If you’re looking for a great early-spring ride, the Warner Loop near Cyrus Horse Camp is for you! The trail is easy, the views are of the big-sky variety, and the footing isn’t muddy or slick even if the weather has been wet.
Difficulty: Moderate – the trail is easy, but a few trail junctions are not well signed
Distance: 12.5 miles round trip
Elevation: 2,950 to 3,400 feet
The ride begins at Cyrus Horse Camp, next to the kiosk on the north side of the campground. You’ll follow the Cole Loop Trail to Scales Corral, a large corral used for rounding up the cattle grazing in the area. (You can also start the loop at Scales Corral if you prefer.) Shortly after passing Scales Corral, Cole Loop goes straight ahead at a junction but you’ll turn left on the Warner Loop.
As you continue around the loop, you’ll experience the kind of terrain that real cowboys encounter: open grasslands and low hills covered with junipers, sagebrush, and bunchgrass.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of Gray Butte, Pine Ridge, Haystack Butte, Grizzly Mountain, and Haystack Reservoir. And sky. Lots of sky. This is a great ride for a clear spring day because you’ll encounter few trees to block the welcome sunlight. Plus, in late spring the wildflowers are plentiful.
You may want to consider staying at Cyrus Horse Camp for a few days so you can experience the other wonderful trails nearby.
If you’d like to camp overnight, Cyrus Horse Camp has 9 spacious campsites with 1-, 2-, or 4-horse corrals and room for two trailers. The camp offers a vault toilet, manure dump, fire pits, and picnic tables. Stock water is normally available from early spring onward, but before you go you should contact the Crooked River Grasslands office (541-416-6640) to be sure the water has been hooked up. Camping is free.
Getting to Cyrus Horse Camp
From Redmond: take Hwy. 97 north for 5.5 miles. In Terrebonne, turn right on Smith Rock Way. Drive 4.9 miles, turn left on Lone Pine Road, and continue 7.4 miles. Turn left on Hwy. 26 and drive 2 miles. (Note: Norris Lane offers a more direct route, but the road is dusty, washboard gravel all the way.) From Madras: drive south on Hwy. 26 for 13 miles. From Prineville: drive northwest on Hwy. 26 for 15 miles. All: Between mileposts 11 and 12, turn west on Laurel Lane. Continue 3 miles and turn left on Road 5750, then drive 1.2 miles to the horse camp.
To reach Scales Corral, follow the directions to Cyrus Horse Camp above, but 2 miles after turning onto Laurel Lane you’ll reach Scales Corral on your left. Park next to the corrals.
You’ll find more information about the Warner Loop and other trails near Cyrus Horse Camp in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2018), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.