• Easy (Ancient Juniper Trail)
  • 3.3-mile loop
  • 200 feet elevation gain
  • Open all year
  • Use: hikers, horses, bicycles

  • Moderate (to Flatiron Rock)
  • 6.5 miles round trip
  • 160 feet elevation gain
  • Easy (to Dry River channel)
  • 3 miles round trip
  • 60 feet elevation gain

The badlands just east of Bend are a lonely desert labyrinth of jumbled rock and sandy openings. Among the surprises in this maze are passageways atop fortress-shaped Flatiron Rock and a cave in the dry channel of a prehistoric river.

The fresh-looking lava here erupted 10,000 years ago, puddled up in a prairie, and then buckled into thousands of ten-foot-tall pressure ridges—in much the same way that paint can wrinkle when it dries. The low spots filled with volcanic sand after Mt. Mazama’s cataclysmic eruption powdered the area 7700 years ago.

Bring lots of water, avoid midday heat, wear a big sun hat, and choose loose, long-sleeved clothing. If you stray from the old roads that serve as trails in this area, it’s easy to be disoriented, so pack a compass or GPS device.

Start by driving …

The desert here is dominated by sagebrush and gnarled, 20-foot juniper trees that can be thousands of years old. Spring brings clumps of yellow, daisy-like Oregon sunshine and the tiny, pea-sized purple blooms of miniature monkeyflower.

After …

The next recommended hike …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon.