“You want to go on a hike?” My friend asked one afternoon. I don’t remember a time I would ever answer ‘no’ to that question. A few hours later, we were driving into the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. Located just 20 minutes east of Bend off of Highway 20, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is just over 29,000 acres of high desert terrain which mostly consists of lava rock, Western juniper, and rabbit brush. If you like junipers, then you’ll love this wilderness.
The gnarly trees seem to hold their own despite the lack of rain (less than 12 inches annually) and exposed landscape. This is pure High Desert and is 100% Oregon. The terrain here is flatter than a pancake, where the highest point is only about 350 feet of elevation higher than the lowest point. There are seven trailheads and a dozen trails throughout the wilderness, averaging 3-6 miles in length. The longest is the Dry River Trail at about 8 miles long where it begins in the north of the Badlands at Dry River Trailhead and snakes its way south to the Badlands Rock Trailhead. However, the most popular starting point into the Badlands is Flatiron Rock Trailhead, where hikers, trail runners, and equestrians can combine trails off of the 10-12 mile Flatiron Trail. For our afternoon hike, we combined a section of Flatiron Trail with the 1.9-mile Ancient Juniper Trail.
As we drove into the Flatiron Rock Trailhead, located 16 miles from Bend, I was a bit surprised that there weren’t any vehicles parked in the dirt lot. Sure, it was a weekday afternoon, but it was a beautiful day and I expected at least a couple trail runners or other hikers to be here enjoying it.
As we started out down the Ancient Juniper Trail, I knew that this hike was going to be one of my easiest and shortest hikes to date, but I don’t care. My project is to motivate me to get out on the trail more and to stay there longer in order to get my heart pumping and the calories burning. However, I’m including this 4.5-mile hike to make my project a little more challenging. I don’t have anything to prove with the amount of miles I cover or the number of hikes I complete. I do this because I enjoy the act of hiking, finding peace in the wilds, enjoying the scenery, and, in this case, being with a friend.
- Date of hike: September 12, 2012
- Location: Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Oregon
- Duration: 2 hours
- Length: 4.5 miles
This map was made with the data my GPS captured on the hike.
For a more detailed trip report map, check this out.