Yes, it’s true, Grant County has its very own “botanical” site.
Cedar Grove Botanical Area, about 10 miles south of Highway 26, and not far from Fields Creek Road, offers a hiking trail through lush woods of the Malheur National Forest, amid a bounty of wildflowers, down to a peaceful botanical area.
Perfect for a day trip escape or during a weekend adventure.
But it’s a group of trees that gives the 26-acre Cedar Grove its “botanical” distinction and name – a grove of Alaskan yellow cedars, which is the only known such stand east of the Cascades in the United States. The trees, some more than 300 years old, are a relic from the Pleistocene age.
Despite being easy to get to and not far from any towns, Cedar Grove seems to only see light use, which could be for several reasons. Though recovering now, wildfires did burn through the area some years ago and it was closed for a time. Plus, there’s no camping, no restrooms, water or other services nearby, and even parking is limited.
However, visitors will be pleasantly rewarded with this accessible venture into our rich forest land. And camping and restrooms are not far away. Billy Fields Forest Camp is just about 10 miles from Cedar Grove, back on Fields Creek Road.
Upon arriving at Cedar Grove, the trailhead from the gravel road seems a bit hard to spot, amid the brush and maze of dirt paths. But start right alongside the sign and you’ll be on your way. It’s a bit dusty and dry there, but after a few hundred feet, you’ll come to a gate, and after passing through that, the scenery and trail changes to a more lush venture, as it enters the forest along the slopes of Aldrich Mountain.
And a cool one too. On summer days when the John Day Valley temperatures are soaring, Cedar Grove offers a welcoming drop of several degrees. Even in mid-July, lupines and wild columbines are still in colorful abundance.
The trail to the botanical area – and the Alaskan yellow cedars – is clearly visible, well-marked and not long, only about two miles down and back up. The trail is part of the National Recreation Trails system, and markers on trees keep trekkers on the right path.
But “short” does not mean “easy,” and remember – what goes down must come back up.
The trail descends, with several switchbacks, down a steep hillside to the botanical area near Buck Cabin Creek. And, even though the trail is open to the public, it has not yet been logged out or maintained for the season, so visitors should be prepared to shimmy over or around a few downed logs. A sign at the trailhead does caution its “more difficult” status.
Horses and mountain bikes are welcome on the trail, in addition to foot travelers, but no motorized vehicles.
So, despite the lack of nearby services and a cautionary word on the trail’s difficulty level, Cedar Grove is easy to get to, and quite a spectacular local treasure, waiting to be discovered. Just remember to take plenty of water, snacks, a hiking stick or pole – and a camera for those wildflowers and yellow cedars.