If you’ve been to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness — the sprawling High Desert haven about 20 minutes east of Bend more commonly known as the Badlands — you’ve probably been to one of the more popular trails, perhaps the Badlands Rock or Flatiron Rock trails.
But for something a smidge closer to Bend, yet in a sense even farther off the beaten path, try Larry Chitwood Trail, a segmented loop trail 7 miles in length that also connects to the Sand Lily and Mazama Ash trails to the east.
Most of the Badlands’ 29,000-plus acres is home to the Badlands volcano, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the area, home to strangely shaped junipers, sandy volcanic soil and interesting rock formations. That’s true, too, on Larry Chitwood Trail, which used to be known as the Obernolte Trail before being renamed in memory of a U.S. Forest Service geologist who died while hiking on Pilot Butte 13 years ago.
On a recent hike at the trail that bears his name, much of the soil was surprisingly still firm, perhaps residual dampness from late-April rains, but be warned, dry weather will loosen the soil and give your calves a workout. During the heat of summer, evening and morning hikes are probably the way to go. You can’t miss the rusted can piles near the trailhead, which remain, in short, because of the potential historic value — proving that one person’s trash really is another’s treasure.
Getting there: From 27th Street in Bend, drive east on U.S. Highway 20 6.6 miles and turn left on Dodds Road. Continue for about 3.5 miles to Obernolte Road. Turn right and continue to the trailhead at road’s end.