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Get peak High-Desert views at Dry River Canyon.

One of my favorite trails to explore in the winter is also one of the easiest for me to drive to having lived on the east side of Bend for years. Dry River Canyon is great to hike during the cooler months, and since it's only open seasonally between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31, there is a limited time where you can traipse around its twisted, juniper-lined path.

The 6.4-mile out and back trail sits right outside the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, and as such, is also open to bikers who want a slightly challenging ride over the trail's sandy and rocky surface.

Both hikers and bikers will venture from a relatively open area into the canyon that rises quickly all around the trail. The canyon here was carved out by an ancient river that used to flow from Lake Millican and left behind rounded boulders and the stunning geologic terrain that surrounds the path. 

When hiking in the short days of winter, you may come across some snowy or icy conditions as the sun in some sections never gets high enough over the canyon walls to warm up the ground and melt it all. It also gets dark quicker than out in the flats, so plan accordingly.

Getting there: From Bend, take U.S. Highway 20 east for 17 miles then turn left at the third sign for the Oregon Badlands (a few hundred yards after Milepost 17) then immediately bear right towards the gravel piles. Continue 0.9 miles down the rocky and unmaintained road about a mile southeast to the end of the road at the trailhead kiosk.

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Makenzie Whittle is a freelance movie critic and photographer and has an MFA in dramatic writing from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She can be reached at

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