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.