Wilderness Overlook Hike

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 5.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300’
Trailhead Elevation: 5,800’
Best Season: July through September
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle,
      once access road is snow-free

Plus Points
• A scenic hike along the canyon edge of the North Fork John Day watershed
• The entire route is within the wilderness area — unroaded, unlogged and ungrazed
• Wonderful, panoramic vistas over an unspoiled landscape
• Old-growth stands of ponderosa pine and douglas fir along the trail
• Wildflowers are abundant at Moon Meadow into late summer
• Trail is generally well-built on a good grade, with water bars and trimmed brush

Minus Points
• Equestrians are common around Moon Meadow, so solitude is not guaranteed here
• Trail is not cleared every year, so expect to climb over a few downed trees

Download (PDF, 847 KB): Photos of Wilderness Overlook Hike
Download (PDF, 696 KB): Topo Map for Wilderness Overlook Hike
Download (PDF, 1 KB): GPS Points for Wilderness Overlook Hike
Download (PDF, 727 KB): Road Map for Wilderness Overlook Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Wilderness Overlook Hike
The unsigned trailhead (for Trail #3042) is at Moon Meadow, in a pullout west of Road 5225. Look for a simple log footbridge over the creek that runs north though the meadow. It may be difficult at first to pick up the trail running west through the trees along the north edge of the meadow (GPS Point 1), but if you keep along the forest edge, you'll find it. Once on the trail, the route goes west along an arm of Moon Meadow through lush grass and wildflowers.

The trail then climbs 200' up over a small ridge, before descending to a creek in a green pocket meadow at 0.9 miles. The trail then climbs again, up through a lodgepole pine forest, to an unsigned trail junction at 1.2 miles. One continues right (west) here on Trail #3019 as it gradually descends into the watershed of the North Fork John Day. Soon, old-growth ponderosas and douglas fir appear along the trail, as well as the first long views west over the wilderness.

For the next half mile, the trail contours along the edge of the canyon, gradually rising and falling, with more views over the deep canyon to the west. On the skyline, one can see Greenhorn Ridge and the Indian Rock-Vinegar Hill Scenic Area to the west. In this section, look for pure stands of western larch, Oregon's only deciduous conifer. At 2.5 miles, the trail rounds a ridge with big firs (GPS Point 2) that makes a good lunch and hike destination. Beyond this point, the trail dives steeply downhill into Ryder Creek and one loses the good wilderness views.

Road to Trailhead
From paved Hwy 52, turn south onto Forest Road 5225 and follow it for 7.5 miles to the unsigned trailhead at Moon Meadow, at a pullout on the west side of the road.

The first 5.0 miles (to Martin Creek crossing) are graveled and graded, though mostly a single lane road with turnouts. The last 2.5 miles to Moon Meadow is less well maintained, with occasional ruts and protruding rocks. A high clearance vehicle is recommended in this section, though a passenger car might negotiate it with great care.

Camping Options
The nearest developed camping area is the Big Creek Meadows Campground, just off Road 5225 near Hwy 52, about 8 miles from the trailhead. This is a small, rustic campground in lodgepole thickets along Big Creek that is popular with OHV enthusiasts. There are 4 free campsites with picnic tables, plus a vault toilet, but no drinking water or trash pickup.

For those with their own water and sanitation, dispersed campsites are available along Road 5225 on the way to the trailhead. A few of these are small, tent camping sites in pocket meadows along the road, but others are larger sites near the Martin Creek crossing that are suitable for small tent trailers or travel trailers. Finally, tent campers can set up right at Moon Meadow, in sites tucked into the trees off spur roads around the meadow's edge.

Agency Contact: Umatilla National Forest, North Fork John Day District, (541) 427-3231

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 11/18/13