The badlands east of Bend are one of the most quiet and lonely places I’ve ever gone hiking. The expansive and sandy recreation area is popular with runners and hikers, especially during the winter when other areas are snowbound. Gnarled juniper trees, piles of ancient volcanic rocks, and volcanic sands left over from the eruption of Mt. Mazama 7,7000 years ago make for an eerie landscape.
From the carpark take the dirt road for .3 miles to a 3-way fork. Near this fork there is evidently a homestead site but all we saw was a wire fence and what was probably a cistern at some point in the past. Turning right at the fork, the trail/road continues for .8 miles to a trail junction where there are three large boulders (on the right side of the trail). There are wonderfully old juniper trees along this stretch of the trail but otherwise it is just a dusty tramp.
Leave the road at the boulders and take the single-track path that passes by the boulders and then turns sharply to the right. Continue downhill for 200 yards or so after following the trail to the right and soon you will arrive at a pole fence. Beyond the fence is a short narrow canyon with 30-foot rock walls, the remnants of a dry river from 6,000 years ago. There are several interesting caves/rock overhangs in the canyon but be careful as you explore the canyon as there are loads of bushy tailed wood rats living in the rocks.
The primary feature that draws people to this river canyon are the faint petroglyphs on the right side of the canyon underneath a large rock overhang. The faded petroglyphs are easily damaged, so do not touch the rock face in this area. After exploring the canyon return to your car the way you came.