Oregon may have the most mesmerizing collection of mountains in the country. Most of these towering, ancient peaks are extinct volcanoes that have challenged mankind’s courage and tenacity for ages. At Eagle Cap, climbers will experience panoramic views of the Wallowa Mountains as well as the mountain’s often photographed reflection in Lake Basin. Hikers can spend the night on the summit of Pearsoll Peak, where on clear days they can see as far as the Pacific Ocean to the west, beyond the California border to the south, and to Mount McLaughlin to the east. Whether the goal is climbing Oregon’s 36 county highpoints, challenging the 73 Oregon Prominence Peaks, or simply seeking the solitude of sweeping vistas, these 25 Oregon mountains epitomize nature’s allure.
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Mount Thielsen, aka Big Cowhorn, is topped with a dramatic spire that, along with a former spire on Little Cowhorn, once looked like a cow’s horns. The remnant of a shield volcano, it is home to Lathrop Glacier on its north face, the southernmost glacier in Oregon. Climbers can take two approaches to Mount Thielsen’s summit. The more popular of the two is Mount the Thielsen Trail, which connects to the Pacific Crest Trail in a gradual climb of 4 miles, and a second section that climbs 5 miles to the summit. The other option is an overnight climb. Thielsen Creek Trail is 7.5 miles to the PCT and 8.5 miles to the summit from there. It’s prettier, has plenty of water sources, and provides excellent camping beneath the north face.
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South Sister is the tallest of Oregon’s Three Sisters, has the highest alpine lake at Teardrop Pool, and is home to the state’s largest glacier – Prouty Glacier. A roundtrip hike to the 5,000-foot summit is 12.4 miles. Novices will want to climb the South Ridge route starting at both Green Lake and Devils Lake. Camping is available at Devils Lake Campground. More challenging routes are on the north and east sides. Summer climbs reveal an abundance of scree on the South Ridge route. There are snow fields and eight glaciers on South Sister. Winter climbers are encouraged to use an abundance of caution and bring an ice ax, crampons, shovel, and an avalanche beacon.
3.Smith Rock Group
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Smith Rock (not to be confused with Smith Rock State Park) is an “island” rock with four prominent rocky outcrops – Smith Rock’s twin peaks, The Platform, and The Arrowpoint. Smith Rock has 11 climbing routes. Unfortunately, there are large swaths of choss rock, which can be unsuitable for climbing, but there are patches of solid rock too. Scree slopes on the west side make for safer, easier climbs. For ideal warm and dry conditions, spring and fall are the times to climb the Smith Rock Group, as summer is too hot and winter is too snowy. Sometimes there are seasonal route closures, because of nesting falcons.
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Steens Mountain is another “island” mountain rising out of the high desert in Southeast Oregon. The 9,000-foot crest is 8 miles long. Climbers summit Steens Mountain via Big Indian Gorge during summer, and via ski touring the western slopes during winter. It is not recommended to attempt summiting the eastern face with its sharp ridges, which are crumbly. Beyond climbing, Steens Mountain National Back Country Byway is 66 miles of epic mountain scenery. Mann Lake and Fish Lake provide for great trout fishing. Alvord Hot Springs offers up numerous pools to relax in, and South Steens Rim provides panoramic views at over 7,000 feet.
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Brandy Peak is located in the coastal area of Oregon, and is the ninth highest of 73 Oregon Prominence Peaks. There is a short trail along Bear Camp Ridge where hikers can get spectacular views of wildflowers and wildlife during the summer months. The trail continues for 1.5 miles and then passes down Road 2308 for 4 miles and picks up a half-mile trail on the other side to Craggies Viewpoint. Hikers can hop on a 4-mile trail to Squirrel Camp, situated beneath Brandy Peak. At the summit of Brandy Peak, hikers and climbers will find a red can where they can register their names.
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Fort Rock, once surrounded by Fort Rock Lake, is a remnant of a volcano from the Pleistocene epoch. At one time, thousands of years ago, a shallow basin near the summit was a resting place of Paiute Native Americans. The low elevation makes it an easy climb to this very spot. Those making the trek to the summit should avoid springtime, since Fort Rock is riddled with nesting holes. Hikers can catch the trailhead west of the parking lot and take it north to the summit. Hikes are around 2 miles long. Another point of interest at Fort Rock include Fort Rock Cave, where visitors can take guided tours of this National Heritage Site. Climbing is neither encouraged nor prohibited.
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Eagle Cap in northeastern Oregon is one of the state’s more popular climbing destinations. It is the crown jewel of the Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness Area. The summit provides not only the best panoramic views of the Wallowa Mountains, but also a view of the mountain and its reflection in Lake Basin, which is one of the most photographed spots in the state. Although only a 4,000+ elevation from trailhead to summit, it’s still about a 20-mile round trip trek. Some people take on the challenge in a single day, but most opt to spend the night, which gives hikers time to really appreciate the experience. July through October is the peak time to summit Eagle Cap.
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Mesmerizing Alvord Peak is in the Southern Steens Range fault block of Southeast Oregon. It makes a gradual ascent on the western side to a dramatic 7,132-foot summit before plunging 3,000 feet to the Alvord Desert on the eastern side. The barren wilderness that characterizes Alvord Peak also gives the mountain a haunting beauty. The most popular hiking trail is Long Hollow Route, which is a roughly 5-hour roundtrip. Hazards to summertime summiting include the area being devoid of water sources, and the area is teeming with rattlesnakes. Winter may be a better choice, at least to avoid the snakes. Campers need to exercise extreme caution, as the area is very dry and campfires need to be tended closely.
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Crane Mountain is one of 80 peaks in Oregon that are over 8,000 feet. It’s also #39 among 73 Oregon Prominence Peaks. It offers spectacular views of Goose Lake and, on a clear day, faraway views of Mount McLoughlin and Mount Shasta too. The Crane Mountain trailhead is toward the end of a challenging road accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance ability, and even then maybe not all the way. It begins just shy of Crane Mountain Lookout. It’s a 4-mile round trip hike between the trailhead and the trail’s highest point, which is not the mountain’s summit.
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For those keeping track (or trying to summit them all), Pearsoll Peak is another of the 73 Oregon Prominence Peaks, listed at #28. The best time for hiking Pearsoll Peak is during spring and fall. Summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees, and windy weather conditions make it all but impossible to summit during winter. The McCaleb Ranch route, named after a former boy scout camp, is the most popular, where hikers can park their cars and hike to the trailhead from there. The reward for summiting Pearsoll Peak is the terrific panoramic view. On clear days, hikers can see as far as the Pacific Ocean to the west, beyond the California border to the south, and to Mount McLaughlin to the east. Pearsoll Lookout sits atop the peak and can be reserved for overnight stays.
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Black Mountain is the highest peak in Morrow County, which puts it among Oregon’s 36 county highpoints. It isn’t as impressive as some of its counterparts like Mount Hood, for instance, but it’s still a mountain posing a challenge. The trailhead, which is the gated service road up the mountain, starts at the base of the mountain and climbs over 1,000 feet. It’s a 4-mile round trip hike. Black Mountain is part of Oregon’s Blue Mountains. Hiking and climbing purists may be disappointed by the number of communications towers near the top of the mountain. The service road was built to service these towers, which may make summiting Black Mountain feel anti-climactic to some.
12.West Pueblo Ridge
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West Pueblo Ridge is located among Oregon’s Pueblo Mountains in the southeast corner of the state. The mountain is the range’s second highest point at 8,420 feet, and is listed among the state’s 100 highest summits. Hikers should expect rough travel on roads with deep potholes, and places where crossing streams is necessary while trying to reach summit trailheads. A western approach will get hikers within 3 miles of the summit. Approaching from either east or west will result in making the summit within a day hike. Climbers should keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. Also, hikers will often come into contact with private ranchland, and will need to open and close gates to continue toward the summit.
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Marys Peak in Benton County is among Oregon’s 36 county highpoints at 4,098 feet. It offers superior views of the Pacific Coast, Willamette Valley, and the Cascades. Nighttime views from the summit are equally enthralling with cities across the coast and valley lighting up the night sky. The usual cluster of communication towers and buildings mar the peak. However, the alpine clearing atop Marys Peak provides lots of winter sports activities not commonly seen on most of Oregon’s peaks. Besides hiking and climbing, visitors can expect to ski and sled in winter and picnic in summer on the wide open space. East Ridge Trail, 2.5 miles long, is the standard hiking route, and North Ridge Trail is a little longer.
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The challenging thing about summiting Mount Jefferson is the placement of the highpoint. It’s actually on a dangerous “liner”, a rocky ridge at the side of the summit, instead of on the summit. Those dedicated to reaching all 36 of Oregon’s county high points will have the toughest time with this one. Those not climbing the liner can simply enjoy the scenic parkland of Jefferson Park, with its flora, alpine lakes, and snowcapped peaks. The hike from the trailhead to Jefferson Park is about 5 miles with a 1,800-foot incline and can be done as a day hike. The summit pinnacle is at 9,500 feet.
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Grass Mountain comes in at #56 on the list of 73 Oregon Prominence Peaks, where peakbaggers can take on 2,163 feet of summit prominence. Located in the Oregon Coast Range south of Corvallis, the hike to Grass Mountain summit isn’t necessarily difficult, but it’s long at a 12-mile roundtrip with a gain in elevation of 1,000 feet. Because it is a forested area, there isn’t much of a view. From the trailhead at the gate, hikers should follow the road 5.4 miles to the top. Once there, they will emerge onto a grassy area. There’s a jar there, where the successful can register their accomplishment at the summit.
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Humbug Mountain is the highest mountain on Oregon’s Pacific Coast. It’s one of the most popular coastal mountain climbs. Because of its location, it enjoys a maritime climate with moderate temperatures. Summer has almost no rainfall, and it never gets too hot. Winter brings cooler temperatures, even cold at the highest elevations. The mountain is covered in old growth forest that is difficult to hike cross country, so the best route is the Brush Creek drainage on the mountain’s north side. The trailhead is obvious at the parking lot. Slippery, steep slopes on the ocean side of the mountain make climbing there dangerous.
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17.Bullrun Rock Monument
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Bullrun Rock Monument is one of three glacially carved summits that sit atop Monument Rock Wilderness; the other two are Table Rock and Monument Rock. While they are all at similar elevations, Bullrun Rock is the highest peak, offering the best views at just under 7,900 feet. The area is mostly an alpine meadow with subalpine and Douglas firs scattered about, and a smattering of rock piles perfect for rock climbing and bouldering. These summits are rarely climbed, affording visitors a sense of peace and calm with their isolation. Climbers can access Bullrun via a trail that begins at Bullrun Creek. It’s roughly a 2-mile hike.
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Middle Sister is one of the snowcapped peaks that make up the Three Sisters. North Sister and South Sister are her neighbors. They are located west of Bend in the Cascades of Central Oregon. The Middle Sister is the shortest of the three volcanic summits at 10,047 feet, but not by much. The Three Sisters are made up of alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, streams, lush forests, and trees such as Douglas, silver, and subalpine firs. Middle Sister is an especially fascinating climb, with the largest sheet of ice found in the state, Collier Glacier can be found between the North and Middle Sister. There are two trailheads that lead to its summit – Pole Creek and Obsidian.
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Odell Butte is a conical summit situated in south Bend, Oregon. Compared to other mountains, many might think it is unimpressive as they pass by, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This heavily forested mountain standing proudly at 2,192 feet is one of the only peaks that still maintains an active lookout. The flattop live-in cabin features a 30-foot treated wood tower that allows visitors to take in incredible views of the surrounding area. It’s a relatively easy climb or hike with scrambling opportunities and a benchmark at its highest point. Visitors can hike up the mountain any time of year, but a snowshoe hike in the winter is highly recommended.
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Carpenter is one of the 73 mountains on the list of Oregon Prominence Peaks due to its height of 2,029 feet of prominence. Like Odell Butte, it also features an active lookout. To get to the trail that leads to the summit visitors should park near the Carpenter Peak Trail. From there they will hike up a beautiful 1-mile trail with a 1,000-foot rise in elevation. The last 600 feet of the trail turns slightly difficult as it becomes very steep and rocky. The trail ends on a volcanic pinnacle where the Carpenter Mountain Lookout resides, offering stunning views of Cascade Crest, Wolf Rock, Three Fingered Jack, Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Washington.
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Pedro Mountain is located off the beaten path on private land that requires permission from the owner in order to hike to its summit. It is ranked #69 among Oregon Prominence Peaks at a height of 2,055 feet of prominence with a benchmark at the top of its peak. The hike has an elevation gain of 1,500 feet and is an 8-mile hike. The majority of the hike requires visitors to follow the ranch roads, but there are a few cross country areas as well. Throughout the trek to the top hikers will pass by several old mines, adding a little character and history to the trip.
22.Indian Creek Butte
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Indian Creek Butte is situated on the west flank of Strawberry Mountain running east to west and lies at the start of the Indian Creek drainage basin. The mountain is formed by volcanic rock from the Miocene covering igneous rock. It stands proudly at 7,886 feet tall. Indian Creek Butte’s southern face is draped in high altitude timber, providing protection to animals rare to the area such as pine martins, elk, and peregrine falcons. The best trail to hike to the top is the Pine Creek Trail, which traverses over Strawberry Mountain and can be accessed on either the north or south side of the range. Each side spans about 5.5 miles.
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Prairie Mountain is ranked #47 of Oregon Prominence Peaks with an astounding 3,426 feet of prominence. The mountain faces nearby Grass Mountain, which is located across a valley where the town of Alsea and the Alsea River reside. Grass Mountain is also on the OPP list. Many peakbaggers suggest hiking up both in one day as they are challenging but manageable. Prairie Mountain features two peaks, eastern Prairie Peak and western Prairie Peak. The eastern peak is considered the highest peak at about 20 feet higher, but many suggest that hikers climb both to ensure they’ve reached the highest point. Both trails are over 4 miles roundtrip.
24.Wizard Island Peak
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Wizard Island is located in Crater Lake National Park and features one of the most popular views to photograph within the park. The mountain isn’t often traveled, but hikers who take on the challenge will enjoy its remote, quiet, and serene atmosphere. The mountain is just under 7,000 feet high with a trail elevation gain of 765 feet, which only takes one hour to hike. Access to the main trail, Cleetwood Cove, requires a boat tour ticket. On the way to the island, a tour guide will explain the geological features of the area. Upon reaching the island, visitors have 3 hours to tour the area and can engage in various activities such as climbing and fishing.
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25 of the Most Beautiful Mountains in Oregon
- Mount Thielsen, Photo: Courtesy of wollertz - Fotolia.com
- South Sister, Photo: Courtesy of Richard - Fotolia.com
- Smith Rock Group, Photo: Courtesy of Richard - Fotolia.com
- Steens Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of hktelleria - Fotolia.com
- Brandy Peak, Photo: Courtesy of roostler - Fotolia.com
- Fort Rock, Photo: Courtesy of m_haberstock - Fotolia.com
- Eagle Cap, Photo: Courtesy of Robert Crum - Fotolia.com
- Alvord Peak, Photo: Courtesy of Hunta - Fotolia.com
- Crane Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Dog-Made-Sign - Fotolia.com
- Pearsoll Peak, Photo: Courtesy of Jesse - Fotolia.com
- Black Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Elenarts - Fotolia.com
- West Pueblo Ridge, Photo: Courtesy of alexandralex2007 - Fotolia.com
- Marys Peak, Photo: Courtesy of Devin Allphin - Fotolia.com
- Mount Jefferson, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Boswell - Fotolia.com
- Grass Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of saodaeng - Fotolia.com
- Humbug Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
- Bullrun Rock Monument, Photo: Courtesy of knee0 - Fotolia.com
- Middle Sister, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Boswell - Fotolia.com
- Odell Butte, Photo: Courtesy of hookmedia - Fotolia.com
- Carpenter Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of gabriffaldi - Fotolia.com
- Pedro Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of bakhanastyuk - Fotolia.com
- Indian Creek Butte, Photo: Courtesy of Helena Olena - Fotolia.com
- Prairie Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of per444inka - Fotolia.com
- Wizard Island Peak, Photo: Courtesy of dendron - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of fotos2sell - Fotolia.com