A commanding view, then a demanding downhill.
The BendTrails.org website calls Lookout Mountain “easily one of the best sustained downhill trails in Central Oregon.” That alone should be enough to make you start hyperventilating slightly.
But wait – there’s more! Lookout Mountain is also the highest point in the Ochoco Mountains, at 6,918 feet. And to give you an idea what that looks like, well, there’s the name. And the remains of a historic fire lookout at the top. So you get the point: views for days. In fact, on a clear day, from the summit you can see the Cascades to the west, the Strawberries to the east, and the Ochocos all around and below you. The summit is in the middle of a giant meadow, but at the southern edge of the meadow there are impressive cliffs.
But that’s at the top – first you have to get there. This ride starts at the Ochoco Ranger Station, from which you’ll ride on pavement up the highway to the Lookout and Round Mountain saddle – a distance just short of 7 miles with 1,500 vertical feet of climbing. The road-pedal serves as a more-than-adequate good warm-up for what’s ahead. Along the way, keep an eye out for yellow bells, leafy bluebells and evergreen violets among the sagebrush.
From the trailhead, you have three choices. Lookout Mountain Trail 804 is the most popular ride. Motherlode Mine 808A offers a steep and short option, and Independent Mine 808 is the longest route at roughly 4.5 miles. If you choose 808, check out the caved-in mine shaft near the trailhead, with a stream running down the path of an old mining-cart railway.
Whichever path you choose, the top of Lookout rewards you with two things: those 360-degree panoramic views, and 3,500 feet of drop over roughly 7 miles. Expect rugged and rocky terrain in the top 2-3 miles, with more technical riding; as you drop down it transitions into more fast-flow, with a series of short uphill bursts.
This descent is so much fun, you’ll probably be sorely tempted to hit that pavement to climb up and do it all over again. This time, when you get to the top, start counting peaks, north to south: Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, all Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mount Bachelor, Diamond Peak…