Plan Your Visit
The United States Congress designated the Oregon Badlands Wilderness in 2009 and it now has 29,180 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Oregon and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The Oregon Badlands Wilderness holds a number of remarkable and exciting landforms and geologic features. Most of the area 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.
To download YOUR copy of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area brochure, click here (PDF).
At 29,180 acres, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a vast expanse of lava outcrops and weathered western junipers. Five trailheads offer access to fifty miles of trails crossing the wilderness that are open to hiking and horseback riding. The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is open year-round, but is mostly accessed in the Fall, Winter and Spring.
From Highway 20 and 3rd street in Bend, Oregon, drive east 17.9 miles to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness sign, turn left on the paved road and proceed 1 mile to the Badlands Rock trailhead.
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).
Oregon Badlands Wilderness Trails
The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is topographically a gently sloping dome 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)
The 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.
Oregon Badlands Wilderness 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 1/4 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.
Know Before You Go
Visitors can help in protecting this fragile ecosystem by adequately planning and by arriving prepared! Knowledge of the area, weather, terrain, and common sense can help to ensure you have safe, fun, and memorable trip to the wild. Trail junctions are generally unsigned, so you should carry a map and a compass. And always be sure to bring your ten essentials!
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace refers to a set of outdoor ethics that emphasizes principles designed to promote conservation in the outdoors—it also makes good common sense. Leave No Trace is built on Seven Principles: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in "catholes" dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the "cathole" when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave What You Find
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.