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Backpacker Magazine – February 2001

Oregon's Badlands: Only The Lonely

You'd better like your own company, because that's all you'll have in Oregon's Badlands Wilderness Study Area.

by: Scott Schechtel

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DRIVE TIME: The Badlands is 20 miles east of Bend.

THE WAY: From Bend, travel east on US 20 for about 18 miles and turn left at the Bureau of Land Management information kiosk. From there, several short dirt roads provide access to the Badlands.

TRAILS: The Dry River Trail is the only named route, ascending 5 miles to the head of the gorge. There are also 30 miles of unmarked dirt roads that are rough enough to use as trails and are closed to off-road-vehicle use in winter (one road is open to vehicles in winter, but traffic should not affect hikers).

ELEVATION: The lowest point in the Badlands is 3,400 feet (in the northwestern corner). The high point is just above 4,000 feet.

CAN'T MISS: Sunrise over the desert plains when snow lightly dusts the juniper and sage. You might forget all about summer in the Cascades.

CROWD CONTROL: Winter is quietest. Spring is good, too, but in fall there's a heavy concentration of hunters.

GUIDES: Exploring Oregon's Wild Areas: A Guide for Hikers, Backpackers, X-C Skiers, & Paddlers, by William L. Sullivan (The Mountaineers Books, 800-553-4453;; $16.95). USGS 7.5-minute quads: Horse Ridge and Alfalfa (888-ASK-USGS;; $4 each).

WALK SOFTLY: Avoid getting too close to eagle and owl nesting areas in the canyon walls of Dry River Gorge.

CONTACT: Bureau of Land Management, Prineville District, (541) 416-6700;

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