There are eight peaks named “Lookout Mountain” in Oregon. In 2010, Terry Richard wrote an Oregonian article about the one in Grant County, seemingly only because it’s one of Oregon’s 8,000 foot summits (8,082 feet). This Lookout Mountain is directly west of Strawberry Mountain (the high point in Grant County) and since we’d hiked Strawberry Mountain a couple of years ago, we thought it would be interesting to see Strawberry Mountain from Lookout Mountain. In retrospect, it’s not clear why we thought this, but there you are…
The trailhead for this Lookout is Sunshine Flat, which is accessed via Forest Road (FR) 918 off of County Road 62 south of Prairie City, Oregon. After 2 miles of slow going up FR 918 – it was pretty high centered for a sedan – we parked and started hiking. Of course, just around the next hairpin curve the road almost leveled out and got (relatively) smooth. Oh well, this was supposed to be a hike. The dirt road gradually shrank into a set of Off-highway Vehicle (OHV) tracks which was then our “trail” all the way to the summit.
The “trail” just follows the ridge south to the peak. Further along, it does pass through some nice meadows, all of which were filled with many different kinds of flowers.
There are occasional views along the trail, here looking south toward Glacier Mountain and our goal, Lookout Mountain.
Eventually we intersected what used to be called the Rail Creek Trail (but is still an OHV track) and followed that to a road/trail junction just south of Lookout’s summit.
Names of trails seem to need to be taken with a grain of caution in this area – the only thing on this sign that seemed to be accurate or matched the various maps we had was “Sunshine Flat Trail.”
As we made the final 0.2 miles to the summit, the views opened up.
From the summit,
we could see much of the upper John Day River valley, Prairie City, and the the east side of the Strawberry Mountain complex. A 20-foot pole L-4 tower fire lookout was built up here in 1931; it was destroyed in the 1950s and no traces remain.
There were an amazing variety of flying – but fortunately non-biting – bugs on the summit, so after a quick lunch, we headed back. For variety, we followed the ridge line itself for awhile and, when we got lower down, descended directly downslope (hard on the feet – should have stayed on the road) to intersect the road. We could do this because the forest here is like a park – a canopy of trees with only grasses for undergrowth. On our way over to Baker City, we could look back and see Lookout and Strawberry filling the horizon.
Despite having OHV tracks for a trail, this was a pretty good hike given the park-like forest, the flowering meadows, and the expansive views. All told, 10.3 miles round-trip, with 2,500 feet of elevation gain (much less of a hike if you have a high-clearance vehicle that will get you up to the actual trailhead).