Best Hikes in Ochoco National Forest (OR)


Ochoco National Forest is located in central Oregon, about an hour northeast of Bend. divided into three ranger districts: the Lookout Mountain Ranger District, the Paulina Ranger District, and the Snow Mountain Ranger District (currently administered by Malheur National Forest). The Forest is headquartered in Prineville, Oregon and also administers the Crooked River National Grassland.

Ochoco National Forest does not have as many great recreational opportunities as some of its neighboring forests in the Cascade Range. However, several of the best hiking trails in its nearly 200 mile network are detailed below. Official Website.

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Nearest Metro AreaBend, OR
Area Size845,498 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1911
Hiking Trails188 miles

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Ochoco National Forest

  • Alder Springs Trail #855 – 5.6 miles out and back
    • This trail descends into the canyon from the parking area at Alder Springs Trailhead. As it descends along the layered bluffs, visitors can see intriguing views of the canyon and the trail ahead. The developed trail ends where the Deschutes River and Whychus Creek meet. 
  • Gray Butte Trail #852*** – 12.6 miles out and back
    • This well-known trail provides excellent views of the Crooked River National Grassland and the Cascades, and also ties into trails that reach BLM land and Smith Rock State Park. This trail is primarily accessed at Gray Butte Trailhead, though it can also be accessed from the Cole Loop Trail (#854). 
  • Lookout Mountain Trail #804 – 18.0 miles out and back
    • This trail begins near Ochoco Ranger Station at the Lookout Mountain Lower Trailhead and travels up the northeast side of Lookout Mountain. From both Duncan Butte and the top of Lookout Mountain there are terrific views of the Cascade Range. In the spring there is an abundance of wildflowers in the open meadows.
  • Steins Pillar Trail #837*** – 4.0 miles out and back
    • This beautiful trail can be accessed at the Steins Pillar Trailhead.  It slowly climbs through old growth forest, flower-filled mountain meadows, and rocky ridges. The trail reaches its final destination at the base of Steins Pillar, a 350-foot monolith of welded tuff, deposited during the collapse of the Wilcat Caldera, around 40 million years ago. The pillar can also be seen from a viewing area along Mill Creek Road. 

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