Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, OR: Slide Lake

Skirt volcanic cliffs amid hillside meadows to a pair of small alpine lakes and secluded camp spots on this 8.5-mile lollipop-loop.
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Skirt volcanic cliffs amid hillside meadows to a pair of small alpine lakes and secluded camp spots on this 8.5-mile lollipop-loop.

A mere 20 miles southeast of John Day, the Strawberry Mountains seem more like a scene out of Colorado’s Rockies than the Oregon high desert. The trek 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 left at several junctions. The views for the first 2 miles are limited and unimpressive, but the rewards are soon to come. 

At 2.3 miles, the trail emerges into a small meadow, filled with balsamroot and paintbrush. On the plateau to the left, find an exposed campsite with views over the John Day Valley and distant Blue Mountains to the north, and Slide Mountain to the east. The trail now forks right and turns south to continue along steep slopes under colorful volcanic rock outcrops and a variety of trailside wildflowers, lupine, forget-me-not, and more paintbrush. (An alternate route forks left and descends into Slide Creek Valley, than ascends to reconnect farther up.) Soon tall, wispy Slide Creek Falls comes into view, cascading over a high rock step near the head of the valley. A wide open viewpoint here offers a nice panorama over the entire valley. 

After the falls, the trail dives again into the cover of forest for another 0.5 mile before coming to the outlet of Slide Lake, a small alpine lake surrounded by a towering amphitheater of stone. Here, the trail splits into a 1-mile loop around the lake. Several small campsites can be found on the west side of the lake, and look for large patches of pink shooting star on the lakeshore. Near the top of the lake, the trail splits in several directions to more small campsites and to the edge of Upper Slide Lake, a small tarn at the base of a huge talus slope. If you’ve packed for an overnight, drop your gear and get comfy, otherwise, continue around to the east side of the lake to complete the loop, then return by the same route.

Mapped by Eli Boschetto

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 13.5

Waypoints

SLD001

Location: 44.3193333, -118.6742613

Trailhead to Slide Lakes in Strawberry Campground.

SLD002

Location: 44.3111024, -118.6771971

1.1 mi; bear left at fork.

SLD003

Location: 44.3099746, -118.6785402

Turn left at this T-junction; right leads 0.4 mi. to Strawberry Lake, and could make return trip detour.

SLD004

Location: 44.3098552, -118.6782899

Another junction with the Strawberry Lake trail; keep straight.

SLD005

Location: 44.3116267, -118.668177

Exposed campsite in small meadow. Nice views!

SLD006

Location: 44.3113631, -118.6681502

2.4 mi; fork right for trail through hillside meadows under volcanic cliffs; fork left to descend to Slide Creek Valley.

SLD007

Location: 44.303929, -118.666286

Nice viewpoint with panoramas up and down Slide Creek Valley.

SLD008

Location: 44.2980861, -118.6647723

3.5 mi; upper junction with Slide Creek Valley trail.

SLD009

Location: 44.2977862, -118.6640078

Cliffside viewpoint of Slide Creek Falls.

SLD010

Location: 44.2925483, -118.6641927

4 mi; Fork left to Slide Lake; right climbs to High Lake Pass.

SLD011

Location: 44.2909585, -118.6616324

Outlet of Slide Lake; bear left on lake loop.

SLD012

Location: 44.2908472, -118.6620452

Lakeside campsite with fire ring.

SLD013

Location: 44.2900919, -118.6640767

Campsite.

SLD014

Location: 44.2875034, -118.6645751

Little Slide Lake. Several camp sites in area.

SLD015

Location: 44.2876731, -118.6638999

Nice secluded camp site.

SLD016

Location: 44.2882289, -118.6625145

Camp site with nice lake views.

SLD017

Location: 44.29074, -118.6616161

Lakeside camp site.

Trailhead

Location: 44.3191505, -118.6736298

Start the trail to Slide Lake at road's end in Strawberry Campground. © Eli Boschetto

Trail Fork

Location: 44.3112283, -118.6765909

Keep left at three junctions to proceed to Slide Lake. © Eli Boschetto

Forget-Me-Not

Location: 44.307144, -118.6673641

Cute little blue forget-me-nots line much of the trail under volcanic outcrops. © Eli Boschetto

Valley View

Location: 44.3038886, -118.6660552

View down Slide Creek Valley to John Day basin and distant Blue Mtns. © Eli Boschetto

Painted Wall

Location: 44.3018922, -118.6650467

Some of the colorful volcanic outcrop along the trail to Slide Lake. © Eli Boschetto

Pretty Pink

Location: 44.3003719, -118.6648107

A variety of summer wildflowers decorate the trailsides en route to Slide Lake. © Eli Boschetto

Slide Creek Falls

Location: 44.2977919, -118.6637592

Slide Creek tumbles over the large rock step near the head of Slide Creek Valley. © Eli Boschetto

Rock & Meadow

Location: 44.2961486, -118.664403

Colorful volcanic outcrops rise above hillside meadows on the Slide Lake trail. © Eli Boschetto

Slide Lake

Location: 44.2905426, -118.6625361

Slide Lake is surrounded by an amphitheater of glacier-carved volcanic rock. © Eli Boschetto

Lake Trail

Location: 44.2896978, -118.6647034

The 1-mile loop around Slide Lake offers several secluded campsites. © Eli Boschetto

Upper Slide Lake

Location: 44.2872402, -118.6650038

Smaller lake surrounded by large talus slopes. © Eli Boschetto

Summer Storm

Location: 44.2888684, -118.6619353

Hot summer weather brings afternoon thunderstorms to Slide Lake. © Eli Boschetto

Shooting Star

Location: 44.2901893, -118.6614633

See lots of shooting stars - during the day! - on the marshy shores of Slide Lake. © Eli Boschetto.