North Fork John Day Wilderness

HIg mountain lake lined iwht pine and fir treees with rocky peak in backgroundOverview

The North Fork John Day Wilderness is comprised of four separate units - three on the Umatilla National Forest, and one on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Located in the Elkhorn and Greenhorn Mountains, it totals 120,560 acres with 106,125 on the North Fork John Day District of the Umatilla National Forest and 14,435 on the Whitman District of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. During it's establishment by Congress in 1984 as part of the Oregon Wilderness Act (P.L. 98-328), the area was recognized for two main priorities. These were to increase protection of the headwaters tributaries of the North Fork John Day River, and protection of the remaining high quality anadromous fisheries habitat in the river basin.


The Baldy Unit is a smaller unit situated west of Baker City, Oregon and is managed by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. It has several scenic subalpine lake basins characteristic of the area, and the headwaters of the North Fork John Day River, Bull Creek, Baldy Creek, and Crawfish Creek. From rolling benchlands to the granite outcrops of the Greenhorn Mountains, the rugged Baldy Unit provides diverse landscapes. Much of the wilderness is composed of gentle benchlands and tablelands; the remaining of steep ridges and alpine lake basins. A continuous vegetative canopy covers most of the land, including dense virgin stands of conifer species like Douglas-fir, white fir, western larch and lodgepole pine.

This wilderness is also unique since it also includes a designated wild and scenic river. Beginning at the headwaters under the Elkhorn Crest Trail, over 9 miles of the Wild and Scenic North Fork John Day River flow through the area.  This wild river accounts for many miles of steelhead and trout habitat. The area also support dominant wildlife species like Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats and some black bear. Many small game and nongame species also inhabit the area, as do mountain goats.

Also interesting is the evidence of past human activities found in this area, specifically mining and prospecting. It is not unusual to find traces of the gold mining era such as historic ditches, cabins, and adits. Many of these features are being left in place to naturally disappear over time, consistent with Wilderness Act direction to have no permanent human works in Wilderness. Please enjoy but do not disturb these cultural artifacts.

More detailed information about the North Fork John Day Wilderness area is found on the Resources and History page.

Recreation Opportunities

The North Fork John Day Wilderness provides opportunities for visitors to hike, backpack, camp, ride horses, hunt, view scenery, study natural processes, and view wildlife. The heaviest use occurs in the summer and fall seasons, and is primarily associated with big-game hunting, drawing many visitors from outside the area. There are a few lakes and trails to explore within this Wilderness. Camping and fishing are particularly popular at Crawfish Lake and Baldy Lake. Visitors should expect to see several other parties at these lakes during the summer weekends, particularly holiday weekends.

Main Access Points

Trailheads from Baker City and Anthony Lake side

Elkhorn Crest Trailhead (Elkhorn Crest Trail #1611)

Trailheads from Granite and North Fork John Day River side

Baldy Creek Trailhead (Baldy Creek Trail # 1603)

Lower Crawfish Lake Trailhead (area is unavailable) (Crawfish Creek Trail #1606)

Upper Crawfish Lake Trailhead (Crawfish Lake Trail # 1606)

Peavy Trailhead (Cunningham Cove Trail #1643 and #1640)


The North Fork John Day Wilderness lies 15 miles southeast of Ukiah, and 25 miles northwest of Baker City, Oregon.

More Information

Current information about the area's recreation sites or trail conditions can be found by contacting the Whitman Ranger District Office, or checking the Recreation Condition Reports for more information including a map of the area, fact sheet and a copy of the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act visit