The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is in central Oregon, not far from Bend. The wilderness area is over 29,000 acres in size. It was designated as a wilderness area in 2009 by Congress. Most of the wilderness consists of Badlands Volcano, which also serves as the namesake for the wilderness area. Many narrow cracks and unique formations are part of the wilderness area’s landscape and terrain.
There are many recreational opportunities for wilderness visitors to enjoy. Over 50 miles of trails, including designated trails, lead to interesting formations and scenic overlooks. These trails are open to both hikers and equestrians. Many geocaches are hidden throughout the wilderness, taking visitors off the beaten path. Other popular activities include wildlife viewing, climbing, horseback riding, and picnicking.
Oregon Badlands Wilderness is considered to be a high desert. Desert vegetation grows in the area, and summertime temperatures are often hot. Fall, winter, and spring are the most popular seasons to visit with temperatures in a much more pleasant range. Dispersed campsites are located along a dirt road near the wilderness sign and trailhead. RVs can be accommodated at many of these level campsites, though they drivers should use caution on the dirt road.
Oregon Badland Wilderness is about 12 miles away from Bend, Oregon. When visiting the wilderness, there are plenty of options for food and water in the city of Bend. Drivers can fuel up their cars and RVs there also. From Bend, the wilderness is easy to access even for those in big rigs. Drivers will want to take Highway 20 east until they come to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness sign. At the sign, take a left and head down the road about a mile. This brings you to the Badlands Rock Trailhead.
The roads shouldn’t be difficult to navigate throughout much of the year. During the winter, snow isn’t uncommon. If planning to visit during the wintertime, visitors should keep an eye on weather and road conditions. The dispersed campsites are located down a dirt road. Big rigs can fit into many of the campsites but should use caution driving on the dirt road, especially in wet conditions. It’s advisable to scope out the road before passing through with your rig.
There are many campgrounds at Deschutes National Forest which is less than 40 miles from the wilderness. These campgrounds are a great option for visitors looking for a primitive experience yet with a few more amenities. Though amenities may vary from campground to campground, common amenities include vault toilets, potable water, and a dump station.
The campgrounds within the national forest aren’t open year-round. They’re typically open from May to October though the exact dates can vary between each campground. RVs of just about any size can be accommodated at many of the campsites. There is a picnic table at each campsite where visitors can enjoy meals, play games, or relax. Some campsites have a fire ring as well. These campgrounds fill up quickly during camping season. Reservations are encouraged, especially if planning to stay over a weekend.
Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a BLM property so camping is permitted for 14 consecutive days. While campers can hike into the wilderness area, vehicles are not allowed. Those with RVs or travel trailers will instead want to find a dispersed campsite near the trailhead. The dispersed campsites are down a dirt road. Drivers should use caution. Those with RVs may want to scope out the road conditions prior to driving down it.
Big rigs can fit into many of the campsites and many of the campsites are level. Little to no leveling will be necessary. The campsites are a good distance apart. You can expect not to have any neighbors close by. Some of the campsites have fire rings that campers can relax around after a day filled with activity. Check fire bans prior to starting a campfire. There are no amenities at the dispersed campsites, including garbage facilities. All trash and other belongings should be packed out.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the wilderness. There are about 50 miles of trails including two designated trails. Badlands Rock Trail is a six-mile trail round trip. Hikers will be led to a rocky overlook featuring unobstructed views of the surrounding land. This trail is closed from March until August to protect the area’s wildlife during breeding.
The Flatiron Trail is six to seven miles round trip, depending on which route is taken. The trail runs along the side of Badlands Volcano and eventually leads to the rock formation known as Flatiron. Hikers should always carry a map of the area when hiking. Most of the trail junctions aren’t signed.
Climbing is another popular activity that brings visitors to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. There are many possible routes for climbing, most of which can be enjoyed by beginners. There are no climbing bolts on any of the routes, but the walls have many cracks for rope anchors. Summers can bring hot temperatures to the wilderness. Fall, winter, and spring are the best times of the year for climbing.
Whether you’re visiting for just the day or camping overnight, the wilderness provides a scenic backdrop for a picnic. Pack a lunch and take a hike down one of the many miles of trails and find an overlook to enjoy the beautiful views of central Oregon. There are no amenities or trash receptacles within the wilderness. All food and trash will need to be carried out.
Equestrians enjoy riding along the rugged terrain at Oregon Badlands Wilderness. There are many miles of trails to traverse, including a couple of designated trails. Head down one of the trails to explore the volcanic landscape and the many formations that were created by Badlands and Horse Ridge volcanoes. The trails are open to hikers as well, so equestrians should use caution. Riders will need to pack certified weed-free feed for their horses.
Geocaching is allowed at Oregon Badlands and visitors will find that there are many geocaches hidden throughout the wilderness area. Explore the trails and landscape of the scenic wilderness as you hunt for these treasures.
If planning to take any of the geocaches found, be sure to leave other trinkets in their place. The wilderness has a limit set of 17 geocaches per visit.
Oregon Badlands Wilderness provides a habitat for many types of wildlife. Birdwatchers will enjoy seeing some of the more than 100 species of birds that are known to the wilderness, including golden eagles and sage grouse. Mule deer, elk, and coyotes are also often observed by wilderness visitors.
Bats also thrive in the wilderness, and campers may see them after nightfall. While wildlife is fun to observe, be sure to keep a safe distance.