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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Badlands

Oregon Badlands Wilderness

National Conservation Lands

A venture into the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is an experience of ancient junipers, volcanic vistas, and sand underfoot. You can explore cracked volcanic pressure ridges, called tumuli, or walk narrow moat-like cracks in the ground. Traces of human history are visible to the careful observer. At 29,000 acres, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness represents an outstanding example of ancient western juniper woodlands atop Columbia River Basalts. Almost 50 miles of trails offer the visitor many opportunities for hiking or horseback riding loops of various lengths. As a designated wilderness, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness enjoys the highest level of permanent protection.

Oregon Badlands Wilderness Trails

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is topographically flat with mature juniper trees and modest rock outcrops providing vegetative screening and plenty of solitude. You will find few trail signs or markers but may see a number of user-created trails which do not appear on this map. Getting around can be challenging and visitors should be competent in land navigation skills.

Badlands Rock Trail

  • In-and-out hike or horse ride
  • 6.0 miles, round trip
  • Elevation gain/loss: 75 feet
  • Trailhead coordinates: 43.95387N, 121.01476W (WGS 84)

Badlands TreeThe Badlands Rock Trail is a wide trail that traverses the Oregon Badlands Wilderness to a large rock outcrop with 360-degree views of Central Oregon. Two longer looping options via either the Castle Trail (7.7 miles) or the Tumulus Trail (12.3 miles) can be used to return to the trailhead. Trailhead access is located at the Badlands Rock Trailhead, approximately 18 miles southeast of Bend, Oregon. From Bend, drive 17.9 miles east on State Highway 20. Turn left at the large gravel piles, cross a cattle guard, and proceed one mile northeast along a paved road. Park at the Bureau of Land Management kiosk and proceed 3 miles north to Badlands Rock. A map is available at the trailhead.

Flatiron Rock Trail

  • In-and-out hike or horse ride with shorter looping options
  • 5.0-6.0 miles, round trip, depending on route taken
  • Elevation gain/loss: 60 feet
  • Trailhead coordinates: 43.95771N, 121.05186W (WGS 84)

The Flatiron Trail is a two-track trail that skirts the flank of the relatively nondescript Badlands shield volcano and gently descends to an unusual rock outcrop known as the Flatiron. Here, one can walk in an oblong-shaped moat, or crack for a lunar-like hiking experience. The trail continues to the north boundary of Oregon Badlands Wilderness. Trailhead access is located at the Flatiron Trailhead, 16 miles east of Bend, Oregon on State Highway 20. Trailers are not advised.

Tumulus Trail

  • In-and-out hike or horse ride with shorter looping options
  • 5.0-15.0 miles, round trip, depending on route taken
  • Elevation gain/loss: 75 feet
  • Trailhead coordinates: 44.04703N, 121.03192W (WGS 84)

The heart of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is reached by travelling the remote Tumulus Trail. This serpentine trail winds around large lava blisters with hidden alcoves, moats and open woodlands. Off trail in this area, it’s easy to get turned around, so sound navigation skills are essential. Trailhead access is located adjacent to a gate along the main area canal. From Alfalfa, drive Ό mile west on Alfalfa Market Road, turning south on Johnson Ranch Road for 1 mile to the transfer station. Here the pavement ends and you continue along a rough road south along the canal for 1.2 miles. Park at the wide area east of canal; do not block the canal road. Trailers are not advised.

Other Activities

Target shooting, rock hounding, vending, and the use of paint ball guns are prohibited within the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, as is the cutting of trees or vegetation. Some activities, particularly special events, organized group outings, and those that are commercial in nature, require a Special Recreation Permit. For more information, contact the Prineville Bureau of Land Management District Office.

Natural History

Lava Beds in Badlands Wilderness Study AreaThe Oregon Badlands Wilderness holds a number of remarkable and exciting landforms and geologic features. Most of the wilderness includes the rugged Badlands volcano, which has features of inflated lava. Windblown volcanic ash and eroded lava make up the sandy, light-colored soil that covers the low and flat places in these fields of lava. Dry River, active during each of several ice ages, marks the southeast boundary between two volcanic areas – Badlands volcano and the Horse Ridge volcanoes. Earth movements along the Brothers Fault Zone have faulted and sliced up the old Horse Ridge volcanoes, but not Badlands volcano. The Badlands formed in an unusual way. The flow that supplied lava to the Badlands apparently developed a hole in the roof of its main lava tube. This hole became the source of lava that built a shield volcano that we call the Badlands (technically, a rootless shield volcano). An irregularly-shaped pit crater at the top of the shield marks the site where lava flowed in all directions to create the Badlands. It is located about 1500 feet northeast of milepost 15 on Highway 20. Highway 20 traverses the shield along a straight, five-mile stretch between the intersections with an old section of Highway 20 (between mileposts 12.6 and 17.5). Soils in the Badlands were largely formed from ash associated with Mt. Mazama, now known as Crater Lake. A variety of wildlife species inhabit the area including yellow-bellied marmots, bobcat, mule deer, elk, and antelope. The southern portion of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness includes crucial winter range for mule deer. Avian species include prairie falcons and golden eagles.

Directions to the Site

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is located about 16 miles east of Bend, Oregon, along State Highway 20.

Wilderness Etiquette

Oregon BadlandsVisitors to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness can help in protecting this fragile desert ecosystem by adequately planning and by arriving prepared. Knowledge of the area, weather, terrain, and common sense can help to ensure a safe trip. Trail junctions are generally unsigned, so visitors should carry a map and a compass.

HIKING – Walk abreast when walking cross-country. When off-trail, single file traffic creates entrenched social trails which detract from the sense of solitude; the single passage of feet tends to heal more quickly in the elements. Vehicles, including bicycles, game carts, strollers and wheelbarrows, are prohibited.

HORSES – Avoid hauling trailers to the Larry Chitwood trailhead due to inadequate turn-around space and limited parking. Badlands Rock trailhead offers a better alternative. Use certified weed-free feed. Equestrians should pack home horse manure from trailhead and staging areas.

CAMPFIRES – To lessen impacts, use portable camp stoves for cooking. Dead wood, used as fuel, robs the soil of essential elements. Burn only dead and downed wood no bigger than the diameter of your forearm. Do not limb trees – they are an essential part of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness experience. If you do build a fire, use the sandy soil – and not rocks – to line your campfire ring. When your fire is cold, simply cover the ash with sand to eliminate its trace.

SANITATION – Bury human waste 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from camps, trails and trailheads. Do not use rock fissures to bury your waste.

HUNTING/TRAPPING – The wilderness is open to these uses in accordance with Oregon State Game laws. Please follow the common sense rules of hunter safety; other wilderness users may be present. Firearm discharge is prohibited unless legally hunting.

PETS – Loose pets can be a menace to wildlife and wilderness vegetation, and an annoyance to other wilderness users. Please control your pet at all times, or consider leaving your pet at home.

PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY – Although useful in emergency situations, cellular phones, GPS receivers and other devices may impinge upon others’ wilderness experience. Be considerate of others as you use electronic devices in the wilderness.