After Cutsforth Park the route enters a portion of the 1.4 million acre Umatilla National Forest. Between 1904 and 1907, many public domain lands in the Blue Mountains were formally withdrawn and designated as Forest Reserves. The Heppner Forest Reserve was established in 1906. The forest reserves were intended to conserve the area’s water supply for farmers, reduce conflict between stockmen, and to protect timberlands and summer rangelands from “destruction and wasteful use.” Subsequently, the Heppner Forest Reserve was included into what is now known as the Umatilla National Forest. The Umatilla NF was established by proclamation on June 13, 1908.
Ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir appear first and as elevation increases grand fir and western larch make appearances. Huckleberries and morel mushrooms can be found along the route in the right season. The forest environment supports a vastly different animal population than the grasslands. This includes black bears, elk, goshawks, bobcats, pine martin, and many song birds. Standing dead trees provide habitat for woodpeckers such as pileated, hairy, and downy. Spruce and lodgepole pine trees are found at the higher elevations as you move along Forest Road 53. Barred, great horned, and great grey owls can also be found in the forest.