OverviewLaying at the headwaters of the Indian Creek drainage basin on Stawberry Mountain's west flank is Indian Creek Butte, a modest 7886 foot highpoint along the east to west running Strawberry Mountain range. 1300 feet shorter than its eastern neighbor, Indian Creek Butte cuts a dramatic profile on the skyline as seen from the south on the drive in.
The south face is covered in high altitude timber, and offers refuge to wildlife you may not often see in other high traffic areas of the Strawberry Wilderness such as elk, pine martins and peregrine falcons. The Pine Creek trail skirts this face of the mountain until reaching its summit block, and as such is the recommended route to summit.
Viewed from a distance the northern face is a dusty wastland of burnt timber, however in many areas the forest can be seen recovering as there are fledgeling ponderosa pine trees evident should you descend into the Indian Creek drainage. At the head of Indian Creek, unblemished by forest fire is a small meadow of wild onions that you can see by taking the Indian Creek alternative route.
Indian Creek Butte is most easily reached by using the Pine Creek Trail which travels over the Strawberry Mountain Range. This trail is accessed either on the south side of the mountain range or the north. Although there are many other routes one could take such as the Table Mountain or Indian Creek Trails, the Pine Creek Trail is direct and the trailheads are easily located. Both routes run approximately 5.5 miles one way, other routes are much longer.
Like Rabbit Ears and Slide Mountain, Indian Creek Butte was formed by Miocene Volcanics overlaying mafic rock folded to the surface by accretion of an ancient island sea chain. An especially stunning geologic feature of the route is the exposed ash hillside seen in the image below:
Buried by the miocene eruptions mentioned above, this older layer of ash was exposed when Wildcat Basin was carved during later ice ages and has been articulated by erosion ever since.
Getting ThereIf taking the Pine Creek Trail from the south you will be using the Roads End trailhead for Strawberry Mountain. To get to that trailhead from John Day travel 9 miles south on Highway 395 to paved County Road 65 on the left. Follow this road approximately 15 miles to its intersection with Malheur National Forest Roads 15 and 16. Take a left heading east towards Logan Valley traveling only 2 miles where you will take a left on USFS road 1640. Follow this road 10.5 miles to the Strawberry Mountain Road's End trailhead. This trailhead lays on the southwest face of Indian Spring Butte less than half a mile from the High Lake Trailhead.
If taking the Pine Creek Trail from the north travel five miles east of John Day on highway 26 and turn right onto Pine Creek Road (US 5401). Follow this road 8.5 miles to the Pine Creek Campground where you will want to park unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle. The trailhead is only half a mile further up the road (go left at the Y just pass the campground), so this campground makes a good place to park. To avoid getting lost on the drive in make sure to follow the most maintained road and always take the road that goes up when you come to any splits as there are several roads that spur off of Pine Creek Road.
Red TapeNo permits or fees for Indian Creek Butte, just a voluntary card to fill out at the trailhead. Indian Creek Butte lies within the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.
CampingIf hiking into Indian Creek Butte from the south, Big Creek Campground in Logan Valley lies in a scenic alpine valley south of Strawberry Mountain alongside a rippling stream. There are mountain bike trails here and fishing along beautiful Big Creek.
If you hike into Indian Creek Butte from the north, Pine Creek Campground is your only option. There are no fees, several fire rings, and an outhouse. There is no running water at this campground.
For the truly adventurous that decide to camp in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, Wildcat Basin and Hotel de Bum hunting camps are spectacularly beautiful basins laying southeast and southwest of Indian Creek Butte with year round springs and nice grassy meadows to set up camp in.