Not to be confused with the 16th highest named peak in Oregon in the Wallowa Mountains, this Elkhorn Peak is actually Oregon's 31st highest named peak. Located in the Elkhorn Mountains, a part of the larger Blue Mountains in central and northeastern Oregon (and up into Washington too), this range runs roughly north-south just west of Baker City, OR and Elkhorn Peak froms the backdrop of Baker City (also called just Baker on some maps). The major gold rush in Oregon was concentrated in this area.
There is the legend of the "face on Elkhorn" which is a shadow that forms on the snow on Elkhorn in late December and January. Some say the shadow struck fear into the local indians while others say it was the guardian of the valley. Whatever it is, the shadow does remarkably resemble a human profile.
Elkhorn Peak is also home to a thriving mountain goat population. Goats were first transported here by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in 1983 and have grown to a population of about 150. The number is so large now that scientists are capturing and exporting goats from here to other goatless mountains.
Elkhorn Peak is a fairly popular summit although it is outshadowed by it's larger brother to the north, Rock Creek Butte. There is no direct trail to the summit for the last 900 feet although you can pick your way up goat paths from the popular Elkhorn Crest Trail. The peak can be climbed from two directions as well (see route page) with either a 4.5 mile trail with 3530 feet of elevation gain or if you have a high clearance vehicle, a 3.8 mile trail with only 1400 feet of gain. Whichever you chose, you won't be sorry as this is an astounding area of Oregon that more closely resembles the Rockies or Sierra Nevada than the Cascades.
From either the east (Boise) or west (Portland), take I-84 to Baker City, OR. Take exit 304 and drive west into town (Campbell Street). If you are going to take the trail from Marble Pass (the higher trailhead with less elevation gain-you will need a vehicle with high clearance to make it there), stay on Campbell fro about a mile until you come to Main Street. Go straight for a half mile to a light (10th St.) and turn right. Go 1.1 miles to a flashing yellow light and follow the sign for Marble Creek Picnic Area, turning left on Pocahontas Rd. Go 7.6 miles and where Pocahontas Road goes right for the third time, go straight on Marble Creek Rd. Go .3 miles and turn left to stay on this road. Go another 7.8 miles to the trailhead at Marble Pass.
If you are going to take the more popular Twin Lakes Trail (more elevation gain, better road to it), from Baker City and Campbell Road, you will want to turn left at Main Street. This will go through downtown Baker City and become Highway 7. Go about 23 miles to Deer Creek Road between mileposts 29 and 28. The road immediately jogs left (just watch the sign) and go about 6.5 miles (staying on this road, also called Road 030) to the trailhead. Ignore any side roads and when you come to the 4-way intersection of gravel roads, go straight staying on Road 030. The last quarter of a mile or so may be difficult in a passenger car as the road is steep, loose, rutted and rough.
No red tape. No permits or fees. Yahoo!
When To Climb
mid-July through October
outside this time, the roads will likely not be passable due to snow
There is ample camping at Twin Lakes if you are hiking in to camp. You can also sleep in your car at the Twin Lakes Trailhead.
There is a small campground off Deer Creek Road (about 4 miles into the road is a turnoff to the right for the campground).
There is also a larger campground off Highway 7 just a couple miles before the turnoff for Deer Creek Road called Union Creek Campground located on or near Phillips Lake.