“Swamp Wells” isn’t the most alluring name, is it? If you were making a list of potential names for wells whose waters you would not want to drink, Swamp Wells would be on there right after Sewer Wells, alphabetically or otherwise.
Fortunately, Swamp Wells Trail is a fetching, 23-mile stretch of single-track running north-south between Horse Butte and the Newberry Crater Rim. Maintained by the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, it makes for great hiking, trail running or mountain biking. Swamp Wells is also popular with horseback riders, though you may be more likely to encounter them closer to Horse Butte or Swamp Wells Horse Camp. My eldest daughter, Caroline, and I headed to Swamp Wells a couple of weeks ago during a dry spell between stormy squalls. The trail is accessible from a few points, including Horse Butte and a quarter-mile-long spur from Bessie Butte. We opted for the latter.
Once reaching Swamp Wells Trail from the spur, we proceeded south toward Kelsey Butte, from which one can also access Coyote Loop and Arnold Ice Cave trails, probably best accomplished by mountain bike or horseback. Caroline and I just went for an out-and-back, estimated 3-mile hike, a pleasant walk in the forest.
Getting there: From Knott Road in Bend, head east on China Hat Road about 4.5 miles, then turn right on Forest Road 1810 and park at the Bessie Butte Trailhead. The 1/4-mile spur leading to Swamp Wells Trail is across the road from the Bessie Butte Trailhead.