OverviewThis is not a route page for Black Mountain. Instead, it is a "head's up" kind of page, alerting you (if so inclined) that Black Mountain and the county highpoint of Umatilla county, Tower Mountain, can be done on the same trip. So, if you go to do Black Mountain, try and plan on adding Tower Mountain to your agenda. You can make your way over to US 95 and Ukiah from the Black Mountain area or visa versa. Benchmark Maps are a great aid to figuring out the roads.
Here is my trip report:
Tower Mountain (6,850 ft) Date: June 20, 2003
Driving down from Kennewick via Pendleton and U.S. 395, I went east on OR- 244 from Ukiah. After passing a turn off for Lehman Hot Springs, I turned south on FS 5226 towards Frazier Campground. The road continued past the campground and soon after passing C.G. Frazier station, the road came to a fork. No signage was present but my choice to turn to the right turned out to be the correct one. Contrary to an earlier report, I found no signs (probably thanks to some individual who removed them) after this fork but my GPS indicated I was heading the right direction after a sweeping curve that first went west and then returned to a southerly direction. I found the road to be very rocky in places where I had to exercise caution in my Honda Accord and very narrow in other places with no turn outs available. I would hate to meet a vehicle coming from the opposite way in some of these places. Fortunately I had picked a day when no one would be interested in the views as low clouds and fog were the order of the day. After 12 miles I came to the Lookout Tower, just barely visible in the fog. I parked at the small parking area and explored the area. The bench mark at the base of the very lofty lookout tower, was a little lower than the surrounding ground and so I made certain to cover the area totally, which was easy to do.
No one was present on this day and so I had the area to myself. After about twenty minutes, I got back in my car and continued on south, marveling over the extremely narrow and often rocky road in some areas. At one point, several trees were hooked together just above the roadway, which I had no problem driving under but I wouldn't have wanted to have been driving a camper. The 8.4 miles to FS52 was uneventful as I didn't meet even one vehicle on the whole 20 plus miles of the road. If you drive a passenger car as I did, just drive carefully and don't be in a hurry and you'll be just as successful as I was.
I continued on towards my next CoHP which would be Spanish Peak in Wheeler County.
GPS Coordinates - NAD27 datum: (45.05444° N, 118.56779° W)
Getting ThereIt really makes sense to do both Morrow and Umatilla counties on the same day. By either doing Tower Mountain first (a drive up) and then going to get Black Mountain, or doing Black 1st and Tower 2nd, you can make it work.
Fellow county highpointer Barney Metz went from Black to Tower and he describes his trip as shown below:
"Adam Helman and myself drove from Morrow CoHP via FS 53 to the junction with US-395. We continued heading west on OR-244 through Ukiah. You will proceed east for many miles towards Lehman Springs, take a right and head south on FS 5226. This route is about 12 miles from the highway. We found this road signed very well all the way to the lookout on Tower Mountain. The road is rather rough, but passable by car. BM is built into the tower base, we tramped to the top and then proceeded back to US-395."
Tower Mountain to Strawberry MountainFrom Tower Mtn, you could continue on (study the map) and make your way down US 95 to John Day. From there you could actually make it three in one day if you wanted to include the county highpoint of Grant County, Strawberry Mountain.
The lookout pottyThe inside is worth a visit even if you don't need to use the facility.
Why? The sense of humor of the lookouts comes across in the interior decoration as shown in the pic below: