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America’s Newest Wilderness

A quick guide to the best acres, trails, and views.

So much backcountry, so little time. That’s how any self-respecting backpacker should translate the blandly named Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009–a blockbuster conservation bill passed in March. The legislation protects more than 2 million acres of backcountry, designating 77 new wilderness areas and additions in nine states. The best way to celebrate this landmark victory? Go explore these pristine landscapes. Here’s our short list of the most exciting wildland wins from the Appalachians to the Sierra.


Copper Salmon Wilderness
Land protected 13,700 acres, including the headwaters of the Elk River, the state’s most productive salmon fishery
Natural wonder 300-foot-tall Douglas firs
Champion Oregon Wild (
See it now From the end of FR 220, ridge-walk one mile on the Barklow Mountain Trail to an old firetower with views of 3,000-foot Copper and Salmon Mountains.

Lewis and Clark Mt. Hood Wilderness
Land protected 124,000 acres in nine parcels spread throughout the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood
Natural wonder Highest concentration of waterfalls in the country
Champion Oregon Wild (
See it now Take the Salmon Butte Summit Trail on an 8.4-mile out-and-back through Douglas fir and rhododendrons to a 360-degree view of five volcanic peaks and the new wildernesses skirting Mt. Hood.

Spring Basin Wilderness
Land protected 6,382 acres in the John Day River Watershed
Natural wonder Pink-flowering Oregon barrel cactus
Champion Oregon Natural Desert Association (
See it now From the BLM kiosk on Clarno Road, hike north .5 mile through bunchgrass and flowers. Go left at the fork to access tight, trailless Spring Basin Canyon.

Oregon Badlands Wilderness
Land protected 29,301 acres of high desert terrain in central Oregon
Natural wonder Oregon’s oldest tree: a 1,600-year-old Western juniper
Champion Oregon Natural Desert Association (
See it now Take OR 20 16 miles east from Bend to the Flatiron Rock Trail. This easy five-mile loop weaves through 100-year-old junipers and much older lava formations, like the black and chunky Flatiron Rock at mile 2.5.

Cascade-Siskiyou Resolution
Land protected 24,100-acre Soda Mountain Wilderness in Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Natural wonder 5,908-foot Pilot Rock, a volcanic basalt pinnacle
Champion Oregon Wild (
See it now From Pilot Rock Road, hop on an 8.5-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that tracks through Soda Mountain’s southeast corner past the towering Pilot Rock.

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