North Fork John Day Wilderness
This segment begins at Austin Junction where there is a cafe and mini-store. It starts out the shoulder of a paved road for a few miles then climbs Forest Service roads before turning off on a hiking trail. (Note: the first section of hiking trail near Ben Harrison Peak is unscouted. I rerouted from my hike because I found confusing and incomplete trail on the east side of the Peak.) From there most of the route is hiking trail except for a connecting segment between the two main expanses of NF wilderness.
Finding drinking water should not be an issue along this segment. I recommend treating or filtering all natural water sources. There are good views in parts of this route, especially in the Vinegar Hill area.
The trail along the North Fork of the John Day is one of the gems of the Desert Trail. There is good trail along a pleasant river. There is a nice campsite where Granite Creek joins the river. In this segment I saw a black bear rolling over logs as he fed. There are also elk and deer here.
You can read my journal entries of this segment starting here.
As roughly plotted digitally it is 49 miles long. Allowing for real-world twists and turns it is closer to 60 miles. This is a route, not a trail and there are no markers.
This segment is plotted on Google Maps below. You will also find maps that you can view online or print.
If you hike this segment of the Desert Trail, please report your experience below, including water sources, routefinding etc.
I have information on each of the new Desert Trail segments from Highway 78 in Oregon to Canada as seen below. For a rough digital map of that stretch of trail, click here.
Warm Springs: Highway 78 to Drinkwater Pass
Malheur: Drinkwater Pass to Austin Junction
NF John Day Wilderness: Austin Junction to FR 52
Wallowa: FR 52 to I-84
Umatilla I-84 (Exit 243) to Timothy Springs
Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness: Timothy Springs to Dayton
Wheat Land: Dayton to Hooper
Columbia Plateau: Hooper to Spokane
Mt. Spokane: Spokane to Newport
Selkirk Mountains: Newport to Canada
View Desert Trail: NF John Day Wilderness in a larger map where can download the .kml file if you want and convert it for use with most GPS units.