It’s the dead of winter, but today the sun is out, and you’d like to go riding. Where can you go to find trails that aren’t icy or muddy? In Central Oregon, a great answer is the Badlands Rock Trail in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.
Located only 15 miles southeast of Bend, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is 45 square miles of junipers, sagebrush, and bunchgrass, accented by fascinating rock formations. The terrain is relatively flat, the tread is sandy, and the trails are open year-round. All the trails are well-signed.
Created in 2009, the Oregon Badlands is a relatively new wilderness area. Its trails are primarily old roads created by the ranchers who once grazed their cattle on these BLM lands. The trails are all open to hikers, horseback riders, and off-leash dog walkers but are off-limits to mountain bikes and motorized vehicles.
The Badlands Rock Trail starts at the Badlands Rock Trailhead and runs 2.7 miles to its namesake formation. Badlands Rock is a large basalt outcropping (technically a pressure ridge) created when molten lava flowed out of a lava tube and cooled, then was pushed up and fractured by more lava flowing out beneath it.
If you want to ride an 8-mile loop, turn left and follow the Castle Trail when you reach Badlands Rock. It will take you to Castle Rock, then on to Flatiron Rock. Like Badlands Rock, Castle and Flatiron are basalt pressure ridges, but both have deep fissures that resemble moats in the tops of the outcroppings. You can tie your horse and scramble up the rocks and into the moats, which run around the inside of the rock formations and offer excellent views out over the treetops.
From Flatiron Rock, follow the Flatiron and Homestead Trails back to your trailer.
For a fun winter ride, check out the Badlands Rock Trail in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. It's memorable!