Central Oregon Fort Rock Hiking Oregon Trip report

Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian.
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.

By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.

We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
Scarlet Gilia
Lewis Flax
Prairie Star

Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top

We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.

We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.

It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.

Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
Mt. Shasta fro m Hager Mountain

We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.

By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.

We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.

Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
2014-06-14 13.45.55

Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.

A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:

It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

Facebook – Hager Mt.:
Fprt Rock:

Central Oregon Fort Rock Hiking Oregon Trip report

Hager Mountain

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you’d like and that was the case with our visit to Hager Mountain. Hager Mountain is a 7195′ cinder cone located in the SE portion of Central Oregon. It’s an area we had yet to explore and were looking forward to a chance to climb up to the summit and survey the area. On a clear day mountain peaks from Mt. Shasta in California to Mt. Hood can be seen. This was not to be one of those days. As we drove southeast on highway 31 toward Silver Lake the sky began to fill with the blue haze of smoke. By the time we reached Fort Rock the Sun, which had just risen, was only a red circle through the haze to the east. We arrived at the trail head in the Fremont National Forest and prepared to start our trek. The faint smell of smoke reminded us of campfires as we set off. Lighting strikes had set dozens of fires in this portion of the State just days before.

The trail set off in a forest of Ponderosa Pine and some Juniper. It looked like there should be deer everywhere but the only one we saw was on the drive there. A few flowers were left over from what appeared to have been a good bloom probably in late June or early July.
Our first glimpse of the lookout tower gave us an indication of what the view up top was going to be like.

Despite knowing we wouldn’t be seeing the views we had hoped for the quiet trail was very nice. It was well maintained and we had it all to ourselves. After a mile and a half we reached Hager Spring. It had an old log fence around it but was dry now. From the spring the trail began climbing a little faster but never too steeply. We passed through various meadows that were full of balsam root and paintbrush but little color remained from their blooms. We were too late for them but the meadows were still pleasant and we had the company of many birds the entire hike.
The trail crested and passed briefly through a forested area filled with fireweed and then switched back up through another set of meadows. Suddenly we came around a bend and there was the lookout.
Heather and I were both surprised to have already reached the summit because the last time we’d seen the lookout it seemed so far away.

In addition to the lookout tower there was an outhouse and a picnic table. After exploring around the summit a bit we made use of the picnic table to have a snack.
It was only 8:45am and we had arrived before the lookout staffer who pulled up shortly after we’d sat down. We at least had some blue sky above us but the smoke surrounded the mountain on all sides leaving us with no views at all. Still it was a nice place to sit and relax a bit before starting our descent.

A plaque on the summit told us about green-tinged paintbrush which is native to Southern Oregon and has a very limited range. Apparently 95% of the world’s population is found in the Fremont National Forest. We kept our eyes open on the way down and spotted a few of the plants near the summit.

We spotted a lot of wildlife on the way down. Various birds, butterflies, and other insects were all over keeping the hike entertaining. I spent awhile attempting to get a picture of a western tanager who wouldn’t sit still but I finally managed to get a shot of him as he took flight.

Despite the lack of views and being too late for the really good flowers the hike was surprisingly enjoyable. We decided that we would definitely be coming back again earlier in the year to try again. What little we had seen told us it would be more than worth the trip. When we got back to our car a series of forest service vehicles and a water tanker truck went by heading for one of the fires. Happy Trails.

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