Ochoco National Forest
Distance: 7-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 130 feet
Best time to go: Summer to fall, depending on snow.
Notes: No parking fee required, no restrooms
About this Hike
This hike follows Independent Mine Trail 808 for about 3.5 miles up to the summit of Lookout Mountain, followed by a 3.5-mile descent. Follow the Independent Mine Trail out of the parking lot to the left and hike through a forest of Douglas-fir and old-growth ponderosa pine, then more larch and firs as you gradually ascend through dense forest patches alternating with openings over a few miles up to Lookout Mountain’s wide plateau. After crossing Brush Creek, it’s about another mile and half to the summit. The trail then follows Lookout Mountain’s ridgetop through a field of sagebrush and wildflowers, with gnarled ancient juniper scattered about. On a clear day, the summit offers views of the entire Cascade Range.
To complete the loop, descend from the ridgeline to the northeast, being careful to stay on Lookout Mountain Trail 808 to the right, and not following Trail 804 to the northwest. As you cross the broad basalt flow of Lookout Mountain’s plateau, you’ll hike through sagebrush and pockets of fir, and at about a half mile into the descent, you’ll reach a junction with Trail 808A. Take a left onto Lookout Mountain Trail 804 here. Now the trail becomes shadier as you hike through dense pockets of old-growth trees and traverse the lush headwater springs of Canyon Creek. About 3 miles into the descent, you’ll see the remains of Independent Mine, an old cinnabar mine, to the right of the trail. The parking lot is just another half mile from the mine.
From Bend, head north on US Highway 97 toward Redmond for about 15 miles. In Redmond, turn right to follow Oregon Route 126 east for about 17 miles toward Prineville. In Prineville, OR 126 becomes NW 3rd Street and US 26E. Continue on US 26E for about 13 miles. Turn right onto County Road 123 and go about 7.5 miles. Stay right at the junction of Forest Roads 22 and 42, and continue on FR 42 for 7 miles. Turn right on FR 4205, pass the Round Mountain Trailhead, and continue on this rough (but drivable) road until it ends in about 1.5 miles. The sign here reads "Mother Lode Mine Trailhead" - the Independent Mine Trail 808 leaves from the far left side of the parking area.