Badlands Challenge

Greg Burke

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness, so named for its rugged and harsh terrain, lies just 15 miles east of Bend, Oregon, but arrive here and you might feel like you’ve stepped into an all-together different time and place.

This is 30,000 acres of fascinating lava flows and ancient juniper trees. You may see pictographs, as the area known today as the Badlands Wilderness is the ancestral land of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Northern Paiute. These are fragile cultural artifacts that you can admire, but not touch. You will also find some of the oldest trees in Oregon, bright displays of desert wildflowers and castle-like rock formations.

There are 50+ miles of trails in Badlands. Can you hit them all? This challenge is not about going fast, although you could. It’s about covering each and every mile — one hike, horseback ride or run at a time.

Read more about the adventurous folks who embarked on the Badlands Challenge in 2019.


Mary McCord, ONDA Volunteer

Mary McCord, ONDA Volunteer

“I find enjoyment in the peaceful wide open spaces, geology, and rich history of Oregon’s high desert,” says Mary. Reflecting on volunteering, she continues, “If you have the ability and desire, it’s important to do something to contribute. It doesn’t have to be big, because every little bit helps.”


Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

“I contribute to ONDA monthly because it adds up to a larger annual gift than what I’d be able to comfortably afford if I were to do a simple one-time donation annually. I’m able to give more to ONDA this way and have greater impact which is important to me, and my dog Polly.”


Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

“ONDA stewardship trips inspire me. I get to learn new things and see new places, and in the process perform important work that improves the wildlife habitat.”

Let us know that you are accepting the challenge.

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Download this trip log to make keeping track of your hikes easy.

Badlands Challenge Map

Driving directions to the Badlands Wilderness trailheads:

  • Flatiron Trailhead: Head east from Bend on Hwy 20 for 15 miles, trailhead is on the left off the highway.
  • Badlands Rock Trailhead: Head east from Bend on Hwy 20 for 18 miles (passing Flatiron Trailhead). Continue another three miles and turn left at the Badlands Wilderness sign. Continue for another mile to the trailhead on the left.
  • Larry Chitwood Trailhead: Head east from Bend on Hwy 20 for 6.5 miles, take a left on Dodds Road and continue for 3 miles and take a right onto Obernolte Rd. Continue for 0.5 miles, when the road bends to the left, the trailhead is on the right.
  • Tumulus Trailhead: Head east from Bend on Hwy 20 for 6.5 miles, take a left on Dodds Road for 6 miles to an unmarked dirt road (right after the 6-mile marker) where you will turn right. Take a right at the fork in the dirt road until you reach a parking area at the canal. The Tumulus trailhead is over the canal walkway.
  • Dry River Trailhead: Head east from Bend on Hwy 20 for 6.5 miles, take a left on Dodds Road and continue for 11 miles and turn right onto Alfalfa Market Road. Continue for 3 miles and turn right onto County Line Road. The trailhead is another mile down the road.

*NOTE: There is no potable water in the Badlands Wilderness, please bring all your water for the duration of your trip. There are no bathroom facilities, please follow leave no trace principals and dig catholes well away from the trails and pack out all toilet paper.

GPS track of the trails can be helpful when navigating in the Badlands. Download trail data here.

Review these suggestions to help you travel safely through the high desert of eastern Oregon and enjoy fragile places responsibly.

While you take the time to explore the Badlands Wilderness, you can immerse yourself in the flora and fauna, geology and cultural history of the area.

Please remember that the Badlands Wilderness is the ancestral land of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Northern Paiute. Please leave artifacts where you find them and do not geotag the location of cultural sites. Pictographs (ancient drawings or paintings on rock that are often red) are fragile cultural artifacts; please do not touch pictographs and other rock art.

For “extra credit,” challenge yourself to identify three species that are new to you. Here are resources:

  • Reptiles of the Northwest by Alan St. John
  • Roadside Geology of Oregon by Marli Miller
  • The Nature of Bend by LeeAnn Kriegh
  • Great Basin Wildflowers by Laird Blackwell
  • Birds of the High Desert by High Desert Museum
  • Birds of Oregon: A Guide to Common & Notable Species by Greg R. Homel
  • Meet me in the Badlands, Exploring Central Oregon with Jim Witty
  • Remote Wonders, An Explorers Guide to Southeast Oregon by Melvin R. Adams
  • Oregon’s Dry Side by Alan D. St. John.
  • Sagebrush Ocean by Stephen Trimble

It’s easy to get inspired while on a desert hike. Why not try your hand at writing a desert haiku (hike-u). The haiku is a three-line poem with 17 syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. The haiku often focuses on images from nature, and emphasizes simplicity, intensity and directness of expression.


In the wilderness
I am a part of something
bigger and wilder.

Send us your Badlands Challenge inspired haiku!

Take a selfie with your trip log and email the photo to

Alternatively, you can post a photo of yourself with trip log on Instagram and tag it #badlandschallenge.

You’ve just hiked more than 50 miles. That’s some serious “desert bathing” and we hope it’s left you feeling restored and giddy.

What’s more: by taking part in this challenge and sharing your adventures with your family and friends, you’re helping to raise awareness of how important protected public lands are.

Submitted Badlands Challenge Haikus

Green, pink, yellow.
Colors of the spring desert.
Hiker’s paradise.

Jessica Beauchemin

Amidst the ashes
I see the sharpened arrow
Perfect while broken

Kathy Vaughan

On a rocky perch
Sanctuary of silence
Desert escapes me

Robin Sims Sullivan