These free resources are available as PDF downloads. Click on links to start downloads.
OREGON DESERT TRAIL MAPS
Trail maps include waypoints, distances between waypoints, trail surface type, water information, declination, private land boundaries, information on public land and a selection of alternates including: Christmas Valley, Orejana Canyon, Blitzen River, Alvord Hot Springs, McDermitt, and many more options in the Owyhee Canyonlands.
The Oregon Desert Trail Guidebook provides an introduction and “know before you go” information that is helpful in preparing for a hike along the route. Detailed section info includes a public lands glossary and guide to land designations along the ODT. It also includes section overview maps and elevation profiles. (updated 5/3/19)
Fill out this form to receive a link to download the complete Oregon Desert Trail Guidebook (free!).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO CHECKLIST
Please use this checklist to double-check that you have thoroughly prepared for your hike along the Oregon Desert Trail. Above all else please remember each hiker’s interactions with the trail communities and land managers paves the way for future hikers along the route. Please travel responsibly and respectfully through eastern Oregon and have a wonderful adventure.
These free resources are available as downloads.
OREGON DESERT TRAIL GPS WAYPOINTS
Upload the ODT waypoints to your GPS or phone, but don’t forget the paper maps…technology can fail! This .gpx file has the waypoints for the entire trail and all the alternates. Find detailed information on the alternate options in the guidebook and on the maps. (updated 3/14/19)
OREGON DESERT TRAIL GPS TRACKS
These .kml tracks can be uploaded to Google Earth so you can peruse the route while at home, or uploaded to your GPS device or smart phone for guidance on the trail. To minimize impacts especially on cross country sections, please disperse your travel, the track is a suggestion of travel.
- Region 1 (Sections 1-6) updated 3/14/19
- Region 2 (Sections 7-12) updated 3/14/19
- Region 3 (Sections 13-19) updated 3/14/19
- Region 4 (Sections 20-25) updated 3/14/19
- Alternate data (all data in can be downloaded here) These alternates are included in the current map and guidebook versions.
- Christmas Valley: Alt_track_Christmas.kml
- Orejana Canyon: Alt_track_Orejana.kml
- Blitzen River: Alt_track_Blitzen.kml
- Alvord Hot Springs: Alt_track_Alvord.kml
- McDermitt: Alt_track_McDermitt.kml
- Owyhee Canyonlands:
- Flag Crossing (this alternate is an extended overland option from Anderson Crossing to Five Bar, bypassing the hardest and most incredible part of the ODT through the West Little Owyhee): Alt_track_Flag.kml
- Indian Creek: Alt_track_Indian.kml
- Soldier Creek: Alt_track_Soldier.kml
- Greeley Bar: Alt_track_Greeley.kml
- Leslie Gulch High Water Alternate.kml
- 2019 Alternate data (labeled ODT 2019 New Alternates in the GPS data folder). These alternates are NOT included in the current map and guidebook versions. They exist only as data.
- Summer Lake Hotsprings Route.kml: This 16.5 mile alternate takes you directly from Section 6 near Flat Top to the Summer Lake Hotsprings. Continue on the alternate route for another 8 miles to connect with Section 7 along the Chewaucan River, or hike 6 miles on the road into Paisley for your resupply and continue on the orginal ODT route.
- Access to Abert Rim.kml: It isn’t easy to access Abert Rim, but this route up Juniper Canyon takes you up and over to the ODT by Colvin Timbers and the start of Section 9. Note: this is a strenous climb, and the top 300’ are a very frustrating and challenging bushwack through mountain mahogany and over and around large boulders.
- Blitzen Gorge Alternate.kml: Instead of hiking up Big Indian Gorge in the Steens Mountain Wilderness, this 12.7 mile route will take you up the parallel canyon and will climb up to the Steens Loop Road via the Nye Trail.
- Lakeview Alternate.kml: This 50.6 mile alternate leaves the Fremont National Recreation Trail in Section 7 and travels via a series of dirt and paved roads to the town of Lakeview. The route on the west side of Lakeview takes the Bullard Canyon Trail right from the middle to town to connect into the Crane Mountain Trail and back to the ODT in Section 8 at South Crooked Creek Trailhead.
- McDermitt Flat Top Alternate.kml: This 19 mile alternate to the McDermitt Alternate stays up high and climbs Flat Top Mountain before descending to the small Nevada town of McDermitt.
This file found in the GPS data folder (ODT Water Sources.kml) has all the water sources as waypoints. These are the sources listed in the databook and guidebook and on the maps. As always, if something in inaccurate in the location of a waypoint, please let us know.
MULTI SPORT ROUTES: These are alternates to the hiking route for many sections of the ODT. Please reference section info in the guidebook for more details on these options. NOTE: There is no water data yet for these alternates. If you travel these sections, please waypoint any sources you find and share with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
VIEW THE OREGON DESERT TRAIL ON THE HIKING PROJECT WEBSITE (SECTIONS 1-9)
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DATA BOOK/WATER CHART ON GOOGLE DOCS
The data book/water chart is a Google Doc, and may be one of the most important resources for hiking the Oregon Desert Trail. Where is the water? How reliable is it? Find out on the water chart and contribute your findings for others while on the trail. The information is organized by map number and waypoint. You can download the data book/water chart as a PDF or Excel file in the upper left corner of the page. Detailed directions are provided for guidance on how to use and update the water chart while on the trail.
This file found in the GPS data folder (ODT Water Sources.kml) has all the water sources as waypoints. These are the sources listed in the databook and guidebook and on the maps. As always, if something in inaccurate in the location of a waypoint, please let us know.
WATER CACHE GUIDELINES & MAPS
Most hikers will want to cache water on the first 160 miles of the route. View our caching guidelines below, and email us for maps of suggested cache spots.
Water Cache Assistance
A couple of Oregon Desert Trail supporters have offered their assistance in caching water on one of the driest sections of the trail. If you will be hiking Section 6 and would like water at the start of the section, and towards the end after coming off of Diablo Rim, here is your chance to save a day of driving on some rocky and challenging roads!
• Caches will be placed before each hiking season (Spring and Fall) at the start of Section 6 and bottom(ish) of Diablo Rim.
• Email email@example.com for more details on locations for each cache.
• It will be your responsibility to pack out all gallon jugs that you use. A log book has been included with the water caches so you can record your stop and indicate how much water you took. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we know how much water is left in the cache.
• A suggested $10 donation will cover the cost of the water jugs, and gas. These generous folks have asked that hikers donate directly to ONDA (https://onda.org/donate)
New in 2020
A generous ODT supporter plans to provide water between Bend and Christmas Valley during the second half of May 2020, stay tuned for more details on location and timing. If you start your thru-hike from the Oregon Badlands Wilderness in mid-May you will be on track to meet this trail angel in a pretty dry stretch of the route.
Water Cache Guidelines
When choosing the best method for caching supplies along the trail, please take the following items into consideration:
Caching on National Wildlife Refuges and National Forests is prohibited.
- Hide caches so they are not visible from roads and mark with name and ETA date. (Sagebrush can offer good camouflage in many sections of the ODT) It is essential to HIDE your caches. Several have gone missing over the past few seasons because hikers did not hide their caches from view of roads.
- Mark cache location with a GPS waypoint to ensure you can find them.
- Avoid using flagging which can draw attention to your cache. If you deem flagging essential to recovering your cache (hiking without GPS device) please be sparing and pack out all traces to comply with Leave No Trace principals.
- Bury caches only on previously disturbed land. High desert soils and vegetation can take many years to recover from disturbances.
- When burying caches, place water/supplies in a 5-gallon bucket to prevent animal disturbances. Cover completely with dirt/rocks and GPS waypoint the location. If supplies have an odor, odor proof barrier bags should be used inside the 5-gallon bucket.
- Please be sensitive to any archaeological or cultural resources you encounter in the desert. Preserve the past: look, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Plan to cache approximately 2 gallons [approx. 7.6 liters] per location, per person. Because individual water needs vary, please carry more water than you think you will need.
- A “heavier” plastic water jug is recommended as freezing water can crack a typical grocery store gallon jug, and extended sun exposure can make plastic brittle.
- A high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended to place caches. Please keep all vehicle travel to existing roads. In times of extreme fire danger, driving on primitive roads may be prohibited.
You must pack out all used containers and trash. Gallon jug containers are light and easily tied to a pack. Be even more prepared than you think you should be and have an incredible adventure.
A trail register records the comings and goings of trail users, and are typically notebooks housed in areas of high traffic for a hiker along a trail or route (post office, grocery store, hotel). They are very helpful for a number of reasons: communication between hikers, recording visitor information and use, passing on information about current hazards or trail conditions, and to aid in search and rescue efforts.
Please sign into trail registers at the following locations:
- Paisley: Paisley Mercantile, ask for it at the register
- Lakeview: Tall Town Bike & Camp
- Plush: In-house register at Hart Mountain Store
- Hart Mountain Refuge: In-house register at the visitors center
- Frenchglen: In-house register at Frenchglen Hotel
- Fields: In-house register at Fields Station
ONLINE TRAIL REGISTER
Fill out the form below and get yourself added to the online register on the bottom of this page. Why fill out the online register? If you have hiking plans along the ODT, are looking for a trail partner, or if you’re a trail angel or have other announcements and you want to get the word out, consider signing the register.
Even if your plans are only vague and tentative, we encourage you to sign the register for the purpose of building momentum within the trail community.
Depending on the time of year, hikers may encounter snow, mud, fire, extreme heat, or other conditions that it would helpful to know about before embarking on the ODT. This document is meant to be a crowd-sourced resource for sharing observations of trail conditions, cross country sections or two-track roads along the 750 mile route. Please add your observations!
The Hart Mt. Refuge was established in 1936 to provide range for remnant antelope herds. It is the only spot on the trail where you need a permit, (click here for the form) but only if you plan on camping in the backcountry while on the refuge, outside the established campgrounds. Make sure to sign in the register at the headquarters!
This page is an excerpt from our Town & Services Guide. The document lists details on all of these options; see full guide on the Town Guide tab above. Please note these mileages are based off the original ODT route, these do not include any alternate mileage.
Many businesses along the ODT will also accept resupply packages, but please call first to verify and for any special directions. Please note: Due to costs of running a business in very remote locations, some of these outposts can only resupply once a week and may not have the fresh food or selection you would like. If you do choose to send a resupply box to a business, please consider offering to donate a few dollars for the service.
If your plans change and you want to forward or have a resupply box returned, please understand if you sent to a business and not a post office, it may be difficult or require additional effort on behalf of the business to handle your box further.
The Oregon Natural Desert Association’s mission is to protect, restore, and defend Oregon’s desert areas, and ODT users can help us in these efforts. After you travel through these areas and spend extended time in some of these remote and extraordinary desert landscapes, please provide your feedback about the route and consider joining us as a member.
Many of our conservation goals are met by extensive wilderness inventories and science-based monitoring. Your experiences on the ground in these sensitive places can help us achieve a diverse and varied set of data that will help us defend and protect these areas. Here are a few things you can do while on the ODT that can help us in our conservation goals:
Photo monitoring for impacts
Over 30 percent of the Oregon Desert Trail involves cross country hiking, and we encourage hikers to travel as lightly as possible on the landscape. In order to ensure we are not leaving undue impacts, we’ve implemented a photo monitoring process to gauge hiker/human-related impacts along the route. Please email us to find out how the photos you take along your trip can help ensure these landscapes remain wild and intact for the variety of flora and fauna found along the ODT.
Share your observations with us
The best way we can continue to refine the route is to get your feedback about your experience along the Oregon Desert Trail. In addition, keeping track of water sources on our water chart will go a long way towards building a good picture of water conditions in the desert. Did you see something unique, exciting, or strange? Take a photo and share it with us. Interesting encounters with people along the way? Let us know. In the early stages in the development of a long-distance trail many people who live along the route may be unfamiliar with long distance hiking, and that first conversation with a hiker can pave the way for future hikers’ experiences and supporters of the route. We are still discovering resources along the route to add to our Town & Services Guide, and if someone offers help or a service, let us know and we can include it for future hikers. We’d be interested in hearing about any notable conversations along the way.
Take note of off-road/trail ATV damage
Many sections along the Oregon Desert Trail route are open to multiple modes of transportation. Hikers will pass through clearly marked OHV trail systems, and on many two-track roads that are still used by vehicles and ATVs. However, if you see areas of clear habitat damage where vehicles have left the roads (especially in Wilderness Study Areas) please let us know and take photo of what you have observed.
Become an Adventure Scientist
The organization Adventure Scientists sends thousands of volunteers on missions to collect data from remote, difficult-to-access locations for their conservation partners. In 2013 Sage Clegg collected diatom samples from ODT water sources and helped find several new species on her thru-hike. Contact them to see if there are any projects you could contribute to on your hike in the high desert.
Hiking may be the most common way to approach the ODT, but there are many other ways to experience the remote beauty of the Oregon Desert Trail. Sections have already been explored on bike, in a boat, on horseback and on skis. New in 2019 we’ve added multi-sport info regarding all of these alternative ways to our experience Oregon’s high desert in each section of the ODT Guidebook. Head to each detailed section description for more information. Have you experienced an alternate form of “quiet recreation” along the route? We’d love to hear about it and potentially include it as a resource for others.
Biking on the Oregon Desert Trail
Sections of the ODT that use two-track roads can be biked, but not all two-track roads out there are mountain bike-friendly. Detailed section information now includes some suggested dirt and pavement alternate options, and data is included in our online GPS folder.
When considering appropriate routes for bike travel across the high desert, ONDA took the following into consideration: Wilderness areas are not open to bike travel, and as ONDA strives to protect wilderness values found within Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) and Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC), we discourage the use of bikes in these contiguous areas. Many areas in the high desert have sensitive wildlife habitat including areas used by Greater Sage-Grouse, a species that is sensitive to human presence. To protect these areas they are not identified on the maps or in our materials, and the suggested bike routes give these places wide berth. The suggested bike routes are, for the most part, open to vehicle travel as well, so bikers need to expect multiple uses on these roads. There are no dedicated water sources identified yet for these routes, so please use caution when traveling in this arid environment with limited water availability. Similar to our desert driving tips (pg. 12), biking on saturated dirt roads may be extremely difficult due to deep muddy areas. Burrs and thorns can also cause problems for bike tires, so be prepared with an adequate patch kit.
On Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, please follow refuge rules that state that all vehicles, including bikes, are allowed only on designated open roads. Many roads are closed to vehicles seasonally as well.
The ODT overlaps with the bikepacking route The Oregon Timber Trail along 47 miles of the Fremont National Recreation Trail (NRT). For more information about the “Fremont Tier,” visit www.oregontimbertrail.org/fremont. The Fremont NRT is open to bike travel.
Horseback Riding on the Oregon Desert Trail
The Fremont NRT is popular with horseback riders, too. In fact the Backcountry Horsemen – High Desert Trail Riders and the Lakeview Chapter of Oregon Equestrian Trails helped build and maintain a large portion of this trail system, primarily out of the Moss Pass area.
Steens Mountain Wilderness is popular with horse packers, primarily up the Big Indian Gorge Trail and the parallel Little Blitzen Gorge.
More info can be found with these local resources:
- Oregon Equestrian Trails: Oregon Equestrian Trails is made up of many individuals from all over the state who share a common love of horses and trail riding, and who want to see Oregon remain a place where trail riders are welcome. www.oregonequestriantrails.org
- NW Horse Trails Guidebooks: This series of guidebooks covers many trail options for equestrians around the Pacific Northwest. https://nwhorsetrails.com
- Steens Back Country Horsemen Chapter: The Steens Back Country Horsemen Chapter covers the southeast Oregon region. www.bcho.org/chapters/steens-chapter
- High Desert Trail Riders Back Country Horsemen: The High Desert Trail Riders chapter (based out of Klamath Falls, OR) has trail rides, pack trips, work parties, training clinics and more. www.hdtrbch.org
Boating along the Oregon Desert Trail
The ODT route coincides with three navigable waterways in the high desert. The Chewaucan River outside Paisley, and Wild and Scenic Rivers Donner und Blitzen River in the Steens Mountain Wilderness, and Owyhee River near the Idaho border. All can be challenging wilderness paddles.
- The Chewaucan could be packrafted from 20 miles upriver of Paisley near Moss Pass. Spring snowmelt has provided suitable conditions in the past for this Class II-III river run.
- The Donner und Blitzen River is also best suited to a packraft as snowmelt most likely will provide enough water for a wilderness paddle, but usually before the Steens Loop Road is open to car travel. Adventurous paddlers can hike in and launch about 17 river miles north of Page Springs Campground for this Class III-IV river run.
- The Owyhee River is a popular raft trip when flows are above 1,000 cfs. At lower flows this Class IV-V river can be packrafted, but many larger rapids need to be portaged and can be time-consuming. One hundred forty miles were packrafted in 2016.
Winter Sports along the Oregon Desert Trail
In high snow years most of the ODT could be traveled on skis or snowshoes, and the frozen lakes could be a destination for ice skaters. If you want a more established adventure, head to the Warner Canyon Ski Area near Lakeview, or cruise around on some of the Fremont-Winema National Forest cross country ski trails. The Steens and Pueblos also provide some excellent backcountry touring terrain for the really adventurous winter travelers out there.
There are many options for shorter trips along the Oregon Desert Trail, here are some of our suggestions. If you have some trip ideas to add please let us know and we’ll list them here.
- Badlands (Section 1) – 9 miles one way
- Tumulus Trail to Flatiron Rock Trail: Set up a shuttle to hike all nine miles or do an out and back from either trailhead. There are many other trails in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and you could easily turn your trip into a loop hike. See BLM map here (note, the map does not show the new trail we constructed in 2017 or note the ODT).
- Crack in the Ground (Christmas Valley Alternate) – 2 miles one way
- Crack-in-the-Ground is an ancient volcanic fissure over 2 miles long and up to 70 feet deep. Crack-in-the-Ground exists today nearly as it did shortly after its formation thousands of years ago. An established 2 mile trail along the fissure’s bottom offers a unique hike along an Oregon Desert Trail alternate. From Christmas Valley, head east on the Christmas Valley Highway for approximately 1 mile. Turn north (left) onto Crack-in-the-Ground Road and continue for about 7 miles, being sure to turn left onto Lava Craters Road, following signs to Crack in the Ground.
- Black Hills (Christmas Valley Alternate)
- The rocky outcrops that define the Black Hills Area of Environmental Concern (ACEC) are all that remains of an eroded dome of volcanic tuff, formed 4-7 million years ago near today’s Christmas Valley, and an Oregon Desert Trail alternate. Covered with hardy, low-growing plants, this high desert ecosystem hosts 3 BLM Special Status Species of plants: Cusick’s buckwheat, Warner Mountain bedstraw, and snowline cymopteris. From Christmas Valley, Oregon, take County Road 5-14F south. When the main roads turns west, continue south on the dirt road to the sign at the north edge of the site. To enter the site, turn east (left) and travel for .25 mile, then turn south up a rough jeep trail to the visitor information sign. This road should only be used by 4-wheel drive vehicles.
- Diablo Rim (Section 6) – 5.5 miles one way
- Access Diablo Peak from the town of Summer Lake: Turn onto Thousand Springs Lane just north of the rest area in town. Follow this road about 6 miles to a fork in the road, and turn right (south). Drive another 1.2 miles and park before a slight rise in the road, and before reaching the Thousand Springs Ranch. Head cross country towards Cat Camp Draw, and follow that up to Diablo Peak. GPS data can be found here.
- Fremont Forest (Sections 7-8)
- Chewaucan Crossing: From the free campsites at Chewaucan Crossing, hike south along the Fremont National Recreation Trail for a lovely out and back trip.
- Avery Pass: Avery Pass is accessable to most vehicles. Drive through Paisley, and continue south about 6 miles to turn right onto Clover Flat Road. Turn right at a sign indicating Morgan Butte Lookout and Avery Pass (follow signs to the pass). You can walk in either direction and enjoy some time on the Fremont National Recreation Trail and ODT!
- Morgan Butte Lookout: Morgan Butte lookout is one of a few remaining staffed fire lookout towers. Directions are the same as Avery Pass, with one different turn, marked by signs to guide you up. You can drive up and enjoy the view or hike north or south on the ODT and Fremont National Recreation Trail. There is even a pit toilet on top.
- Moss Pass: Moss pass has a nearby horse camp, a spring, and plenty of space to camp out. Drive south out of Paisley and turn right onto Clover Flat Road. Drive 9 miles and turn right on FS 3510. Follow this up to Moss Pass. Hike north or south on the ODT and Fremont National Recreation Trail.
- Mill Trailhead: Mill Trailhead is another entry point to the Fremont National Recreation Trail. From highway 395 about 12 miles north of Lakeview, turn left onto FS 3721, there is a trailhead sign to guide you just under 2 miles to the trailhead.
- Vee Lake: Vee Lake is the eastern terminus of the Fremont National Recreation Trail, and offers a primitive camp site with pit toilet, picnic tables, and good views of the Warner Mountains. Hike south to hit some fantistic ridgewalking on Crook Peak (6.5 miles one way) and McDowell Peak.
- Abert Rim (Section 8) – 1.5 miles one way, 2,000′ elevation gain
- Abert Rim can be difficult to access, but for the determined and hardy there is a cross country option up the Juniper Creek drainage off of highway 395. Park on the side of Abert Lake near a wildlife viewing area sign. Hike up the drainage, but be aware the last 300′ involve some intense bushwacking through trees and over boulders. This is not for the faint of heart. Once on top you are a short distance from the ODT route and the start of Section 9.
- Hart Mountain (Section 10)
- Warner Peak: While not on the ODT, a hike up Warner Peak will give you a grand view of the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. You can start from the Hot Springs Campground for an 11-mile hike, or take the shorter option and start from Barnhardi Meadow when the 4-by-4 road is open (Aug. 1 – Dec. 1). Walk (or drive) up Barnhardi Road, veer left at first junction and drop into Barnhardi Meadow (if driving, park here). Hike west past the historic cabin and continue up the drainage to DeGarmo Notch or choose a slope on the south side of the drainage to ascend to the ridge–this is the most challenging part of hike. Once on top of the ridge, you will see the radio tower on top of Warner to the south and that is your destination, Warner Peak.
- DeGarmo Canyon: From the base of Hart Mountain you can access this beautiful little canyon. An easy walk will take you 1.5 miles to the base of a waterfall. Almost 5 miles up the canyon adventourous hikers can make it to DeGarmo Notch. Some may want to hike all the way through to the Hot Springs Campground and soak away the sore muscles. Parts are a scramble with steep canyon walls, but waterfalls and flowers make this a worthwile hike. (to camp in the backcountry you will need a permit).
- Steens Mountain (Sections 13-14)
- Donner und Blitzen Trail: Page Springs Campground is just a few miles outside of Frenchglen along the Steens Loop Road. At the backside of the campground you can access the Donner und Blitzen Trail and an Oregon Desert Trail alternate. Walk the trail 4 miles to the confluence of Fish Creek, or stop and camp in one of the lovely river-side spots.
- Big Indian Gorge: From South Steens Campground the ODT follows the Big Indian Gorge about 8 miles to the headwall of the canyon. There are multiple stream crossings and multiple options for backcountry camping.
- Little Blitzen Gorge: From South Steens Campground hikers can explore Little Blitzen Canyon and an alternate to Big Indian Canyon. Hike 10 miles one way to the headwall of the canyon, or about half way look for the steep Nye Trail which will take you to the Steens Loop Road.
- Wildhorse Lake: Drive to the top of Steens Mountain on the Steens Loop Road to the parking area just below the summit. A steep 1.25 mile trail descends to Wildhorse Lake.
- Owyhee Canyonlands (Sections 21-25)
- Anderson Crossing: Anderson Crossing is at the start of Section 21. This can be accessed by high clearance vehicles (high water years may make the trip impossible as you need to cross the seasonal Antelope Creek which could be too high). From McDermitt, NV head north on highway 95 for 15 miles and turn right onto Jackson Creek Rd. Follow this about 14 miles to Pole Creek Rd to turn right and continue for about 20 miles to Anderson Crossing. There are a few campsites on the east side of West Little Owyhee, although high water levels may prevent a crossing. West Little Owyhee is the most challenging section of the ODT. The narrow slot canyon gets choked with boulders and willow trees, but it’s a great adventure to pick your way north and try out this epic section. Wet conditions could make driving to Anderson Crossing impossible. See our driving tips for suggestions on traveling in this part of the desert.
- Three Forks: The road down into Three Forks is best suited for four-wheel drive vehicles. This road is not good enough to travel on after even a quarter inch of rain: Do not leave the road if this is the case. The final 1.3 miles over the canyon rim is very steep. From Jordan Valley, head west along Highway 95 for 16 miles to a sign for Three Forks and the Soldier Creek Watchable Wildlife Loop. Turn left and drive along a dirt road for more than 27 miles to a junction, where you’ll turn right. After a few miles, you will reach the edge of the Owyhee Canyon rim. Either drive or walk down the grade into Three Forks reach the boat ramp below. To visit the Three Forks hot springs ford the North Owyhee River and walk through the towering canyon walls along an intermittent path along the mail Owyhee. After about 2 miles you will see the cascading falls of the warm springs on your right.
- Birch Creek: Accessibility is dependent on road conditions. A high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. From Highway 95, 8 miles north of Jordan Valley, turn west at the Jordan Craters sign onto Cow Creek Road. Follow BLM Owyhee River access signs 28 miles to the Ranch. An old road/trail heads upstream about a mile before the path disappears and you can follow game trails or make your way cross country as far into the canyon as you like.
- Leslie Gulch: From Jordan Valley, take Highway 95 north for 27 miles and turn left at the sign for Succor Creek. Take this road 8.5 miles to a T-shaped junction at the Rockville School, where you will head left toward Succor Creek for another 1.8 miles. Then turn left on the gravel for Leslie Gulch. It descends through stunning rock formations to the Owyhee River roughly 14.5 miles in. The nearly 25 miles of gravel dirt road down into Leslie Gulch is navigable by almost all passenger vehicles, but only in dry conditions. Rainfall can cause flash flooding and make the road impossible to navigate except for four-wheel-drive vehicles. In all conditions, large RVs are best left at home, as negotiating the steep grade with boat traffic can be dicey. From the free campground at Succor Creek you can head north or south on the ODT. Timber Gulch is also a very interesting canyon to explore.
Getting to and from some of the more remote sections of the Oregon Desert Trail can be tricky, so here are some ideas of loops you can make along the route. If you have some trip ideas to add please let us know and we’ll list them here.
- Christmas Valley Loop (Sections 3-5 & Christmas Valley Alternate) – 107.6 miles
- Start and end your hike in Christmas Valley with this loop option. This is a fairly dry area in the high desert, so please refer to the databook/water chart and contact us for maps of suggested water cache locations if you plan to cache.
- Lakeview Loop (Sections 7-8 & Lakeview Loop Alternate) – 71.6 miles
- Start and end your hike in the great trail town of Lakeview. The new alternate track can be found in our GPS folder (2018 Alternate Data), and links into the ODT in Section 7 at waypoint WB103 on the west section of the loop in the Fremont National Forest (there is a fair amount of road walking between the Fremont and Lakeview). The east side loop goes up the Bullard Canyon Trail and connects into the Crane Mountain National Recreation Trail at Roggers Meadows in the Warner Mountains and heads north to connect with the ODT in Section 8 at WB118. This is a GPS track only, maps and other data to come later in 2018.
- Steens Loop (Section 14 & Little Blitzen Gorge Alternate) – 25 miles
- This loop is as stunning as it is challenging. In 25 miles you will climb over 4,000′ in elevation to the top of Steens Mountain, and then drop back down over 4,000′ to the start at South Steens Campground. By hiking up Big Indian Gorge in Section 14 to waypoint EB023a and taking a left on the Steens Loop Road (and new Blitzen Gorge Alternate – now in the GPS folder) hikers will wrap around the north side of Little Blitzen Gorge to the steep Nye Trail. Hike this trail to the bottom of the Gorge and follow the creek out to the start (and finish) of your trip. Snow may make this a tricky hike until late June/July most years. This is a GPS track only, maps and other data to come later in 2018.
- McDermitt Loop (Sections 19-20 & McDermitt Alternate) – 74.9 miles
- From the Oregon/Nevada state line and town of McDermitt, make a loop out of the McDermitt Alternate and Section 19 (waypoint EB162) and Section 20 (waypoint OC023). A new short alternate to the alternate will take you up Flat Top Mountain on the west side of McDermitt before traversing over to the 2017 McDermitt Alternate near Cottonwood Creek. The McDermitt Flattop Alternate can be found in our GPS folder (2018 Alternate Data). This alternate to the alternate has some steep sidehilling, but if you want to tap into your inner mountain goat, the views from the top of Flat Top might make it worth trying!
- Owyhee Greeley Bar Loop (Section 24) – 22 miles
- From Birch Creek Ranch you can hike 22 miles along the ODT and an alternate, and it passes an intensely beautiful area along the Owyhee River! Give the Vale BLM district a call to check on road conditions into Birch Creek Ranch before you go.