Fields of Pink Wild Onion

Wildflowers of Big Summit Prairie

The best spot in Central Oregon to view spring wildflowers? For sheer variety and extent, the loop road around Big Summit Prairie is hard to beat in late May and early June. Located at 4,500’ elevation in Ochoco National Forest about 30 miles east of Prineville, this 15,000-acre prairie is mostly privately-owned, but is surrounded by wildflower meadows, dry grasslands and rock prairies on Forest Service land.

The Loop Road
At 28 miles, the loop route around Big Summit Prairie can take anywhere from a couple of hours to several days, depending on how much one wants to explore. Most accessible is the 10 miles of
Mixed Wildflowers on Prairie
Road 42 along the south edge of the prairie, which is paved from the Ochoco Ranger Station in the west to the Deep Creek Campground, 4 miles east of the prairie. Besides the Dudley Creek and North Fork Crooked River wildflower areas, this road section offers the best chance to spot small herds of antelope, mule deer and elk out on the prairie — so be sure to bring your binoculars!

The rest of the loop road is a good gravel, all-weather track, passable by any passenger car (see PDF map download below). However in early spring, just after the snowmelt, the dirt side roads and shoulders can be soft — so be cautious when driving off the main gravel roads.

Dudley Creek Area
In the southwest corner of the prairie in late spring, along Road 300 just 150 yards off Road 42, are fields of yellow and white wyethia on both sides of the road. Some patches are pure yellow, some are pure white and others a hybrid between the two. Within these wyethia patches are scattered masses of red paintbrush. From Road 300, one can hike downslope to the southeast through ponderosa groves to Dudley Creek, which drains into a small wet meadow with aspen, alders and willows. Look for blue lupine, shooting stars, larkspur and other wildflowers here.

Field of Yellow Wyethia

North Fork Crooked River
In the southeast corner of Big Summit Prairie, the NF Crooked River meanders across about 500 yards of Forest Service land, before draining into a canyon to the east. At the junction of Road 42 with Road 3010, just past the concrete bridge, follow a short dirt road northwest down to the river.
North Fork Crooked River
The riparian meadows here are a good place to find blue camas and yellow buttercups in early spring. On the dry uplands above the floodplain, scattered among the sagebrush, look for blue flax, lomatium, bitterroot, shooting stars, wild peony and scarlet gilia.

Cold Springs Area
Continuing north along Forest Road 3010, the sagebrush uplands are dissected by meandering wet meadows in spring, amidst ponderosa pine and juniper forests on the uplands. In the wettest bottoms, look for blue camas and yellow groundsel. Areas with somewhat less moisture are home to yellow buttercups, blue flax, globe penstemon and many other wildflowers. A few flower species can persist in these meadows into mid-summer. On the driest upland slopes are found masses of pink wild onion in spring, along with scattered scarlet gilia and lomatiums.

Indian Creek
Draining the northwest corner of Big Summit Prairie, Indian Creek is a wildflower showcase in spring. The best access is on Road 308, which angles southwest off Road 22, and runs about 250 yards to the creek and beyond to private property.
Purple Lupines in Forest
On both sides of the branching stream are acres of yellow and white wyethia in spring, north and south of Road 308. Also look for pink paintbrush and yellow groundsel in the streamside meadows, plus blue lupine in the pine forests. Other wildflowers may include mariposa lily, checker-mallow, larkspur, yellow butterweeds, cinquefoils and downingia. Bring your favorite flower identification book!

Developed campsites are available at the USFS Deep Creek Campground, 4 miles east of the prairie. Numerous dispersed campsites are found on dirt side roads off the main loop road. For bloom dates and road conditions in spring, contact the Ochoco National Forest Office in Prineville at (541) 416-6500. They also have a brochure on Big Summit Prairie wildflowers.

Download (PDF, 701 KB): Photos of Big Summit Prairie Wildflowers
Download (PDF, 671 KB): Map of Big Summit Prairie Wildflower Spots

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to exercise all due caution while recreating.

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