Oregon Badlands

Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area

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.

A variety of wildlife species inhabit the area including yellow-bellied marmots, bobcat, mule deer, elk, and antelope. The southern portion of the Badlands Wilderness includes crucial winter range for mule deer. Avian species include prairie falcons and golden eagles.

You can also 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!


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).

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!

Management Background

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Oregon Badlands Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

Areas within the boundaries of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness are closed to motorized use. All pack animals are limited to designated trails. Rockhounding, vending, and the use of paint ball guns are prohibited within the Oregon Badlands Wilderness as are carving of trees, vandalism, and graffiti.

The maximum group size is 20 people per group. 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 BLM Prineville District Office.

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.


The Oregon Badlands Wilderness Management Plan provides the primary guidance for the Oregon Badlands Wilderness (OBW), a unit of the National Landscape Conservation System managed by the BLM. The plan also addresses actions outside the wilderness area, including wilderness access, trailheads, and interpretive and educational information provided to the public. This wilderness management plan is an implementation-level plan that provides a set of decisions outlining management of 29,301 acres of public land within the OBW. Visit the ePlanning site for more information: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/95454/510