The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness covers nearly 70,000 mountainous and forested acres that are situated in remote Eastern Oregon. When you venture out on a day trip or overnighter on any of the trails in the wilderness, you are more likely to come across mountain goats or other wildlife than you are to see other people, even on busy weekends. Even in a quiet corner of wilderness there are sections that see even fewer visitors, however, and the trail leading into Slide Lake via High Lake is just such a place. Most visitors to Strawberry Mountain Wilderness start at the Strawberry Campground Trailhead and go in via Strawberry Lake. If you have just one day to see the area, seeing Strawberry Lake and Strawberry Falls is the wilderness area's highlight hike, and for good reason. If you're looking for a spectacular hike or a camp at a high-alpine lake that you'll almost certainly have to yourself, take this one.
The hike into High Lake from the trailhead is short and almost entirely downhill. If you are camping here for the first night, you'll find a few established campsites about one hundred feet back from the water. The lake sits at 7,500 feet, so nighttime temperatures will get chilly enough for layers and warm clothing even on warm summer days. The sunset and morning sunrise against the backdrop of the ridgeline facing the lake is breathtaking. If you're lucky, you may also see some mountain goats on the rocks above the lake. At night, the lack of nearby city lights along with the altitude makes for truly spectacular stargazing.
Getting from High Lake to Slide Lake requires traversing a sun-exposed trail up over the ridge above High Lake and then back down into the next basin. At the top of the ridge, make sure to take the trail to Slide Lake; do not head down the trail to Mud Lake, which will take you through an old forest fire burn. At the top of the ridge, the views of the wilderness and deep into Southeastern Oregon are some of the best the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness has to offer. If you wish to overnight at Slide Lake there are a number of well established backcountry campsites along the lake's rim. Alternately, the trip can be made in one day as a there-and-back, or even done as a part of the full Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Loop.