Say Hello to Central Oregon’s Backyard Wilderness

Located just 15 miles east of Bend, the Oregon Badlands – see the gorgeous photo from Greg Burke, courtesy of the Oregon Natural Desert Association above – is a 30,000-acre wilderness area filled with fascinating lava flows and ancient juniper trees. Arriving in the Badlands, so named for its rugged and harsh terrain, can feel like stepping onto another planet. Within this landscape, you will find some of the oldest trees in Oregon, Native American pictographs, incredible displays of desert wildflowers, dry river canyons, and castle-like rock formations.

Today, this area is well-known for its subtle beauty and opportunities for serenity and solitude.

A great introduction into the Badlands is the Flatiron Rock Trail. A wonderful 5-mile out-and-back route, the trail winds through inflated lava and old-growth juniper woodlands for about 2.5 miles to Flatiron Rock, one of the most prominent rock formations in the Badlands. From the trailhead, hikers have the option of taking the Ancient Juniper trail, a short and pleasant route that links up with the Flatiron Rock trail after about 2 miles, which adds just under a mile to your total trip. After you reach Flatiron Rock and spend some time scrambling to the top to explore and enjoy view of the Cascade Mountains, you can turn around there or continue on to Castle Rock and Badlands Rock on the Castle Trail before returning to the trailhead.

Note, there’s no potable water or restrooms facilities at the Badlands and cell service can be spotty, at best. Be sure to come prepared for your Badlands adventure and leave no trace in this fragile area.

Info box

What: Flatiron Rock Trail
Where: Oregon Badlands, east of Bend
What: 5-mile out-and-back trail to Flatiron Rock
Directions: Head east out of Bend on Highway 20. At milepost 16, turn left at the Flatiron Rock Trailhead.

Oregon Natural Desert Association

For more information on the Badlands and Oregon’s other majestic natural desert areas, go to the Oregon Natural Desert Association’s website.

ONDA is a community of people dedicated to conserving the high desert. It might be the scent of sagebrush, or the desert sun’s warmth. It could be the wild rivers, or the unparalleled solitude. Or perhaps it is the chance to see pronghorn running across the steppe that first draws people in. One point is certain: the magical combination of these natural attributes and many more touches souls and bonds people together.