Despite the Canyon Creek Complex fire that burned through much of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness southeast of John Day in 2015, most of the roads in the area are open, and few of the campgrounds are within the fire boundary.
While some closures are still in effect — such as Forest Roads 1516 and parts of 1518 and 1520 as well as the Canyon Meadows Campground — it is still possible to travel through and around the fire area on well maintained roads to a variety of recreational opportunities, such as hiking, biking, fishing and camping.
Whether you choose a short drive and hike to Strawberry Lake in the wilderness area or a longer loop around the wilderness through Logan Valley, you can easily find areas where the majestic forest remains.
One of the quickest and easiest options is Strawberry Lake on the northeastern side of the wilderness area, which did not burn. The end of the road is a short drive south from Prairie City on County Road 60 about 9 miles to Slide Creek Campground, which has three tent/trailer sites with stream water, and 2 more miles on to Strawberry Campground, which has 10 sites and piped water.
The lake, however, cannot be reached by vehicle. You’ll have to hike in about a mile from the campground to reach the lake and about another to mile to reach Strawberry Falls, but it’s worth it.
The area offers fishing and even more hiking opportunities, as the hiking trail is connected to a trail system that traverses the wilderness area, though the trails to the west quickly encounter the fire boundary.
If you start the loop around the wilderness area heading south from John Day, you’ll drive through the fire boundary on Highway 395 and County Road 65, which becomes Forest Road 15 near Wickiup Campground, the first you’ll encounter on the west side of the loop.
The campground, which has four picnic sites and seven tent/trailer sites and stream water from Canyon Creek, is open, but Forest Road 1516 just beyond the campground remains closed.
Continuing southeast on Forest Road 15, you will soon leave the fire boundary and come upon Parish Cabin Campground near the intersection with Forest Road 16.
The campground features one picnic site and 19 tent/trailer sites with piped water.
About two miles east of Parish Cabin on Forest Road 16, you will come upon signs pointing north to Road’s End Trailhead on Forest Road 1640, which travels back into the burned area to several trailheads at the boundary of the wilderness area. As the name suggests, however, you’ll have to leave your vehicle there if you plan to hike into Strawberry Lake from the south side of the wilderness.
Continuing east on Forest Road 16, you will enter Logan Valley. Roughly 6 miles east of Parish Cabin, you will encounter Forest Road 924, which travels north about 2 miles to Lake Creek Youth Camp, a private group compound (call 541-575-2153 for availability and prices), and about another mile to Murray Campground.
Lake Creek flows right beside the campground, which features five tent/trailer sites and piped water.
About 1.5 miles east of the turnoff for Lake Creek camp, you will encounter the turnoff for Big Creek Campground, which is less than a mile from Forest Road 16 on Forest Road 815.
Big Creek Campground has 15 tent/trailer sites and piped water. An information station at the campground entrance points out mountain biking trails, and Big Creek runs right beside the campground.
If you follow Forest Road 16 east out of Logan Valley to its intersection with County Road 62 at Summit Prairie, you can travel the county road north to Prairie City.
About 6 miles north on County Road 62, you will encounter Crescent Campground, a minimally developed location with four tent/trailer sites and stream water.
North on County Road 62, about 2 miles from Crescent Campground, you will come to Trout Farm Campground, which features six picnic sites and six tent/trailer sites and piped water.
Continue north on the county road, and you will reach Prairie City. From there, it’s a short drive west on Highway 26 to John Day.
The loop around the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness area is simple and easily accessible in the summer.
From John Day, take Highway 395 south about 10 miles. Turn southeast on County Road 65, which becomes Forest Road 15. Turn east on Forest Road 16 through Logan Valley. Turn north on County Road 62 to Prairie City. Return west on Highway 26 to John Day.
Alternatively, you can take a slightly longer route through Seneca. From John Day, take Highway 395 south to Seneca. Turn east on Forest Road 16 through Logan Valley and continue the loop.
Strawberry Lake is not on the loop, but it’s only about 11 miles south of Prairie City on County Road 60.
Note: The Forest Service plans to open roads as hazards are removed, and other developments, such as new fires or road work, could cause other closures. For updates, contact the Forest Service, 541-575-3000, or visit fs.usda.gov/recmain/malheur/recreation.