The Lookout Mountain trail will lead you to the highest point within the Ochocos at 6,926 feet, with sweeping views to the distant Cascades from the summit. The Mother Mine Loop is also the shorter option of the loops up Lookount Mountain, if you don't have the time or energy to complete the Independent Mine Loop.
There are three different trailheads from which you can begin your hike, depending on the off-roading capabilities of your vehicle. The first trailhead is the Round Mountain South and Upper Lookout Mountain Trailhead (depending what side of the parking lot you are on), and is located right off of the paved Forest Road 42. From there, you can continue up a pretty decent, but steep in places, dirt road for 0.6 miles to the Baneberry Loop Trailhead. However, you don’t have to stop here either. Another ¼ mile will get you to the Mother Lode Mine Trailhead. The road may have some rocks where having a little extra clearance is nice, but most cars should be able to make it up to this point fine.
Begin your hike across the road and on the west side of the parking area. This will be the Lookout Mountain Trail. The trail quickly dives into some pretty deep woods, a little uncommon for the Ochocos. You’ll cross over a couple tiny little streams as you slowly climb up the shady, north face of the mountain. After about a mile you will come to a hard switchback and begin heading in a southeasterly direction. You will also, soon after, cross a couple of meadows that can be lush with alpine corn lily. They can also hold snow later into the year than any other spot on the mountain and can be a little bit swampy, depending on how late in the year you are hiking.
A little over 2 miles into the hike, you will encounter the junction with the Mother Lode Mine trail. This trail will return you back to the trailhead in a more direct route. Don’t turn back yet, though. Head to the right and continue on towards the summit of Lookout Mountain. From here, it is only about ½ a mile and 300 more feet of climbing to reach the pinnacle of the Ochocos. There is even a snow shelter along the way if you want to take a load off for a minute.
The summit of Lookout Mountain is a broad, scabby, sagebrush covered mesa. Luckily, the western slope of the mountain is very steep with some cliffs along the summit edge, making for a nice view westward towards Prineville and the Cascades. Once you’ve had your fill, return the way you came, past the snow shelter and back to that first trail intersection you encountered. From here, the trail descended fairly rapidly as you drop almost 1,000 feet in a little over a mile. The majority of the trail is in the trees, but pockets will open up here and there affording a nice view to the north. Once you begin to break free of the forest and pass the ruins of the old cinnabar mines, you will know you are almost back at the trailhead.
From Prineville, head East on Highway 26 for 15 miles until you reach the intersection with a sign directing you toward Walton Lake and Big Summit Prairie to the right. Head to the right along Ochoco Creek Road and continue for another 8 miles until you reach the Lookout Ranger Station. Just past the ranger station, the road splits with the straight ahead route heading towards Walton Lake and the right heading towards Big Summit Prairie and Lookout Mountain. Head right onto Canyon Creek Road and proceed up the mountain for the next 6.5 miles. Just as you reach the saddle of the pass, a dirt road to your right will direct you to the Independent Mine and Lookout Mountain Trailhead. Follow the dirt road for the next mile to reach the trailhead.
Passes: No passes required.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: The trailhead is open year round but will likely be snow covered into May.
Flowers: Different flowers will bloom depending on elevation, but June and July are usually peak months.