Joaquin Miller Trail

  • Difficult
  • 11.6 miles round trip
  • 3250 feet elevation gain
  • Open July to early November
  • Use: hikers, horses

Surprisingly few people have discovered the lovely path that climbs the quiet, south side of the Strawberry Range to a viewpoint crest. For the first 2 miles, the Joaquin Miller Trail ambles up and down through park-like groves of old-growth ponderosa pine—a rare, untouched forest of orange-barked giants. Then the path scales the range in earnest. A short cross-country scramble at the trail’s high point leads to a rocky knoll overlooking the John Day Valley.

The trail’s namesake, Cincinnatus H. “Joaquin” Miller, was one of the frontier West’s most flamboyant characters. After trying his hand as a gold miner, pony express rider, outlaw, Indian fighter, and newspaper editor, he settled in the nearby gold rush boomtown of Canyon City to practice law from 1863 to 1869. Here the miners elected him county judge, but he left to devote himself to poetry. Touted by literary greats in London as the “Poet of the Sierras,” Miller eventually settled in Oakland, California and penned popular opera house melodramas. The cabin he built in Canyon City is on display beside the Grant County Historical Museum.

From the town of John Day, drive …

Gray jays caw at this windy perch. The view ahead includes Prairie City at the head of the John Day Valley, a distant sawtooth horizon of Elkhorn and Wallowa peaks, and nearer patches of snow on Strawberry Mountain.

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon.