obadlandsAre you looking for someplace to hike in the Bend and Central Oregon area that doesn’t put you by a lake or river? But at the same time you want to explore and see an area that has a long volcanic history?

Well, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness just might be what you are looking for. So grab your CamelBak, other Hydration Pack or Hydro Flask, check out these hiking tips, and get ready for a beautiful hike!

While I like hiking in the Oregon Bandlands Wilderness, my wife prefers hiking near a river or lake in wooded areas of Central Oregon, but there are certain times of the year when that really isn’t possible, or practical. Of course during the winter when most of the trails in the mountains around Bend are covered in snow is one time of year when you need to look for hiking opportunities in other areas.

Another time when hiking by a lake or river might not be a good idea is in the late spring and early summer when the mosquitoes are out in full force.

That is one really good time to go out and explore the Oregon Badlands Wilderness area.

Hiking Trails in the Oregon Badlands

Just what is the Oregon Badlands Wilderness? Well it is a 29,301-acre wilderness area located located east of Bend, Oregon in Deschutes and Crook counties. The wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the National Landscape Conservation System and was created by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is an arid area, and you won’t find any rivers or lakes in the area. Since I moved to Central Oregon from California I always kind of laugh to myself when I hear the area referred to as the high-desert. I moved here from the hot, dry desert area near Palm Springs in Southern California. That is what I think of when someone says desert, not Central Oregon. However I guess in scientific terms the area is considered a desert area, just not like the one I’m used to.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness area is mostly topographically flat, and is known for abundance of ancient Juniper trees, sagebrush, and igneous outcrops. The area provides hikers with plenty of solitude, and you will find few trail signs or markers in the area, but you will see a number of user-created trails which do not appear on maps of the area. Because there are not a lot of signs and trail markers, getting around can be challenging and visitors should be competent in land navigation skills, and have a compass or GPS unit, or preferably both.

The fact that trail markers are sometimes hard to find is one reasons why many people like to explore the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. If you want, you can wander through the open sage country and pretty much explore the area as you want. However like I said, getting around can be challenging and visitors should be competent in land navigation skills, and have a compass or GPS unit, or preferably both.

The Oregon Badlands wilderness area is situated on high desert terrain and is associated with an ancient volcanic rootless shield, which issued lava from a rootless vent. The lava flow dates back to about 80,000 years, and in originates from a main vent further up the slopes of the Newberry Volcano. This main vent was located near Lava Top Butte, and the lava that issued out of this vent traveled through the Arnold Lava Tube System to arrive at the Badlands.

An irregularly-shaped pit crater at the top of the shield marks the site where lava flowed in all directions to create the Badlands, and lava tubes acted as conduits for the lava and are evidenced on the surface by tumuli, also known as pressure ridges. The sandy soils in the Badlands were mostly formed from ash associated with the eruption of 2500 years ago of Mount Mazama. Mt. Mazama’s collapsed caldera holds Crater Lake, which is a popular tourist area in Oregon.

Vegetation in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness over time has adapted to the less than 12 inches of annual rainfall, and western juniper which are abundant in the area can live to be over 1,000 years old. In fact, the oldest dated tree in Oregon, estimated to be over 1,600 years old, grows near the Oregon Badlands wilderness.

Along with the western juniper, other plants found in the Oregon Badlands wilderness include big sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and various bunchgrasses, including Idaho fescue and bluebunch wheatgrass. In the spring, the area blooms with a variety of wildflowers, including Oregon sunshine, dwarf monkeyflower, sulfur buckwheat, indian paintbrush, and mariposa lily.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is home to a large variety of wildlife, including black-tailed jackrabbit, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, cottontail rabbit, coyote, bats and six species of lizard. More than 100 species of bird live in the area, including golden eagle, sage grouse, and prairie falcon.