Looking north to Bald Mtn from Yamsay Mtn
? How many Bald Mountains are there in the USA??? Probably close to a zillion but here is another to add to the list. There are twelve others posted here at SP and it seems that most states have several of them. In the east, many of the high areas are called "Balds" and among SP members, many of us have "bald" as a hairstyle. Well, on to the overview.
Bald Mountain is interesting as it is still topped by an actively manned lookout. This mountain is located in an area not often visited by those other than hunters and those interested in getting Oregon's prominence peaks. The lookout was built in 1941 and as mentioned is still used today. In fact, the current lookout person is reported to be VERY unfriendly and doesn't want you on the lookout structure at all. So respect her wishes and keep your feet on terra firma during your visit. Bald Mtn itself is nothing extra special but as a prominence peak, it is worthwhile to seek out and get to the top of. The countryside surrounding the lookout is dusty and dry in late summer and the fire danger can be listed as "extreme".
Bald Mountain ranks #42 on the Oregon Prominence list
with 2313 feet of prominence. Prominence is a growing in interest and more about it can be found here
. All of Oregon's prominence peaks have now been completed by SP'er Dennis Poulin
, so far the only one to have pulled off this feat. In order to do so, peaks like Mt. Hood, North Sister and Bald Mountain need to be bagged. It may not be much of a hike to do Bald Mountain, 2 miles roundtrip with perhaps 600 feet of elevation gain, it takes a lot of driving to get to the base of it. It took me two trips as snow stopped me far short when I tried to access it on a Memorial Day weekend last year.
I am also a lookout enthusiast and have been actively chasing them as well and I know there are plenty of others like me who will be interested in visiting this lonely sentinel, in the middle of nowhere.
A benchmark and a couple witness benchmarks are located very near the lookout structure so if you are interested in collecting pictures or tagging benchmarks, this mountain will not disappoint.
From La Pine, head south on US 97 and turn left on highway 31 which is heading towards Lakeview. I'm not sure how many miles but it seemed like the turnoff was about 13-15 miles from the junction of US 97 -highway 31. The road you are looking for takes off to the right as a good quality dirt road and is signed (not obvious) as FS 2516 HERE
is the GPS coordinates for the proper turnoff. As mentioned, the road is FS 2516, stay on it until you come to this next junction
, the junction with the Bald Mtn lookout road. It seemed like it was about another14 or so miles from highway 31 but the GPS coordinates will make easy work of the direction finding. After locating the lookout road, drive up it until you reach a switchback that has a locked gate just beyond it. Park
. Proceed on foot past the gate and it is 1.25 miles to the summit area, obvious by the lookout structure at the top. Allow about an hour and a half for the round trip.
SP member Paul McClellan
refined the directions nicely and I'll add them:
FR 2516 is 17.6 miles east of Hwy 97 on Hwy 31 (MP 17.6).
The Bald Mountain Lookout road was 13.8 miles south on FR 2516 from Hwy 31. It is signed with a road number "036" and some yellow or faded light green flagging tape is wrapped around a tree trunk at the junction.
The gate is about 0.75 miles up the lookout road.
No forest pass is required but exercise caution during the high fire season. This area can become extremely dry and it is a good idea to contact the local forest service ranger station for up to date information:
Deschutes National Forest
1001 SW Emkay Drive
Bend, OR 97702
Bald Mtn is centerstage
There are no established campgrounds in this part of Oregon but I noticed several areas off of FR 2516 that would provide reasonable car camping.
Established campgrounds can be found near La Pine (Newberry Volcanic Monument) and Crater Lake national park. Further research as I develop this page may find some more and I will list them when located.
In wintertime, this area may not be accessible as snow will most likely block the access forest road 2516 and this road most likely will not be plowed. I was stopped by snow on the road, several miles from the mountain around Memorial Day of 2006 although I'm sure that by a week later, the road would have been passable. Snowmobiles may be allowed but it would be best to contact the forest service ranger station noted under the 'red tape' section.
In the summer, this area can get quite hot so carry adequate water for your needs.
Map and route
This map will provide an overview of where Bald Mtn is as well as the location of FR 2516. You can continue on south on 2516 and link up with Or 41 which will allow you to also get to Yamsay Peak
. See camping near Yamsay if you want a developed campground with bare bone facilities.
Bald Mtn is centerstage
Rather than attach a route page for this mountain, that would be overkill since getting to the top is a simple road walk, I will just note the following:
500-600 feet if you park HERE
Time required: Two hours (allowing for some time to wander the top a bit)
A word or two
Did I mention that this is a staffed (maintained) lookout. Oregon has qquite a few that are still staffed and this is one of them. I did meet the lookout, well kinda, as I arrived at the parking spot just before the gate as she came down in her truck and left for the evening (it was a friday evening) so I knew there was no one up there. However, when I got up near the lookout and the wasps (or hornets) started swarming me, I figured she might have left to get away from the miserable pests they can be. I've heard she isn't very friendly anyway so be forewarned should you encounter her. (of course, there may be a new lookout tender nowadays)