The 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail can be experienced as an epic backpacking excursion. It can also be explored on day hikes that still show off the stunning landscape. Find maps, waypoints and directions on from the Oregon Natural Desert Association’s Trail Resources.
Just east of Christmas Valley, the aptly named Crack in the Ground trail drops onto the floor of a two-mile volcanic fissure. A favorite of local geology buffs; some rock scrambling is required. Make it an overnight adventure at the rustic Green Mountain campground. (BYO drinking water!)
Moss Pass to Morgan Butte offers panoramic vistas from the Steens to Mount Shasta. This Fremont National Forest trail, about an hour’s drive south of Paisley, is open to horses and mountain bikers, too.
Branching off the main route through the Steens, the Little Blitzen Gorge trail follows the river through a glacier-carved gorge. Try an out-and-back hike to 4-Mile Campground or backpack in to reach the waterfall.
Near the Owyhee River at the end of the ODT, Leslie Gulch offers dramatic spires and unusual honeycomb rock formations. Bighorn sheep and elk roam the area, and birdwatchers can spot chukar, songbirds and raptors.