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Barnhardy Basin Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Warner Peak from Rock Creek, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (bobcat)
Outdoor pool at Hart Mountain Hot Springs (bobcat)
Dwarf purple monkey flower (Mimulus nanus), Rock Creek (bobcat)
Barnhardy Cabin in its aspen grove (bobcat)
Aspen alley on Barnhardy Road (bobcat)
The loop hike up Rock Creek to the Barnhardy Cabin (off-trail leg in white; road section in yellow) (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Hot Springs Campground Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Barnhardy Cabin
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 695 feet
  • High Point: 6,590 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge was created in 1936 to protect one of the high desert's most singular species, the pronghorn antelope. Nevertheless, cattle grazing was a feature of the landscape for many decades, and on this hike you’ll be taking note of a recovering landscape. The cross-country loop described here begins at a hot springs, runs along an aspen and willow shaded creek, and then follows that creek through lush alpine meadows offering views to the highest point in the area, Warner Peak. You’ll visit a decaying line shack from the livestock days, and then return along a road track that offers expansive views of the high desert terrain. Wear long pants as you’ll be hiking through woody low sagebrush and wild rose bushes. This is a wildlife refuge: Keep your dog on leash at all times. If you’re not willing to do the cross-country section up Rock Creek, then an in-and-out hike along the road will take you to the Barnhardy Cabin.

From the parking area, you’ll see the low stone-walled hot spring pool down to your left near the creek. Looking up the valley, there’s a log barrier across a jeep track. Walk up this track into the thermal area. You’ll pass a wonderful little outdoor pool, hotter than the walled pool, but far more natural in its ambience – well worth a dip at the end of the hike! Killdeer nest on the ground here, so don’t bee surprised if you’re accosted by their distraction tactics. Pass another log barrier to reach one of the campground roads at the campground host’s site. Turn right on the road, and pass a footbridge over Rock Creek. Hike up and around a pair of gates. Where the road curves right, leave the track and head down towards the creek to begin your cross-country jaunt.

The slopes here are thicketed with low sagebrush, wild rose, bitterbrush, and rabbitbrush. The carcasses of culled junipers lie dry and decaying: Junipers proliferated under the fire suppression regime of livestock grazing, but they are very thirsty and drastically lower water tables, so current practices call for population control. Make for the false hellebore meadow along the aspen/willow corridor of Rock Creek. From here, you’ll be ascending the slopes again to avoid riparian thickets that have expanded since the end of grazing. Hike in and out of dry gullies which bloom with wild onion, buckwheat, balsamroot, flax, and groundsel in spring and summer. Pass a few mountain mahogany trees, and then cross slopes where the junipers have been left standing. Basalt ramparts rear above the creek. Cross a loose gravel slope below some rimrock. From here, there’s passage along the riparian corridor with Rock Creek always burbling but only occasionally visible just to your left. A few fence posts remain from the cattle days.

Soon you’re at open meadows with a few low willows. Warner Peak, with its recognizable communication antenna at the end of Hart Mountain’s long ridge, looms on the horizon. Iris, checkermallow, groundsel, and flax bloom here in early summer. The creek meanders in an open meadow as you swing right to get a view up to the DeGarmo Notch with pyramidal Peak 7379 to its right. Up the valley, you can see the Barnhardy Cabin in its grove of aspen. Standing out in Barnhardy Meadow below the cabin is a red SNOTELT station. This was once an aerial marker now converted to transmitting snow data by telemetry. The horizontal red bars on the contraption are measures of snow depth that could be surveyed by overflying light aircraft.

Hike up to cross Barnhardy Road. Keeping to the left of the creek, pass through willow thickets to recross the creek near the aerial marker. The cabin itself, although picturesquely nestled among the shimmering aspen, has little to show for itself. There is only the remnant of a stove pipe for accoutrements. Find the path/overgrown road bed leading from the cabin back to Barnhardy Road. If you have clearance, you can drive to this point when the road is open from August to the end of November.

Go left when you reach the road, and hike up a broad meadow plateau that blooms with numerous wildflowers in late spring and early summer. Look for larkspur, paintbrush, phlox, evening primrose, and groundsel. Off to your right is a knoll capped by mountain mahogany. Reach the high point of the hike at the Barnhardy Road-DeGarmo Notch Road Junction. Stay right and begin to descend, getting views of the Hot Springs Campground area. Pass through an extensive grove of aspen with many of the trunks unfortunately defaced by personal tags. Reach open country again, and continue on down. Pass around the gate, and go left at the log barrier to enjoy your soak in the outdoor pool!

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Enclosed and open hot spring pools
  • Vault toilet
  • Campground (no drinking water) nearby
  • Dogs on leash
  • Wear long pants to protect your legs
  • Barnhardy Road open to vehicles August through November


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon by William L. Sullivan

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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.

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