Trail Resources

Christof Teuscher

ONDA has created a number of different resources, that can be used in combination, to help you navigate the Oregon Desert Trail route and to safely travel through the high desert.

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Connecting Trails

Connecting Trails

The Oregon Desert Trail ties into two National Recreation Trails: the Fremont National Recreation Trail and Desert Trail.

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John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

Restoration is hard slow work. It takes hold, or it doesn’t, in fits and starts. The immensity of the need can be discouraging, but we must carry on. I am so thankful ONDA carries on.

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Karen Garber, volunteer since 2017

Karen Garber, volunteer since 2017

So glad we got to do a stewardship trip with ONDA this summer, and now I’m more inspired than ever to start hiking the Oregon Desert Trail in bits and pieces.

Conditions on the ground in Oregon’s high desert can change rapidly and recreational facilities can become partially or fully closed due to any number of circumstances, including snowfall, wildfire — or a pandemic, as 2020 brought to light. It’s always best practice to check land management agency websites for current conditions before you head out on a desert adventure.  Update 10/13/21 Sections 7 is closed (from Moss Pass to Cox Pass) on the Fremont-Winema National Forest due to the Cougar Peak Fire.

Recreation Resources
Oregon Desert Trail Guidebook cover

The Oregon Desert Trail Guidebook

This free guidebook provides a comprehensive introduction to the ODT and all the “know before you go” information that is helpful in preparing for a hike along the route, with detailed section-by-section information, overview maps and elevation profiles.

This guidebook also includes a public lands glossary and guide to land designations along the ODT.

Download Now

 

Click here to access the Guidebook, Maps & GPS Data

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.


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.


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.

Along with the standard suggested ODT route, the current map and guidebook also includes a number of side-trips and alternate versions of the ODT, including:

    • Christmas Valley
    • Orejana Canyon
    • Blitzen River
    • Alvord Hot Springs
    • McDermitt
    • 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.
    •  Indian Creek
    •  Soldier Creek
    • Greeley Bar
    • Leslie Gulch – a high water alternate

WATER WAYPOINTS

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: odt@onda.org

 

 

This free resource is available a PDF download. Click to access.

ODT TOWN & SERVICES GUIDE

An indispensable resource for planning your ODT adventure, our Town and Services Guide includes lodging options, restaurants, shopping, hot springs, campgrounds and more including a resupply strategy.

 

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.


WATER WAYPOINTS

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. odt@onda.org

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!

The details:
• Caches will be placed before each hiking season (Spring and Fall) at the start of Section 6 and bottom(ish) of Diablo Rim.
• Email odt@onda.org 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 odt@onda.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)

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.

 

Keep track of trail conditions in this document. Feel free to add your observations or data to the sheet.

 

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.

 

Did you check the weather? Get a permit for backcountry camping on the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge? Download all the materials? Use this Know Before You Go Checklist to make sure you are prepared for your Oregon Desert Trail adventure.

Jeremy Fox

Desert Travel Tips

Hiking in the high desert presents unique rewards … and unique challenges! Travel safely and responsibly along the Oregon Desert Trail with these tips, principles and essentials.

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Devlin Holloway

Challenges and Risks

The Oregon Desert Trail is an extremely challenging route for hikers, both physically and logistically. ODT travelers need to be aware of the remoteness, lack of cell communication and environmental hazards. There are several potentially dry stretches with no reliable water where water caching ahead of time is necessary. Thru-hiking the entire trail is...

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