Corral Flat, a dispersed camping area in the Ochoco Mountains about 30 miles northeast of Prineville, Oregon, is a beautiful place to ride and camp. But it’s not for everybody. The terrain is horse-friendly, the trails are easy, and the meadows and forest you’ll ride through are gorgeous. However, none of the trails and few of the forest roads are signed, so you must be a capable navigator with good map-reading skills. And the camping area has no amenities, so you must be prepared for a primitive camping experience.
Corral Flat isn’t a horse camp. It’s just an open area shaded by huge ponderosa pines on the edge of a large meadow. You’ll need to bring your drinking water and stock water. You’ll need to highline your horse or put up a portable corral. If you don’t have a self-contained camper or trailer, you’ll need to bury your waste out in the woods, at least six inches deep. And you aren’t allowed to build a campfire during fire season. However, if you have a sense of adventure, the riding at Corral Flat is so much fun you won’t mind having to rough it a bit.
Corral Flat serves as the base camp for the Bandit Springs endurance race each July, and you can follow the endurance trails for miles. The trails run at times on forest roads and at times on single-tracks. While the trails aren’t signed, they’re fairly easy to follow if you have good navigation skills, a detailed map, and a compass or GPS.
The 10-mile Coyle Butte Loop, a favorite among local riders, explores the area around Corral Flat and Coyle Butte. The trails feature a series of pretty meadows interspersed with stands of ponderosa pines and grand firs.
The Old Stock Road Loop is an interesting 13-mile route that follows open and closed forest roads to a viewpoint overlooking the arid hills north of the Ochocos. Navigation skills are a must on this trail.
You can ride single-track trails and forest roads to Indian Prairie, an 18-mile round trip with lush meadows, stately ponderosa pine forest, and open views from several spots. The vast Indian Prairie, nestled between Slide Mountain and Mt. Pisgah, is a beautiful sight. Again, a GPS or compass and map-reading skills are very helpful.
You can follow the endurance trails most of the way to Walton Lake, then take a forest road to reach the lake. Unfortunately, horses are not allowed in the campground that surrounds the lake. If you want to get down to the water, you’ll need to tie your horse in the trees outside the campground and walk to the lake on foot.
The area near Corral Flat is popular with ATV and motorcycle riders, so you may encounter them on the trails. Luckily, you can hear them coming and can easily get off the trail before they approach.
You can find more information about Corral Flat and the nearby trails in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.