There are two routes to the summit of Strawberry Mountain, the namesake peak of Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. This route, although longer and with more elevation, is easier to reach, and it also takes you past the most beautiful parts of the area. Starting at Strawberry Campground, the trail leads past Strawberry Lake and Strawberry Falls before heading out of the forest and into a more open landscape of sun, rock and alpine streams.
Reaching the summit of Strawberry Mountain can be done in a day trip, but give yourself plenty of time to relax by the beautiful lakes and enjoy the vista from the top. A short detour along the way takes you to Little Strawberry Lake. If you have time on the way back down, take the side trail to the lake and you may get to see mountain goats making their way across the cliffs surrounding the lake at the end of the day.
From Strawberry Mountain's summit, north views of the John Day River valley and south views to Seneca delight. You'll be able to see across much of the 69,000-acre Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, and odds are you'll be impressed with how much terrain you covered from the start of the trail. One of the most remarkable features of Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is its isolation. Although the major access is only 11 miles outside of Prairie City, the nearest true population center is well over 100 miles away. Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, black bears and mountain lions are just a sampling of large mammals that make a home in the area.
Visiting Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is best in late September to early October. You'll want to avoid the last traces of snowfall that can last into August and the mosquitoes that are inevitable at higher elevations, especially one with seven alpine lakes. You can fish in each of the lakes, camp at backcountry sites found readily along the way, and if you're lucky, get a few places to camp all to yourself.