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Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, OR: Strawberry Lakes

Get big mountain scenery without the big mountain effort on this 6.9-mile out-and-back that visits two gorgeous alpine lakes, secluded campsites, and a 60-foot trailside waterfall.

Rating

Twenty miles southeast of John Day, the Strawberry Wilderness—with sparkling alpine lakes and towering glaciated peaks—has more in common with the Canadian Rockies than Oregon’s high desert. The trail starts at the Strawberry Campground, at the end of FR 6001. Pick up the trailhead near the day-use parking area, register at the signboard, then start up through fir forest, keeping right at several junctions, to the landslide-choked outlet of Strawberry Lake.

Fork right (west) at the lake loop junction, and cross the dried up outlet to a small beach where the still water of early morning offers mirror-like reflections of the surrounding peaks. Continue around the west side of the lake, crossing several inlet streams and passing a couple of nice camp spots, one near a wide lakeside grassy meadow. At the head of the lake, after a couple more stream crossings, look for a signed trail branching off to the right, and start a steady climb to Strawberry Falls. The 60-foot falls comes into view around mile 3, and the cool spray is perfect relief on hot summer days. A long switchback leads to the bridge over the top of the falls and to the next junction; fork left (east) to Upper Strawberry Lake.

The trail follows Strawberry Creek a short ways, crosses, then runs east less than half a mile to Upper Strawberry Lake, a gorgeous alpine lake in an amphitheater of 1,500-foot glaciated volcanic rock, with a small meadow on one end and a large scree slope on the other. Lake access is limited, but several secluded campsites can be found in the area. Find a nice spot for lunch and enjoy the view, or pick your tent site for an overnight. On the return trip, retrace your route to the head of Strawberry Lake and turn right (east) to explore the other shoreline (you’ll find several more campsites and nice lake access) before returning to the trailhead.

-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, Bosco Mountain Photo

To Trailhead

From John Day, OR: US 26 E to Prairie City. Right on S. Bridge Rd. and another right on Bridge Rd. (becomes Strawberry Rd.), then FR 6001 for 3 mi. to end.

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