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Ancient Juniper Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

On the Ancient Juniper Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness (bobcat)
Lava ridge on the Ancient Juniper Trail (bobcat)
Juniper loaded with berries, Ancient Juniper Trail (bobcat)
Route of the Ancient Juniper Loop (not a GPS Track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo



This introductory loop to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness takes you on a somewhat meandering route through a rugged lava landscape that resulted from a major “leak” in a lava tube known as the Badlands Volcano, a “rootless” shield volcano about 80,000 years old (The small crater is about 3/4 mile west of the loop; the actual source of the lava flow is much farther to the south near the Newberry Volcano). The lava formations along this loop include cracks, small pressure ridges (tumuli), and ropy blocks (pahoehoe). The sandy soils are the remains of ash deposits from the eruption of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. A key feature of this desert hike are the many old-growth western juniper trees (Juniperus occidentalis), some over 1,000 years in age: junipers with a beautiful reddish bark will probably be at least 250 years old.

From the information kiosk, take the wide sandy Ancient Juniper Trail leading left. The trail undulates through a landscape of lava outcroppings vegetated with sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and bitterbrush with clumps of fescue and wheatgrass. The gnarly ancient junipers stand in various shapes and forms, some perfectly pyramidal, some rounded or irregular, and others, perhaps the most ancient, with only one or two living limbs. There are also large stumps here as well as the bright green wolf lichen-draped skeletons of those which have passed from this world (Wolf lichen was used in Europe to poison foxes and wolves, but high desert Native Americans used it as a poultice and hemostatic agent). The trail wanders through this desert landscape and eventually drops to the Flatiron Rock-Ancient Juniper Trail Junction.

Going left will take you towards Flatiron Rock (See the Flatiron Rock Loop Hike). If you're returning to the trailhead, make a right, and continue south on the Flatiron Rock Trail facing Horse Ridge. The landscape is flatter and a little more open here as it follows a wide sandy track. In about a mile, the trail veers right to parallel Highway 20 and reach the Flatiron Rock Trailhead.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No bicycles
  • Dogs on leash within 500’ of trailhead


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Hikes Near Bend by Lizann Dunegan

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.