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Vinegar Hill, Oregon (8120+ ft)

Vinegar Hill
Vinegar Hill
Indian Rock from Vinegar Hill
Indian Rock from Vinegar Hill

Malheur National Forest

Description: Vinegar Hill and the Greenhorn Mountains

Vinegar Hill is the highest point in the Greenhorn Mountains and lies within the Vinegar Hill - Indian Rock Scenic Area, which straddles the Malheur and Umatilla National Forests. The Greenhorn Mountains are described in Skovlin, et al.:

"The Greenhorns occur at upper elevations between the headwaters of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the John Day River. This range culminates in a series of upland mountains and buttes around Greenhorn City and nearby Robinsonville. From there it runs northwest several miles to Vinegar Hill (8,130 feet) and continues in a series of peaks and passes along Sunrise Butte, Boulder Butte, and Indian Rock, all over 7,000 feet elevation."

"The geology includes granitic rocks (Sunrise and Boulder Buttes) and serpentinite-matrix melange that includes metavolcanic and metasedimentry rocks of Devonian to Triassic age. The magnesium-rich serpentinite matrix covers extensive areas, including the south slopes of Vinegar Hill. This rock is generally inhospitable to vegetation."

"The Greenhorns finally widen out and disappear into the forested uplands of the Blue Mountains forming low flat ridges and ravines striking in a northwest direction toward the village of Dale at the confluence of Desolation Creek and the North Fork of the John Day River."

Route: Malheur National Forest Service Road 2010

Vinegar Hill is the former site of a Forest Service lookout and can be reached by following Malheur FR 2010 to its summit. However, the last 0.5 mile is very rocky, and I decided to hike the last few miles of this road.

From Pairie City on US 26 continue east about 15 miles to Austin Junction. At Austin Junction turn left (north) onto Oregon Highway 7 towards to Baker City. Continue for one mile, then turn left (west) onto CR 20 (Middle Fork Road). Continue on CR 20 along the Middle Fork of the John Day River for 2.4 miles, and turn right (north) onto FR 2010 (Vincent Creek Road, gravel).

FR 2010 is maintained for 7.0 miles, beyond which it requires a high-clearance vehicle for the remaining approximately 6 miles to the Vinegar Hill summit. At 7.6 miles the road narrows and at 7.9 miles passes Trailhead 219 on the left. At 10.0 miles the road enters the Vinegar Hill - Indian Rock Scenic Area and at 10.5 miles passes Black Butte Camp on the left, where I decided to park. Black Butte Camp is just a primitive parking area with room to set up a camp on grass or under trees. There is an alternative route to the campsite 0.1 mile further. Water can be found another mile up the road on the right at "Camp Sims". From the Black Butte campsite FR 2010 continues about 2.5 miles to the summit. Only the last half mile is particularly steep and rocky. There are lookout foundations on the summit, and good views in all directions.


  1. Skovlin, Jon M.; Strickler, Gerald S.; Peterson, Jesse L.; Sampson, Arthur W. 2001. Interpreting landscape change in high mountains of northeastern Oregon from long-term repeat photography. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-505. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 78 p. Links: cover_to_pg_9, pages_57_to_67.

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