Some trails are long and strenuous, but so scenic that you don’t want to miss them. The spectacular Lookout Mountain Trail in the Ochoco Mountains of Central Oregon is just such a ride. The trail is 12 miles long (one way!), but it has trailheads at both ends you can do a trailer shuttle and experience the entire trail with half the effort.
You'll start at the Lookout Mountain Trailhead and ride up the Lookout Mountain Trail, gaining 3,000 feet of elevation in 8 miles. Along the way you’ll see a historic spring, wildflower meadows, splendid views of the ridges to the west, a remarkable rockpile of columnar basalt, and a 360-degree panorama from the mountain’s tabletop summit.
Just before you reach the summit, you'll come to a sharp switchback on the edge of a cliff. As you approach it, call out or blow your whistle to alert descending mountain bikes to your presence.
After you cross the summit of Lookout Mountain, you can continue on the Independent Mine or Mother Lode Trails, or stay on the Lookout Mountain Trail. All three will take you down the north side of the mountain, past the old Independent Mine (which extracted cinnabar, the stuff that mercury is derived from).
You’ll see evidence of the mining activity, including an old mine building and the entrance to a mine shaft. And with a short detour from the trail you can visit the abandoned mine’s headquarters, smelter, a bunkhouse, and other historic outbuildings. You'll end at the Round Mountain South Trailhead.
To do a trailer shuttle, drop a trailer at the Round Mountain South Trailhead off Road 42 and drive 6.5 miles back to the Lookout Mountain Trailhead on Road 123. Start your ride there, and do a one-way ride way to the trailer you left at Round Mountain South. You can cover a lot of terrain and see some delightful sights without racking up an exorbitant number of trail miles.
Lookout Mountain is a spectacular and memorable ride. The trail is popular with mountain bike riders, so (as the saying goes), keep a lookout on Lookout Mountain.
The Lookout Mountain Trail is covered in the Western Ochocos chapter of Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2012).