By Adrian Klein
I stand there watching the sunset feeling as remote as one can be. No other people except my friend and I, enjoy the sounds and smells of nature. That is the beauty of the Badlands in Central Oregon for those that don’t want to involve a big backpack or hiking trip covering a large distance or elevation to escape. You feel very removed from it all yet only miles up the path and miles up the road is a bustling town.
Only hours earlier my friend and I were sitting in the sun at one of Bend’s newer breweries. No shortage of good ones to visit yet that is a different blog post. After finishing up our meal and IPA we set out on the highway. It was a short drive. About 20 miles and we were at the trailhead for Oregon Badlands Wilderness.
It’s May and as you step out of the car you quickly realize why this is no place to visit in summer. With the high expected of 70 degrees Fahrenheit it’s a cooker in my book when the sun pokes through the clouds. It’s the weekend yet the trailhead has all of three cars, including ours. This is my second time here and neither time was busy.
The Badlands is high desert. There is no water source when you are out there unless you consider putting out a bucket to catch rain drops that infrequent the area. The lack of water is made up by very easy hiking even with a full backpack. The elevation is basically flat. Our 3 mile hike maybe gained a hundred feet. Well in all reality lost 100 ft too so let’s just call it even.
The few trails throughout the wilderness are easy to follow. That said a GPS and map would be helpful if you venture too far off trail. Everything looks the same and I could see getting lost while off trail as an easy achievement whether intended or not. Here is a map for more details.
Now to the photography aspect, this is a blog relating to photography after all.
- Spring – The wildflowers are out usually in April and May and the temps are comfortable.
- Summer – Avoid unless you like very hot dry conditions, without a water source, and no flowers. This place would not appeal to me for photography in summer.
- Fall – The temps are back to comfortable and Rabbitbrush will add some nice color to your images.
- Winter – Going when a light layer of show has fallen appears to be the right choice. I plan to try it this winter.
Overall you have options every season except summer. My personal opinion of course.
Points of Interest:
- Views – If you want to get up “high” your only options are a few large rock formations such as Flatiron Rock that will get you up just high enough to see over the trees and out to the mountain ranges.
- Flowers – As mentioned the spring season will bring a variety of flowers. My photos only show a few types that you will see.
- Trees – One of the highlights of this place is the endless assortment of knotted and gnarled juniper trees. Not as cool as the timeless bristle cone trees yet I saw many that remind me of them.
- Rocks – Some of the rock formations were rather interesting. I saw a number of cool colors/textures that would make for possible triptych photos as well as the more common anchor for your foreground when taking landscapes.
- Weather – Going in spring increases your chance of more dramatic skies. All seasons except summer has a decent shot to experience something except dull gray or crystal blue. We were fortunate enough on our trip to get some thunder and lightning rolling in around sunset.
In summary if you are looking for an under-visited desert with compositions that take a little time to find (but are worth the time finding) then this is a place worth taking a trip to. We chose backpacking to be close to where we wanted to take the photos yet hiking in early or later in the day is certainly an option as long as you are well equipped to find your way.
Location: Portland, OR
Adrian Klein has a passion for the outdoors and landscape photography that is endless. He has traveled the parks, shorelines and wilderness capturing images that represent each area through his own artistic eye from the curbs to the far off trails.