Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
A nice fall through spring run in the Spring Basin Wilderness. The run travels along the slopes forming the west and north boundaries of Spring Basin, summits Horse Mountain and then travels up and down a couple of canyons filled with juniper groves and intermittent streams.
From Clarno, OR, travel east along Highway 218 approximately 1 1/2 miles to Clarno Road (an all-weather dirt road) heading south along the John Day River. A little over 3 miles you should see a faint road that heads east towards a clearing near a large Juniper tree with a fire ring nearby (there are few trees in the area). This is the trailhead.
You should see the trail heading up the canyon in front of you (in recent years the trail has become much easier to spot due to increased use). Continue up the canyon for approximately 1 1/2 miles to a saddle with a cairn on it. From here the trail follows an old jeep road north and then west along the slopes forming the Spring Basin boundary. If you have a GPS I highly recommend you mark this spot on it. If you decide to investigate the interior of Spring Basin it is very helpful to have this point located to help you find your way back.
Horse Mountain is obvious from the time you first reach the saddle. After following the slopes north and then west for about 2 miles you reach another saddle with Horse Mountain directly to your south. The route to its summit is not steep but can be a little tricky. There is no established trail, but I recommend starting on the east side of Horse Mountain and diagonally gaining elevation as you continue along the slope towards the summit. Once at the summit you get a 360 degree view of the surrounding country.
The return trip has many options. You can return north the way you came, and when at the Horse Mountain saddle follow one of the canyons into the heart of Spring Basin. Because of the relatively few trees throughout this area, you could also just try to cut across country from Horse Mountain (the first saddle you encountered from the trailhead is almost directly west). I will caution that when down in Spring Basin all the grassy slopes above you tend to look alike and, although getting lost should not be a problem, wasting a lot of time and energy heading up wrong slopes and then trying to find the correct return trail can be frustrating. I will also warn you that although the western slopes down from Horse Mountain look easy to traverse, the gullies tend to have many loose melon-sized boulders just perfect to twist an ankle.
If you choose to return north to the saddle next to Horse Mountain you can either return back the way you came along the old jeep road, or you can venture down any one of the canyons (the only trails seem to be game trails so you'll have to enjoy making your own way). One of the central canyons has a large juniper grove in it with an intermittent stream and is well worth visiting. The return back to the cairn must be accomplished by going cross country up across the grassy slopes to the west.
Flora & Fauna
Lots of deer and elk. Quite a few skeletons in the interior canyons would indicate a healthy mountain lion population is also around.
Shared By: Chris S