Oregon High Desert Trail In Oregon

Here is everything you need to know about the Oregon High Desert Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Oregon
  • Length: 150 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website: Info not available.

The Oregon High Desert Trail, also known as the Oregon Desert Trail, is a long-distance hiking trail located in the high desert region of southeastern Oregon, United States. The trail spans approximately 750 miles, traversing through diverse landscapes, including sagebrush steppe, volcanic fields, canyons, and mountain ranges. The history of the Oregon High Desert Trail is deeply intertwined with the rich cultural and natural heritage of the region.

The trail follows ancient Native American trade routes and migration paths that have been used for thousands of years. Native American tribes, such as the Paiute, Bannock, and Shoshone, have long inhabited this arid landscape, relying on its resources for sustenance and survival. The trail passes through areas that were once important hunting grounds and gathering places for these indigenous communities.

During the 19th century, European settlers began to explore and settle in the region. The Oregon High Desert Trail roughly follows the path of the historic Oregon Trail, which was a major route for pioneers traveling westward during the mid-1800s. These early settlers faced numerous challenges as they crossed the harsh desert terrain, including extreme weather conditions, lack of water sources, and encounters with Native American tribes.

In more recent history, the Oregon High Desert Trail has gained recognition as a recreational trail, attracting hikers, backpackers, and nature enthusiasts from around the world. The trail offers a unique opportunity to experience the vastness and solitude of the high desert, while also providing a glimpse into the historical and cultural significance of the region. Today, the Oregon High Desert Trail stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of exploration and adventure that has shaped the history of this remarkable landscape.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Badlands Wilderness Area Trailhead
2. Oregon Badlands Wilderness Trailhead
3. Horse Ridge Trailhead
4. Arnold Ice Cave Trailhead
5. Fort Rock State Natural Area Trailhead
6. Crack in the Ground Trailhead
7. Christmas Valley Sand Dunes Trailhead
8. Fremont National Recreation Trailhead
9. Gearhart Mountain Wilderness Trailhead
10. Warner Peak Trailhead
11. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge Trailhead
12. Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge Trailhead
13. Steens Mountain Wilderness Trailhead
14. Alvord Desert Trailhead
15. Owyhee Canyonlands Trailhead

Transportation Available

1. Bend Shuttle: Shuttle service providing transportation to and from the Oregon High Desert Trail.
2. High Desert Taxi: Taxi service offering convenient transportation options for trail visitors.
3. Central Oregon Biking: Bike rental service for exploring the Oregon High Desert Trail.
4. Redmond Rides: Local transportation service catering to trail hikers and bikers.
5. Sunriver Shuttle: Shuttle service specializing in transportation to and from the Oregon High Desert Trail.
6. Sisters Shuttle: Shuttle service offering convenient transportation options for trail visitors.
7. Bend Pedicab: Pedicab service providing unique transportation experiences for trail explorers.
8. Central Oregon Car Rentals: Car rental service for those seeking independent transportation along the Oregon High Desert Trail.
9. Prineville Shuttle: Shuttle service catering to trail hikers and bikers.
10. Bend Electric Bikes: Electric bike rental service for an eco-friendly way to explore the Oregon High Desert Trail.


The amenities available at the Oregon High Desert Trail may vary depending on the specific section or trailhead. However, here are some common amenities you may find along the trail:

1. Restrooms: Some trailheads or designated camping areas may have restroom facilities available. These can be in the form of pit toilets or flush toilets.

2. Parking: Most trailheads along the Oregon High Desert Trail offer parking areas for visitors to leave their vehicles while they explore the trail.

3. Camping Sites: There are designated camping areas along the trail where visitors can set up tents or park RVs. These sites may have amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: Some trailheads or camping areas may have designated picnic areas with tables and benches. These areas provide a great spot for visitors to have a meal or take a break.

5. Water Sources: Depending on the section of the trail, there may be natural water sources such as rivers, streams, or lakes where visitors can access water for drinking or other purposes. However, it is always recommended to carry enough water or have a water filtration system.

6. Trail Markers and Signage: The trail is typically marked with signs or markers to help hikers navigate the route. These markers ensure that visitors stay on the designated trail and do not get lost.

7. Information Boards: Some trailheads may have information boards or kiosks that provide details about the trail, its history, wildlife, and any specific regulations or guidelines visitors should be aware of.

8. Wildlife Viewing Areas: The Oregon High Desert Trail passes through diverse landscapes, offering opportunities for wildlife viewing. Some sections may have designated areas or viewpoints where visitors can observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

It is important to note that amenities can vary along the trail, and it is advisable to check with local authorities or trail management organizations for specific information about amenities available at different sections or trailheads of the Oregon High Desert Trail.

Nearby Services

1. Juniper Motel – A cozy motel offering comfortable lodging in the heart of the Oregon High Desert Trail.
2. Desert Diner – A popular roadside eatery serving delicious comfort food with a desert twist.
3. High Desert Lodge – A rustic lodge providing accommodation with stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.
4. Oasis Cafe – A local favorite cafe offering a variety of tasty dishes and refreshing beverages.
5. Desert Inn – A budget-friendly inn providing basic lodging options for travelers exploring the Oregon High Desert Trail.
6. Sand Dune Campground – A scenic campground nestled amidst sand dunes, perfect for camping enthusiasts.
7. High Desert Grill – A restaurant specializing in grilled dishes, offering a unique dining experience in the high desert.
8. Desert Oasis Resort – A luxurious resort offering upscale accommodation and amenities for a relaxing stay.
9. High Desert Market – A convenient market providing groceries and supplies for hikers and campers.
10. Desert Medical Center – An emergency medical facility equipped to handle any medical emergencies along the Oregon High Desert Trail.

Oregon High Desert Trail Difficulty Notes

The Oregon High Desert Trail presents a challenging and rugged terrain that tests the endurance and skills of even the most experienced hikers. Spanning over 800 miles, this trail traverses through remote and arid landscapes, characterized by steep ascents and descents, rocky paths, and limited water sources. The trail’s difficulty lies not only in its physical demands but also in its navigational challenges, as it often lacks well-defined markers and requires careful map reading and route finding. Additionally, the extreme weather conditions, including scorching heat and freezing temperatures, further add to the difficulty level of this trail. However, for those seeking a true wilderness adventure and the opportunity to explore the untouched beauty of the high desert, the Oregon High Desert Trail offers a rewarding and unforgettable experience.

Features And Attractions

The Oregon High Desert Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that spans approximately 750 miles across the high desert region of Oregon. Along this trail, you can find numerous scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable highlights:

1. Steens Mountain: This majestic mountain range offers breathtaking views, including the dramatic Kiger Gorge and the Alvord Desert, a vast playa at its base.

2. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge: This refuge is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and sage grouse. It also offers stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.

3. Fort Rock State Natural Area: This volcanic landmark is a massive tuff ring that rises out of the desert floor. It provides a unique geological formation and offers scenic hiking opportunities.

4. Crack in the Ground: Located near Christmas Valley, this deep volcanic fissure stretches for over two miles and provides an intriguing hiking experience.

5. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument: This site preserves a wealth of well-preserved fossils, including plants, animals, and even entire ecosystems. The Painted Hills Unit within the monument is particularly famous for its vibrant, multicolored hills.

6. Smith Rock State Park: Known as the birthplace of American sport climbing, this park features towering cliffs and stunning rock formations. It offers breathtaking views of the Crooked River and is a popular destination for rock climbers and hikers.

7. Owyhee Canyonlands: This remote and rugged region is characterized by deep canyons, towering cliffs, and wild rivers. It offers stunning vistas and opportunities for backcountry exploration.

8. Fort Rock Cave: This archaeological site is famous for its well-preserved artifacts and ancient human remains. It provides insights into the early human occupation of the region.

9. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: This refuge is a haven for migratory birds and offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. It encompasses diverse habitats, including wetlands, meadows, and sagebrush steppe.

10. Alvord Hot Springs: Located near the Alvord Desert, these natural hot springs offer a relaxing soak with stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.

These are just a few of the many scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks that can be found along the Oregon High Desert Trail. Exploring this trail will provide you with a unique and unforgettable experience of Oregon’s high desert region.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets are allowed on the Oregon High Desert Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Camping is permitted along the trail, but campfires are only allowed in designated fire rings or with a valid permit during non-restricted seasons.
3. Hiking and biking are allowed on the trail, but motorized vehicles are prohibited.
4. Leave no trace principles should be followed, including packing out all trash and waste.
5. Hunting and fishing are allowed in accordance with state regulations.
6. Respect private property and obtain permission before crossing or camping on private land.
7. Seasonal restrictions may apply, such as closures during fire season or extreme weather conditions. Check with local authorities or trail management for up-to-date information.
8. Practice responsible backcountry ethics, including minimizing noise, avoiding wildlife disturbance, and staying on designated trails.
9. Carry sufficient water and be prepared for limited access to amenities along the trail.
10. Obtain necessary permits or passes, if required, for camping or other activities on the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Oregon High Desert Trail offers a unique and captivating experience for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. However, the best times to visit this trail are during the spring and fall seasons. In spring, the desert landscape comes alive with vibrant wildflowers, creating a picturesque backdrop for hikers and nature lovers. The temperatures during this time are generally mild, making it comfortable for long hikes and exploration. Fall, on the other hand, offers cooler temperatures and stunning foliage, providing a breathtaking display of colors against the desert backdrop.

It is important to note that the Oregon High Desert Trail passes through various public lands, including national forests and wilderness areas. As a result, there may be seasonal closures or restrictions in certain areas. For example, some sections of the trail may be closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall or adverse weather conditions. It is advisable to check with local authorities or visit the trail’s official website for up-to-date information on closures and trail conditions before planning your visit.

Despite the occasional closures, the Oregon High Desert Trail remains a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Whether you prefer hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding, this trail offers a diverse range of activities to suit different interests and skill levels. From the stunning rock formations of the Painted Hills to the serene beauty of the Ochoco Mountains, the Oregon High Desert Trail promises an unforgettable adventure through the heart of the high desert landscape.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces close to trailheads with sufficient space for wheelchair users.
2. Accessible Trailhead: Trailhead with a smooth and level surface, allowing easy access for wheelchair users.
3. Paved Pathways: Paved pathways along the trail, providing a smooth surface for wheelchair users.
4. Wide Trails: Trails with wider paths to accommodate wheelchairs and allow for passing.
5. Accessible Restrooms: Restrooms equipped with accessible features such as grab bars and wider doorways.
6. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and benches for wheelchair users.
7. Trail Signage: Clear and visible signage along the trail, including Braille or tactile elements for visually impaired individuals.
8. Accessible Campsites: Campsites with accessible features such as level ground, wider paths, and accessible fire rings.
9. Accessible Water Stations: Water stations with accessible features like lower drinking fountains or spigots.
10. Assistance Animals: Accommodation for service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities on the trail.
11. Accessible Viewing Areas: Designated areas with accessible features for enjoying scenic views along the trail.
12. Accessible Interpretive Displays: Interpretive displays with accessible features such as tactile elements or audio descriptions for individuals with visual impairments.
13. Accessible Lodging: Nearby lodging options with accessible rooms and facilities for individuals with disabilities.
14. Accessible Transportation: Accessible transportation options to and from the trail, such as wheelchair-accessible vans or buses.
15. Emergency Assistance: Procedures in place to provide emergency assistance to individuals with disabilities on the trail.

Safety Information

1. Plan and prepare: Research the trail, weather conditions, and pack essential gear before embarking on the Oregon High Desert Trail.
2. Carry sufficient water: Due to the arid nature of the high desert, ensure you have enough water to stay hydrated throughout the trail.
3. Sun protection: Protect yourself from the intense sun by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
4. Watch out for wildlife: Be aware of potential encounters with snakes, spiders, and other desert wildlife; maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing them.
5. Navigation skills: Familiarize yourself with the trail map and carry a compass or GPS device to avoid getting lost.
6. Inform others: Let someone know about your itinerary, expected return time, and emergency contact information.
7. Emergency communication: Carry a fully charged cell phone or a satellite communication device for emergencies.
8. Lightning safety: Seek shelter in low-lying areas during thunderstorms and avoid open spaces or tall objects.
9. Be cautious of flash floods: Stay informed about weather conditions and avoid hiking in narrow canyons or washes during heavy rain.
10. Leave no trace: Practice responsible outdoor ethics by packing out all trash and leaving the trail and surrounding areas as you found them.
11. Check for trail closures: Before starting your hike, check for any trail closures or restrictions due to fire danger or other hazards.
12. Hiking in groups: Consider hiking with a partner or in a group for added safety and support.
13. First aid knowledge: Carry a basic first aid kit and have knowledge of basic first aid techniques.
14. Be prepared for extreme temperatures: The high desert can experience extreme heat during the day and cold temperatures at night, so pack appropriate clothing and gear.
15. Stay on the trail: Stick to designated trails to minimize the impact on the fragile desert ecosystem and avoid getting lost.
16. Be mindful of water sources: Research and plan your water resupply points carefully, as water sources can be scarce in the high desert.
17. Check for hunting seasons: If hiking during hunting seasons, wear bright colors and make yourself visible to hunters.
18. Be aware of potential hazards: Watch out for loose rocks, steep drop-offs, and other hazards along the trail.
19. Stay updated on fire conditions: Check for fire restrictions and be cautious with campfires or any open flames.
20. Trust your instincts: If a situation feels unsafe or beyond your capabilities, turn back or seek assistance.

Conservation Notes

The Oregon High Desert Trail is a significant natural resource that traverses through the diverse and fragile ecosystems of the high desert region in Oregon. As a conservation priority, the trail is recognized for its role in preserving and protecting the unique flora, fauna, and geological features found within this arid landscape. The conservation status of the Oregon High Desert Trail is of utmost importance due to the increasing threats posed by human activities, climate change, and invasive species.

Efforts are being made to ensure the long-term conservation of the trail and its surrounding habitats. Conservation organizations, land management agencies, and local communities are actively engaged in monitoring and managing the trail to minimize human impact and preserve the delicate balance of the high desert ecosystem. This includes implementing measures to prevent habitat degradation, controlling the spread of invasive species, and promoting sustainable recreational use.

Despite these conservation efforts, the Oregon High Desert Trail faces several challenges. Climate change poses a significant threat, as rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns can disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem and impact the survival of native species. Additionally, the trail is susceptible to human-induced disturbances such as off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping, and unauthorized trail development. These activities can lead to habitat fragmentation, soil erosion, and disturbance of wildlife populations.

To address these challenges, ongoing conservation initiatives focus on raising awareness about the importance of the trail and its associated ecosystems. Collaborative efforts are being made to engage local communities, landowners, and recreational users in responsible trail use and conservation practices. By promoting sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation, while also implementing effective management strategies, the conservation status of the Oregon High Desert Trail can be safeguarded for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

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