Visitors entering John Day from the west, east, or south may be aware of our own “golden arches,” especially if they are hungry. But for those who would like to see a different type of arch – one that’s much older and all natural – they need to travel off the path.

The trip to Arch Rock involves a small amount of vehicle travel and a short hike on a trail about a quarter of a mile long.

To find this geological treasure travel about 12 miles east from John Day on Highway 26, and turn left on County Road 18 along Bear Creek, toward the Middle Fork. Continue approx. nine miles to Four Corners; turn right on Camp Creek Road (Forest Service road 36), which is gravel but accessible by car, motorcycle, or bike. Go about seven miles north through a peaceful wooded area to FS road 3650. Continue on the 3650 road about half a mile to the trail head.

Here is your chance to find an arch to feed your sense of wonder – the trailhead to Arch Rock. The trail winds uphill, flanked in spring by an abundance of wildflowers and wild strawberry plants. The area is forested with pine trees, and white and red fir.

Keep to the left trail and there it is – Arch Rock, about a quarter-mile up the hill. The structure includes large rocks with small picture-frame holes and rock shelters eroded into the outcrops.

An impressive sight, Arch Rock is the result of volcanic ash flow tuff. The rock weathered at a different rate largely due to the volcanic ash and created the arch.

Eventually time and weather may collapse the arch, but for now it is a great place for quiet reflection or photos.

Returning from the trail you may continue north past Camp Creek Campground. Or you may want to follow the same route back to John Day.

If you take the northern route you will be able to circle around east following the second longest wild free-flowing river in the lower 48 states.

The Middle Fork John Day River is designated as a Scenic River, and it fits the designation. Going east on County Road 20 you will pass the Sunshine Guard Station. Farther east lies the Oxbow Conservation Area, operated by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Educational activities are encouraged, with permission. The road continues east to Highway 7 and the new Bates State Park, a great spot to stretch and check out the Bates Pond.

Driving south on Highway 7 takes you to Austin Junction, and the Austin House, where you may want to stop for ice cream or a bite to eat. Follow Highway 26 west back through Prairie City to John Day. This loop is about 100 miles long but provides great scenery and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

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