Dry River Canyon

To conclude Labor Day weekend, we headed over to Dry River Canyon (about 16 miles east of Bend) for an afternoon hike. It’s located just outside the boundary of Oregon Badlands Wilderness. The canyon is closed to visitors from Feb 1st to Aug 31st to protect nesting birds of prey. It was an enjoyable trail that reminded us of hikes in the Texas Hill Country & West Texas. We could have continued further on the out & back trail, but we decided to turn around and head back. We ended up with a total of 5 miles.

Dry River Canyon Lichen • A long slackline (?) running between the canyon walls. Not quite sure this was a legal installation. A couple of people on top kept ducking out of sight when we looked in their direction. • A typical rock formation along the way. • A keyhole in a juniper.


Just east of the city of Bend, Oregon lies the rugged and captivating Dry River Canyon, a natural wonder that offers a glimpse into the region's ancient geological history. This unique canyon, nearby the larger Oregon Badlands Wilderness, is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and geology enthusiasts alike.

The Dry River Canyon was carved over thousands of years by the flow of an ancient river that once drained the nearby Lake Millican. Today, the canyon's steep, rocky walls expose layers of lava and cinders, remnants of the volcanic activity that shaped this high desert landscape millions of years ago. Hikers can explore the canyon's winding trails and marvel at the dramatic geological features, including towering basalt cliffs and unique rock formations.

Hiking the Dry River Canyon Trail
One of the best ways to experience Dry River Canyon is by hiking the Dry River Canyon Trail, a 4.5-mile out-and-back route that takes visitors deep into the heart of this geological wonderland. The trail winds through a landscape dotted with twisted juniper trees and sagebrush, offering stunning views of the canyon's rugged terrain. As hikers descend into the canyon, they are treated to a lesson in the region's ancient history, with the canyon walls revealing the story of the area's volcanic past.

"Dry River Canyon is a relatively unvisited area, but it's an incredible example of Oregon's rich geological history," says Outdoor Project, a leading outdoor recreation website. "The canyon's deep, winding walls and exposed layers of lava and cinders provide a fascinating glimpse into the region's volcanic origins."

Plan Your Visit
The Dry River Canyon Trail is open seasonally, typically from September through the end of January when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller. Visitors should come prepared with sturdy hiking boots, plenty of water, and sun protection as the high desert environment can be harsh and exposed.

For those seeking a more immersive experience, the Dry River Canyon can also be explored as part of a larger hike through the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. The Badlands Circumnavigation route, a 23-24 mile loop, includes a section of the Dry River Canyon and offers a chance to experience the full breadth of this unique and rugged landscape.

Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a curious explorer, Dry River Canyon is a must-visit destination that showcases the incredible geological wonders of Oregon's Badlands. So lace up your boots, pack your camera, and get ready to embark on a journey through this ancient and awe-inspiring natural wonder.

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