Standing above everything in the center of eastern Oregon, Strawberry Mountain rises to 9038 feet. It is located in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness within the Malheur National Forest. (see also this site for additional info on the MNF)
Running east to west, the Strawberry Range makes up part of the Blue Mountains. (I have heard other opinions that the Blues don't include this range but several publications confirm this including "Oregon Mountain Ranges" by George Wuerthner.) The Blue Mountains run from the Northeastern Oregon/Southeastern Washington area down along the west edge of the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon fanning out in central Oregon to include (from west to east) the Ochoco Mountains, Maury Mountains, Aldrich Mountains and Strawberry Mountains from about Prineville to Burns and Baker, OR. This range also includes the Elkhorn and Greenhorn Mountains. Overall, Strawberry Mountain is Oregon's 28th highest peak and 5 of 7 major life zones can be found here. Although the rock is volcanic in origin, these mountains were caused by an uplift, one of the largest in Oregon.
This area is home to lots of wildlife including bear, cougar, eagles, mink, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. This area also has a conifer called Larch which is the only conifer that turns yellow and loses its needles in Autumn. Also, as its name implies, in July the hillsides ripen with lots of wild strawberries. Originally named Logan Butte for nearby Camp Logan, it was renamed by a homesteader in the 1860's for the abundance of strawberries here.
There are 3 main trails to reach the summit. From the south you can take a 3.6 mile trail from Road 1640. From the northeast it can be accessed via the Onion Creek Trail off Road 6001 and the trail is 4.9 miles long. In my opinion, the best and most scenic route is the 6.5 mile long route from the Strawberry Basin which also starts from the northeast. This route passes Strawberry Lake, Strawberry Falls and many viewpoints, meadows and ridges. This route starts at the Strawberry Campground which can also be used as a starting point for the Onion Creek Trail but adds another mile to the trip. For a more complete list of the trails in the area, click here.
The views are outstanding with the Blue Mountains all around, grasslands below and Steens Mountain looming on the horizon to the south. If you have time after your summit, make sure to check out the nearby John Day Fossil Beds for cool peaks, rocks, gorges and obviously a few fossils.
Wherever you come from, you need to get to Prairie City, OR.
From the east (Idaho) take Interstate 84 to Baker City, OR. From Baker City, take Highway 7 west to Highway 26. 16 miles west is Prairie City.
From the north (Pendleton) take Highway 395 south to Mt. Vernon, OR. From here take Highway 26 east 21 miles to Prairie City.
From the south, well I would not imagine there are too many people coming from the south, but get to Highway 395 and take it north to John Day, OR, hang a right at Highway 26 and go 13 miles to Prairie City.
From the west (Portland), take Highway 26 to to Prairie City. For a more rural approach you can also take I-84 east to Biggs and pick up 97 South. Take 97 to Highway 206 east. This road goes through high grasslands past a neat windfarm with huge windmills on the way to Condon, OR. From Condon, pick up Highway 19 south and travel this through the John Day Fossil Beds to Highway 26. Turn left on Highway 26 and go to Prairie City.
Once you are in Prairie City, take Highway 26 to the center of town and turn south at the sign for Depot Park and Strawberry Lake. This is Main Street. Go south to a "T" and turn left and go about a block to Bridge St. (sign for Strawberry Campground) Turn right (south) onto Bridge Street and go 10.7 miles to the end of the road at Strawberry Campground. The last 7 or 8 miles are gravel but aren't too bad. The Strawberry Basin Route trailhead starts from the parking lot at this campground.
If you are going to take the Onion Creek Trail, you'll see the obvious sign about a mile before road's end and there is a small parking are on the east side of the road.
No permits or fees required! This is a day use area and parking is free. There is a voluntary wilderness info card you are asked to complete at the trailheads.
When To Climb
mid-July (possibly August) to October
Camping is allowed on the mountain and there are great sites at Strawberry Lake. There are various sites along the Strawberry Basin Route including near the ruins of an old cabin about 2 miles before the summit as well as a stone shelter on the summit. However, they want to keep this a day use area so you can't park at the trailheads overnight.
Best bet is one of three campgrounds on the approach road from Prairie City. Closest is Strawberry Campground. There are 11 sites with restrooms and water (although once the temps start to reach freezing at night, they are turned off - there is a stream nearby you can filter/purify from). No reservations and it cost $6 per night per site.
Mountain ConditionsPrairie City Ranger District
PO Box 337
Prairie City, OR 97869