4 Stunning Spring Wildflower Hikes in Central Oregon

Best Spring Hikes in Oregon

Spring is a fantastic season for hiking and exploring the unique and beautiful landscape of Central and Eastern Oregon. The high desert climate of the Maupin area means that it’s often sunny and dry here, when our neighbors to the west are cloudy and soggy. Plus, the wide-open expanses are home to bright wildflowers (learn all about them in the Deschutes Land Trust’s Wildflower Guide), a plethora of birds, and other Instagram-worthy flora and fauna. Located just 2 hours from Portland, these hikes will make you feel like you’re a world away – without the jet lag.

Here are a few of our favorite wildflower hikes near Maupin:

1. Criterion Ranch: Exceptional Views

About 10 miles south of Maupin, Oregon, along U.S. 197, lies a tract of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Terry Richard of The Oregonian says the old Criterion Ranch may seem forlorn but actually provides sweeping vistas where hikers can enjoy watching wildflowers bloom in the spring. While it would be an easy walk down into the Deschutes River canyon below, climbing 2,000 feet for a return trip might not be so relaxing. Another option is to hike along the rim and make use of the plentiful rock outcroppings when you take a break to appreciate the gorgeous panoramic views of hills and rivers. This five-mile trek through a sage-covered old homestead is something even less experienced hikers will be able to appreciate.

2. Deschutes River Recreation Area: Three Trails in One

Visitors to the Deschutes River Recreation Area happily hike along the Atiyeh Deschutes River Trail, which runs parallel to the water. Fishermen, mountain bikers, and horseback riders similarly can’t resist this 3.5-mile trail that leads wilderness travelers into Gordon Canyon. For those seeking a more challenging hike, the Ferry Springs Trail runs along an abandoned railroad bed and extends nearly 17 miles upriver. In between Ferry Springs and Atiyeh is the Middle Trail. Savvy hikers enjoy following Ferry Springs until it crosses the Middle Trail, then following the Middle Trail back for a pleasurable 4.5-mile loop. Portland Hikers Field Guide offers a more detailed overview of the Deschutes River Recreation Area.

3. Macks Canyon: A Challenge for Hikers

Macks Canyon is an archeological site where a large prehistoric village once overlooked the Deschutes River. According to the BLM website, “[t]he site is characterized by shallow, circular, semi-subterranean house depressions, surface artifacts, and riverine shell deposits.” Starting from the north end of theMacks Canyon campground, hikers pass the signs forbidding motorized vehicles and head into four miles of rough terrain that take them to a series of sites where railroad trestles once crossed desert canyons. Each of the six trestle locations will require hiking into and out of the canyon, but the roughest stretches of trail can be avoided by staying on the river side of the railroad grade. When outdoor adventurers climb out of the last stretch of canyon, the trail smooths out for 7.4 relatively-easy miles and stunning vistas.

4. Maupin, Oregon: A Great Base for Hiking Adventure

With so many beautiful hiking options in the Maupin area, you’ll probably want to make a whole weekend of it. Contact the Imperial River Company to book accommodations for your next hiking trip along the beautiful Deschutes River.


Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River

Spring Morel Mushroom Hunting in Maupin Oregon

morel mushroom hunting in maupin oregon

Known as America’s mushroom, the morel is wide-spread, easy to identify, and delicious. Morel hunting is a common pastime in the Maupin area, and spring is a perfect time for picking. Whether you harvest morels for yourself or for commercial use, they are one of the most popular types of mushrooms that can be found in Oregon.

Where to Find Morels

Morels can usually be found in and at the edge of forests. You’ll want to seek out aspen, ash, oak, and elm trees, which have a symbiotic relationship with the mushroom. Morels can generally be found peeking up around the base of the trees. At the beginning of spring when the ground first warms, morels are likely to be found on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas where the sun reaches the ground. As the season progresses, you can find them deeper in the forest and on north-facing slopes. Morels tend to prefer well-drained and sandy soils like that found near streams.

Morel Hunting Strategies

When hunting Morels in early spring, you’ll have to keep a sharp eye out. At this stage, most of the mushrooms will be small, making them harder to spot. Usually, if you come across one morel, there are sure to be others in the area, so fan out your search in a widening circle. One sign to look for is a dead tree. Morels can often be found around trees that are starting to decay. Old apple orchards are a great place to find morels. Look for signs of decay like bark slipping off the tree, and you’ll likely find morels close by. As the spring season progresses, the mushrooms will be a lot bigger and thus easier to spot.

To help make sure there are plenty of morels next season, break the mushrooms in half before bagging them and shake the spores around the harvested area.

Cooking Morels

The first step in preparing morels is to give them a deep clean by soaking them in water for a few hours. This will remove any dirt, debris and bugs that might have been living in the hollow crevices. Slicing them in half while harvesting makes them even easier to clean.

Morels are a versatile ingredient, adding a lovely umami flavor to pastas, pizzas, tarts, and more. For the purists, after the soak, give them a quick rinse and then toss them into a hot, buttered pan. Sauté gently and enjoy! Our favorite online resource for all things morel, including classic morel recipes, is The Great Morel.

We’ll see you in the forest!


Imperial River Company, Maupin OR
Lodging and Rafting on the Lower Deschutes River
(541) 395-2404