Spring Basin

Spring Basin Wilderness Area

What do you want from a Wilderness? Colorful geologic features! Rugged cliffs! Unique beauty! Outstanding opportunities for solitude! A neighboring wild and scenic river! The Spring Basin Wilderness has it all.

Designated as a wilderness in 2009, the area encompasses over 6,400 acres of stunning scenery. Numerous vista points give the visitor a sweeping view of the John Day River valley and solitude is provided by the remote canyons and vegetative diversity. These highly scenic settings set the stage for outstanding opportunities for recreation activities such as photography, hiking, and nature study.

This area provides for a unique combination of ecosystems, including: Palouse grassland province/wheatgrass, bluegrass, and sagebrush steppe. At present, there are no similar wilderness areas containing both of these ecosystems with this type of biological diversity. Most portions of the Spring Basin area appear in a natural condition and are primarily affected by the forces of nature.

A closer look will reveal a huge variety of wildlife species including mule deer, chukar, golden eagles, prairie falcons, bobcats, California quail, meadowlarks, and mountain bluebirds. The northern bald eagle is also an occasional winter resident.

Four plant species of special interest have been found within the area. Two species, Castilleja xanthotricha (yellow-hairy indian paint brush) and Astragalus diaphanus, are Federal candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The other two, Penstemon eriantherus var. argillosus (fuzzytongue penstemon) and Pediocactus simpsoni var. robustior (Hedgehog cactus), are of limited concern within Oregon, according to the Oregon Natural Heritage Database.

Outstanding opportunities for solitude can be found in the numerous side canyons. Hay Bottom Canyon and Eagle Canyon offer some of the best solitude. There are also numerous other areas offering visitors secluded spots.


Spring Basin is located approximately three hours southeast of Portland and two hours northeast of Bend. When driving on Highway 218, turn south on Clarno road, located one mile east of the John Day River. Follow this dirt road 3.5 miles to the BLM kiosk and unimproved parking area at the base of Spring Basin.

Trailhead/parking coordinates—Latitude: 44.86904, Longitude: -120.44006.

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!


The Spring Basin 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 Spring Basin Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

Unless otherwise specified, no motorized equipment or mechanical transport, with the exception of wheelchairs, is allowed. This is generally true for all federal lands managed as designated wilderness.