The first place I ever went trail riding on my very own horse was at the Fryrear Trailhead at Cline Buttes Recreation Area. I had no idea that 25+ years later it would remain one of my favorite places to ride.
Back in 1993 (hoo, boy, am I dating myself!), I didn’t have a truck or trailer, so I was limited to the trails I could reach on horseback. Lucky for me, the barn where I boarded my horse was within easy riding distance of the Fryrear Trailhead. And what a treasure this area is!
The terrain surrounding the canyons is pretty typical of Central Oregon. The land is gently rolling, covered by junipers, sagebrush, and bunchgrass. The soil is sandy and well drained, so while it can be dusty in summer, it offers excellent riding in fall, winter, and spring.
From several elevated points, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the snow-covered Cascades to the west. And because the Cline Buttes Recreation Area is 50 square miles of BLM land, you can ride almost forever.
The riding at Fryrear Trailhead is pretty unstructured at this time. The trailhead is relatively new, and BLM hasn't yet designated any official trails in the area. So for now, you can explore the area by riding cross-country or traveling the network of forest roads.
The highlight of riding from Fryrear Trailhead is traveling through the canyons. Fryrear and Dry Canyons lie between deep volcanic pressure ridges created eons ago when molten lava oozed out of the earth and began to harden, then was pushed up by more lava pouring out beneath it. The twisted striations in the canyons’ walls are evidence of the heat and pressure that created these basalt formations.
As you ride through the canyons, you feel like you’ve ridden back in time – or onto the set of a John Wayne movie. It seems like Geronimo and his men ought to be peering down at you from the rim of the canyon. And indeed, these canyons were historically visited by Indians. There are even petroglyphs in Fryrear Canyon to prove it.
Respect the Seasonal Closure and Save a Baby Eagle
Note that Fryrear Canyon (the one farthest west) is subject to a seasonal wildlife closure from February 1 to August 1 to protect nesting raptors. Please take the seasonal closure seriously -- golden eagles that are disturbed while nesting will kill their young. So protect the baby eagles, and obey the closure signs during nesting season.
The Fryrear area trails are covered in more detail in the Cline Buttes Recreation Area chapter of Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at www.NWHorseTrails.com.