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Dry River Loop, Oregon Badlands Wilderness

The Dry River Loop, located in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness miles east of Bend, showcases ancient juniper trees, sagebrush, bunchgrass, and interesting lava outcroppings.  While many of the trails in the Oregon Badlands are very popular with hikers and dog walkers, the Dry River Loop is used almost entirely by equestrians.  You’ll often have the trail all to yourself.

Dry River Loop, Oregon Badlands Wilderness

The Three Sisters from the Dry River Trail.

The Ride

9.5-mile loop

150 feet of elevation gain

Easy – sandy footing

Dry River Loop, Oregon Badlands Wilderness A gnarled juniper grows beside a basalt outcropping.

The Dry River Loop is comprised of the Dry River Trail, which roughly follows the course of an ancient riverbed, and the aptly-named Sand Trail.  The Dry River Trail offers some impressive mountain views, plus a fractured lava ridge that’s over a mile long.  Be sure to do the loop clockwise, veering left on the Sand Trail at the first opportunity, so you’ll be facing the mountain views along the Dry River Trail as you return to the trailhead. Dry River Loop, Oregon Badlands Wilderness

The Sand Trail.

Getting There

From Bend, drive east on Hwy. 20 for 4.7 miles.  Turn left on Powell Butte Hwy.  At the roundabout in 0.9 mile, take the first right on Alfalfa Market Road.  In 9.4 miles, you’ll pass the Alfalfa Store and the road name will change to Willard Road.  In 2 more miles, turn right on County Line Road.  The trailhead is on the right in 1 mile.  Additional pull-through trailer parking is available just past the main parking area.

Dry River Loop, Oregon Badlands Wilderness

An ancient juniper on the Dry River Trail.

More Information

This ride is featured in the Oregon Badlands chapter of Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2012).  Available at

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