Access Special Backpacker.com Features, Register Now!

Mount Vernon, OR: Aldrich Mountains

Climb peaks and sniff wildflowers on a challenging Malheur National Forest overnight in eastern Oregon.

Rating

Eastern Oregon delivers a hiker’s trifecta: wide, open spaces, epic scenery, and very little company. And nowhere are these qualities more evident than the almost completely overlooked Aldrich Mountains, where intrepid backpackers will find 7,000-foot peaks, herds of elk and bighorn sheep, and outstanding displays of yarrow, balsamroot, larkspur, and geranium in mid-June. Begin this 20.8-mile out-and-back with a stiff 1-mile climb on the Field’s Peak Trail (#212). Take the .8-mile spur at mile 1 to reach the range’s highest summit, then backtrack and turn east on the McClellan Mountain Trail. The trail wanders up and down across slopes—views stretch across the John Day Valley to the Strawberry and Blue ranges beyond—through rocky saddles, and around peaks for 7.6 miles. Scout a campsite near tiny Bear Flat Spring, then retrace your steps in the morning for a day of peakbagging. An easy 1.1-mile scramble at 4.1 miles from camp leads to great views atop McClellan Mountain; hike another mile for the .9-mile spur to similar vistas on Moon Mountain.

To Trailhead

From John Day, go 18 miles west on US 26. Turn south on Fields Creek Rd./FR 21; drive 8.6 miles and turn left on FR 115. Go 0.4 mile, then turn right on FR 2160. Veer left on FR 41 and proceed 1.2 miles to the trailhead.

Leave a Reply