The Mountains of Oregon •
Strawberry Mountain • Highpoint: Strawberry Mountains
• Highpoint: Grant County
• Malheur National Forest

The peak through some old burned snags

At the summit

Me on a bump, with butterflies fluttering by

Date: July 29, 2004 • Elevation: 9,038 feet • Prominence: 4,080 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 1,300 feet • Conditions: Butterfly-ey


βð and I were on the tail end of a two-week tour of the Pacific Northwest and Canada, now driving south through eastern Oregon back to Reno, where we would catch our plane home. Yesterday, we had driven from Moses Lake, Washington, to John Day, Oregon. The drive itself was scenic, meandering through the hills, ranges and high deserts of eastern Washington and Oregon. We arrived in John Day in the late afternoon and stayed at the "Budget 8" hotel, which turned out to be a clean and quality place.

We planned to hike Strawberry Mountain today, a landmark mountain southeast of town. We left John Day around 7 a.m. and drove south on US-395 for 10 miles, then followed paved and dirt forest roads another 25 miles, generally east and north, coming up to the "Roads End" trailhead at 9:00 a.m. in pleasant conditions. We started hiking at 9:30.

The first 1.2 miles is along a dirt road. The elevation gain is minimal, maybe a hundred feet. Along the way, the road and hillsides were carpeted in wildflowers. At the end of this section, the road turns right and ends, splitting into two trails. Also, for the first time, we had a view of Strawberry Mountain, still a couple miles away. We stayed right and followed a trail for another 1.3 miles north. The trail gained slightly and dipped slightly, eventually dipping down to a low saddle area amid burned trees from a big fire from a couple years ago. Despite the burn, there was a lot of green and new growth so it wasn't all totally grim. The peak was above us now.

We continued up the trail as it steepened for the first time on the whole hike. It gains a high saddle and intersects another trail coming from the north. From here, the route traverses the bare slopes, then enters into a stand of juniper and pine. The trail makes a hard left here, and momentarily ascends out of these trees. The summit was now just a few hundred feet above us. We followed the trails etched into the rock and quickly, arrived on top, about two hours after starting, and a total net gain of 1,300 feet.

The top is a long, narrow ridge and the summit is well-defined and obvious, but not very big. We were immediately bombarded by swarms of butterflies. Papillons, Mariposas and Schmetterlings all around us. They were everywhere and relentless, but not annoying. They never land on anyone anyway. I had never seen butterfly swarms as thick as we saw here. Why it's not called Butterfly Mountain, I don't know. We relaxed for almost 45 minutes, watching the butterflies flutter by. There was a small windbreak with a tarp rolled up in it ... but no register. But there were butterflies.

The hike out went quick and easy. We were back to our car by 1 p.m., where we changed and rested before driving down. From here, we drove south along US-395 another hour to Burns, where we stopped at a Mexican Food restaurant for lunch. It was a small family-owned place.

The waiter dropped my plate of food as he brought it out. There were beans, cheese, tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes and burrito guts everywhere. So he goes back into the kitchen and I can hear him talking, and another guy (his boss, I assume, or big brother) who says "well, get him another plate". Was I not going to get another plate had not the boss stepped in?

We stayed the night at the Crystal Crane Hot Springs Resort west of Burns, and the next day drove up Steens Mountain.

(c) 2004-2021 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.