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. It is located about 1,500 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 Badlands Wilderness includes crucial winter range for mule deer. Avian species include prairie falcons and golden eagles.
Leave No Trace
Visitors to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness can help in protecting this fragile desert ecosystem by adequately planning their trip and by arriving prepared. Knowledge of the area, weather, terrain, limitations of your body, and common sense can help to ensure a safe trip. Trail junctions are unsigned, so visitors should carry a map.
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 wind. Stock animals are allowed only on designated trails.
Dispose of Waste Properly. Pack out and do not burn or bury your trash. Do bury human waste 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from camp. Equestrians should pack home trailhead and staging area horse manure.
Minimize Campfire Impacts. 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 Badlands Wilderness experience.
Protect Cultural Resources. Should you happen upon a pictograph or artifact, observe and enjoy it - in its place. Touching, marking, tracing, or otherwise disturbing can cause irreparable damage.
Leave What You Find. Leave rocks, plants, artifacts, and what even appears to be old junk as you find them.
Protect Natural Resources. Carving of trees, vandalism, and graffiti is illegal. 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. Control pets at all times.
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.
The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is located approximately 12 mile east of Bend, Oregon, along State Highway 20.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 - Public law 111-11 (3/30/2009) An act to designate certain land as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, to authorize certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, and for other purposes.
The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is topographically flat with juniper trees and modest rock outcrops providing vegetative screening and plenty of solitude. You will find no trail signs or markers but may see a number of user-created trails which do not appear on maps. Getting around can be challenging in the Badlands Wilderness and visitors should be competent in land navigation skills.
Badlands Rock Trail - In-and-out hike or horse ride; 6.0 miles, round trip; No water or services; Elevation gain/loss: 75 feet
The Badlands Rock Trail is a seasonally open two-track trail that traverses the Badlands Wilderness to a large rock outcrop with 360-degree views of Central Oregon. To protect wildlife during the breeding season, Badlands Rock is closed to all uses annually from March 1 until as late as August 31. 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 along the Badlands Rock Trail to Badlands Rock. A map is available at the trailhead, but no trail signs are present. To protect wildlife during the breeding season, Badlands Rock is closed to all uses annually from March 1 until as late as August 31.
Flatiron Trail - In-and-out hike or horse ride with shorter looping options; 5.0-6.0 miles, round trip, depending on route taken; No water or services; Elevation gain/loss: 60 feet
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 Badlands Wilderness. Trailhead access is located at the Flatiron Trailhead, 16 miles east of Bend, Oregon. Trailhead coordinates are in Zone 10 of the UTM coordinate system based on the North American Datum of 1927 (656399E 4868801N).
Rockhounding, vending, and the use of paint ball guns are prohibited within the Badlands Wilderness as is the cutting of trees or vegetation. Geocaching is allowed within the Badlands Wilderness. However, there is a limit of 17 geocaches at a time.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.