Round Mountain is one of the predominant peaks seen in the Ochoco skyline from Prineville. Located just to the north of Lookout Mountain, the highest peak in the Ochocos, this hike offers a nice change from the dry and dusty Cascades to the lush meadows of corn lily, red barked ponderosa pine, and green grasses found in the Ochocos. The views might not be as dramatic, but your much more likely to have them to yourself.
The hike to the summit of Round Mountain can be accomplished from two different trailheads. From the Round Mountain North trailhead, located near Walton Lake, the summit is four miles away and about 1400 feet above you. From the south trailhead, the hike requires 5 miles and about 1600 feet of climbing to reach the summit. My favorite method is to use a shuttle so you can enjoy the entire trail.
Begin your hike from the north trailhead in a sunny meadow. The trail quickly climbs about 400 feet in a little over half a mile as you make your way onto the shoulder of the mountain. From there, the next two miles of the hike are relatively level as you travel primarily through the forested areas with some interspersed meadows. The next mile and a half begins to climb much more steeply as you head to the summit. The views also open up as you make your way through corn lily meadows.
The trail will kick you out on a road right before the actual summit. Follow the road the last tenth of a mile to reach the peak. The radio tower up there kind of takes away from the wilderness feel, but the views are expansive, with the Cascades to the west, Lookout Mountain to the south, and Big Summit Prairie stretching out to the east. Once you soaked up the views, start heading back down the road and continue to the south trailhead.
In order to reach the southern trail, continue down the road for about a quarter of a mile. Once the road begins to switch back hard to the left, look for a trail that bails off the road to the right. There will be a sign marking the way. The trail descends steadily for the next two and a half miles, but there are some beautiful vistas along the way. There is one washout area that requires a steep little scramble to get in and out of, but nothing to serious. Just before reaching the trailhead and your awaiting shuttle, you have to cross forest road 42. The trail is clearly marked on the other side, however, so I believe you can manage without getting lost.
The reach the southern trailhead, head east out of Prineville on Highway 26 for 15 miles until you reach a Y in the road with a sign pointing to the right for Walton Lake and Big Summit Prairie. Take Ochoco Creek Road to the right and continue for another 8 miles until you reach the Lookout District Ranger Station. From here, take the road to the right towards Big Summit Prairie and head 6.5 miles to the base of Lookout Mountain and the Round Mountain South Trailhead. Leave a vehicle here and head back down towards the Ranger Station. Just before getting there, take a right on FS road 22 towards Walton Lake. Continue up the paved road for 6 miles and just before reaching Walton Lake, the trailhead will be on your right.
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.