- With a total of almost 1,500 square miles, the Ochoco National Forest is endowed with vast natural resources, scenic grandeur, and tremendous recreation opportunities. People are drawn to the Ochoco for it's majestic ponderosa pine stands, picturesque rimrock vantage points, deep canyons, unique geologic formations, abundant wildlife, and plentiful sunshine.
The Ochoco National Forest is divided into four ranger districts; Big Summit, Paulina, Prineville and Snow Mountain. The Crooked River National Grassland is also administered by the Ochoco and encompasses about 111,000 acres .
The Ochoco contains three designated Wilderness Areas. The largest of the three, the 17,000 acre Mill Creek Wilderness contains deep canyons, towering pinnacles and opportunities for solitude. The wilderness has meadows at 6,000 feet giving way to lower-elevation forests of dense pine and fir, dissected by Mill Creek and its tributaries. A unique feature of this wilderness is the pair of volcanic plugs called Twin Pillars. The Black Canyon Wilderness is 13,400 acres in size. It incorporates a variety of ecosystems ranging from dense forests to rugged canyons. Three sides of the canyon reach elevations to 6,000 feet, while waters in the gorge have downcut through lava basalt, and empty into the South Fork of the John Day River at 2,800 feet. The 5,400 acre Bridge Creek Wilderness is small but boasts some wonderful scenic vistas and solitude. There are no trails maintained in this wilderness but an old trail and a mile of old road exist. The Bridge Creek Wilderness is characterized by steep terrain, open meadows, forested slopes, and barren plateaus called scab flats. Bridge Creek flows through the heart of the wilderness. Most visitors to the Bridge Creek arrive for fall hunting seasons.
Recreation - The Ochoco offers opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation activities. Some of the many activities include camping, picnicking, fishing, backpacking, horseback riding, hunting, four-wheel driving, motorcycle and ATV riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
For camping on the Ochoco, developed campsites provide vehicle spaces, picnic tables, and fire grills, however, drinking water is not always available. Come prepared and bring water with you. Electrical hookups and showers are not provided. Camping is on a first-come first-served basis except for group sites. If you prefer "roughing" it and you discover a nice spot, feel free to camp. Please pack out your garbage, and be sure your campfire is out before you leave.
Picnic and overnight camping sites suitable for groups are available by contacting the appropriate Ranger District office for reservations.
The forest is a winter playground for many people. There are areas suitable for cross-country ski touring, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and sledding. The most use occurs above 5,000 feet, near three Sno-Parks located on U.S. Highway 26. Oregon State Sno-Park permits are required for parking. Permits are available at the Prineville Motor Vehicle Division and Ochoco National Forest Headquarters. The open country, developed trails, and some back roads closed by snow to vehicle traffic are open for snowmobiling and skiing. Snow-covered roads surrounding Big Summit Prairie offer marked trails and large loops, which are especially suitable for snowmobile uses.
Climate - With a large elevation range, climate on the Ochoco changes depending on elevation. The high elevations receive much more precipitation and colder temperatures. Much of the precipitation comes from October to April, mostly in the form of snow in the higher elevations. Winter temperatures can drop well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Late spring, summer and early autumn tend to bring clear, sunny days, with warm to hot temperatures at the low elevations and moderate temperatures at the higher elevations. Summer afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon.
With its headquarters in Prineville, the Ochoco National Forest sits in the geographic center of Oregon. US Highway 26 runs through Prineville and a portion of the Forest.