to the 7,815-foot top of Table Rock.
 
In the lower lands you will find ponderosa pine, depending on where you go. You may also find lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir, white fir, aspen, and juniper. If you look down, you will probably see elk sedge, pinegrass, wheatgrass, huckleberry, bluegrass, and many wildflowers. As you hike higher, you will find subalpine fir, just below the treeless mountain crests.
 
The area's diverse wildlife habitat is used by bear, deer, elk, badgers, and the rare wolverine. There are 70 species of birds including the creek-loving water ouzel (American dipper) and the pileated woodpecker.
 
The visiting season here generally runs between June and November. The John Day Valley funnels winter storms and summer thundershowers to the mountain ridges here. As a result the area receives 40 inches of annual precipitation, twice as much as the surrounding, arid lowlands. Summer brings hot days and chilly nights. Hunting is the most popular activity, with hiking and backpacking increasing in popularity. Table Rock Lookout draws many visitors and is one of the entry points to the Wilderness.
 
Table Mountain - The fire lookout tower on Table Mountain is a good place to begin a visit to the Monument Rock area. After taking in the view, backtrack a half mile down the lookout road and take a level 2-mile stroll along an ancient dirt road to Bullrun Rock's 150-foot cliffs. A fork of this trail winds close to Monument Rock and continues 5 miles along a scenic ridgecrest to Lone Rock. To reach the trailhead from Prairie City, turn south from Highway 26 on Main Street, follow a paved road southeast 9 miles, turn left onto Road 13 for 12 miles, then take Road 1370 to the left.
 
The Bullrun Creek Trail starts out with 2 easy miles of hiking in a steep-sided canyon, but then climbs 2000 feet in 3.5 miles up a ridge to Bullrun Rock. Drive to the trailhead from Highway 26 by heading west from downtown Unity on a paved road for 1 mile, then turning left onto gravel road for 4 miles. Jog to the right on Road 1695, then follow Road 210 to the trail.
 
Starvation Rock - One of the more accessible and popular hikes climbs past Starvation Rock, a large basalt monolith, to Road 548 on the narrow ridge between Sheep Rock and Lookout Mountain. Backpackers and equestrians can use this path as a connector between the Glacier-Monument and Strawberry Mountain trail systems, which are less than 2 miles apart here.
 
Aldrich Mountains - Snow capped in winter and catching the suns early morning rays, the Aldrich Mountains loom over the John Day Valley like a row of pyramids. This large roadless area has expansive open ridgetops and dense timbered drainages where large Douglas fir and ponderosa pine can be found. To the south, Murderers Creek wanders through a flat valley, past pine forest, scattered meadows and occasional ranch buildings, then drops through the gorge around Shake Table with its dramatic canyon walls and rimrocks. Similarly, parts of Deer Creek and the South Fork of Murderers Creek contribute to the scenic beauty of the District, winding through narrow, constricted v-shaped valleys with lush riparian shrubs and rocky outcrops, or through open grassy meadows surrounded by large ponderosa pine where horses - wild and domestic - graze lazily.
 
Prairie City Ranger District has areas with dramatic scenery and sublime beauty. In the Monument Rock Wilderness timbered slopes give way to open ridgetops where, at your feet, hardy Indian paintbrush compete for your attention with distant views of forested mountains and sagebrush flats. Logan Valley, with the south face of the Strawberry Mountains as a backdrop, has changing scenes through the year. Carpets of spring wildflowers, swaying summer grasses, and autumnal aspens with orange-yellow leaves atop white bark stems, have made this a special place for hundreds of years. The North Fork of the Malheur River, a Federal Wild and Scenic River, certainly lives up to this description. Flowing through open meadows on the floor of this steeply walled valley, some of the Forests largest ponderosa pines reflect in the cool running water. As the river flows southward, valley becomes canyon, and outcrops of basalt and loose talus slopes intersperse with dry open forest and sagebrush hills. The distinct cry of an osprey may be heard over the riffles of the water.

The Emigrant Creek Ranger District offers a contrasting landscape, where the forest approaches the desert of South Eastern Oregon. Prairies of bunchgrass, sagebrush and scattered juniper offer expansive views to the south. Dry sagebrush meadows nestle among rolling hills timbered with open stands of ponderosa pine. Pronghorn antelope skirt the edges of the meadows in search of forage, and bald eagles roost in old growth trees, close to their hunting grounds in the wetland areas of the Harney Basin.

Whatever kind of scenery appeals to you, the Malheur National Forest has something that will enable you to leave here with a great photograph, a fond memory and a desire to return.


 

17 million acres encompassing Ontario, John Day, Baker City, and other towns in Eastern Oregon. For more info call the Chamber at:  800.769.5664

 


  
Nearby Lodging areas Ontario, John Day, Baker City, Prairie City, OR.

 

 
 
 

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Oregon Reservations