Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Cove Palisades State Park – SE Oregon Vacation Day 8

After spending the night in Bend it was finally time to head home. We had one final hike planned before we drove back to Salem though. For the final hike of our vacation we headed north of Bend to the Cove Palisades State Park.

The park is home to the man made Lake Billy Chinook which fills a canyon behind the Round Butte Dam. Three rivers converge here, the Crooked, Metolius, and the Deschutes. We didn’t do it on purpose but by hiking here we wound up starting and ending our vacation with hikes near the Deschutes.

We started our hike from the Lower Deschutes Day Use Area which according to a signboard didn’t open until 7am. I hadn’t been able to find that information on the park website so we had arrived just before 6am. Luckily the gate was open and the automated permit booth was operating. There was also a second sign stating that parking was prohibited between the hours of 10pm and 5am so we went ahead and parked in the large, empty lot.

We were going to hike the Tam-A-Lau Trail which actually officially starts at a trailhead near the campground but a half mile connector trail started at the eastern end of the day use area.

The connector trail crossed over the day use entrance road then a short while later it crossed the main road through the park before arriving at the trailhead.



From this trailhead the Tam-A-Lau Trail climbed just over a mile to the rim of the canyon and the start of a loop atop the plateau.


As we climbed the views got better, both of the Deschutes arm of Lake Billy Chinook and of Mt. Jefferson which appeared above the far side of the canyon.



The trail also passed some nice rock formations revealing the various layers of the canyon.


Near the top of the rim Mt. Jefferson was entirely visible and several other Cascade peaks could be seen.

IMG_7164The Three Sisters

At the start of the loop we took the left hand fork which followed the rim of the canyon north.


As we continued north more mountains emerged to the SW.
IMG_7201Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, The Three Sisters, and Three Fingered Jack.

The only major Cascade missing was Mt. Washington which was hidden behind Black Butte and Green Ridge.

After 1.25 miles of the loop we reached the tip of the plateau which looked out to “The Island”. Despite it’s name The Island isn’t surrounded by water but it is a separated portion of the plateau.

To the right of The Island the Crooked River arm flows in to merge with the Deschutes. From the tip of the plateau the trail followed the rim above the Crooked River arm for another 1.1 miles before turning inland across the plateau to complete the loop. From this section we had a good view of the bridge over the Crooked River arm.


Shortly after turning inland we spotted a group of deer on the far side of a fence.

IMG_7259(the camera deciding the fence was more interesting than the deer)

It was 1.3 miles across the plateau where we headed back down to the campground and then on to the day use area where the number of cars had double to two including ours. (A third arrived while we were loading up.) The relatively short hike was a good way to end the vacation and put a cap on 8 days of hiking. We’re not done with SE Oregon yet and we’re looking forward to our next visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cove Palisades State Park

Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Chimney Rock

The first day of fall saw our time in Sumpter come to an end. We left town at 7am and started our long drive back to Salem. We had a couple of stops to make along the way, one to visit our Son in Bend and the other a short hike in the Crooked River’s canyon.

We took Highway 26 into Prineville and after a bit of confusion located Main St. and headed south. Main Street becomes Highway 27 and follows the Crooked River through a canyon to Prineville Reservoir.

Our planned hike was a 2.6 mile round trip to visit Chimney Rock along the rim of the canyon. We parked at the signed trailhead on the NE side of the road 16.6 miles from Prineville.


The weather systems that had provided rain and snow for the previous 5 days were breaking up creating a lot of different scenes in the sky as we set off on the trail.




The trail gains approximately 500′ in the 1.3 miles to Chimney Rock so it’s a pretty good climb at times but the views of the Crooked River Canyon are worth it.



The sound of songbirds added to the relaxing scene.

Chimney Rock was hidden for most of the hike but as the trail leveled out on the rim the unique pillar came into view.


The trail leads right to the pillar and a nearby bench.


From Chimney Rock we had a nice view of the Crooked River as it wound through the rimrock canyon.


It was a pretty quick up and down taking us just over an hour but it gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy some impressive views at the same time.

After visiting our Son we drove home over Santiam Pass. Clouds obscured many of the mountains but both Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington were brilliantly white with snow which was such a welcome sight. Just 7 days earlier when we passed by going the other way they were hidden by thick smoke from wildfires. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Chimney Rock

Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Otter Bench Trail System

We are going to take a break from our Throwback Thursday posts now that we are hiking regularly again. Have no fear though Throwback Thursday hikes will return in the Fall.

The day after our visit to the Clarno area we headed to Crooked River Ranch and the BLM managed Otter Bench Trail System.

Otter Bench Trailhead

Three trails begin at the trailhead at the end of Horny Hollow Dr. The .9 mile Lone Pine Trail, the 1.5 mile Horny Hollow Trail, and the 1.7 mile Otter Bench Trail.

Otter Bench Trail

The Otter Bench and Horny Hollow Trail form a loop but from February 1 – August 31 the Horny Hollow Trail is closed. The Lone Pine Trail heads in the opposite direction eventually dropping down to the river. Our plan was to take the Otter Bench Trail a junction at it’s end where we would take the short Pink Trail down to the river then the Opal Loop Trail further out along the bench.

As we set off through the sagebrush and junipers the sun was rising over the rim of the gorge.

Otter Bench

Sunrise over the Crooked River Gorge

There weren’t many flowers along the first portion of the trail, but as we continued on more and more flowers started popping up amid the sagebrush.



western stoneseedWestern stoneseed



At the end of the Otter Bench Trail we came to the 4 way intersection with the Horny Hollow, Pink, and Opal Loop Trails.

Junction along the Otter Bench Trail system

We turned onto the Pink Trail which offered dramatic views on its way down into the Crooked River Gorge.

Crooked River Gorge from the Pink Trail

Crooked River Gorge

Balsamroot along the Pink Trail

Crooked River Gorge

Crooked River Gorge

A short section of trail passed through some pinkish rock, possibly the inspiration for the trails name.

Pink Trail

The trail ended on the bank of the Crooked River which was swollen with spring runoff.

Crooked River

Crooked River

We climbed back up to the junction and turned right onto the Opal Loop Trail. For the first .5 mile this trail passed through a narrow section of the bench before arriving at the start of the trails namesake loop.

Opal Canyon Loop

Paintbrush along the Opal Loop Trail

Wildflowers were plentiful below the columnar basalt cliffs along the trail.

Wildflowers below columnar basalt

Prairie stars

Prairie stars



Threadleaf phacelia

Threadleaf phacelia

The bench had widened again where the Opal Loop began.

Opal Loop Trail

We went counter-clockwise arriving at a viewpoint above the gorge at the far end of the loop.

Crooked River Gorge

Crooked River Gorge

Beyond the viewpoint the trail veered away from the river for the remainder of the loop.

Opal Loop Trail

We headed back to the Otter Bench Trail and followed it back to the trailhead. We were planning on meeting our son and my parents at Bogeys Burgers in Redmond for lunch a little after 11am but it was only 9:50 as we arrived back at the car. Realizing we were a good hour early we decided to check out the Lone Pine Trail.

We set off on a use path heading directly for the gorge from the parking area intending to pick up the Lone Pine Trail when we intersected it.

Crooked River Gorge

We misjudged the distance though and passed over the actual trail without noticing it. The path we were on was very clear though and it brought us to a rim above the river. Not realizing we had already passed the Lone Pine Trail we were still looking for it when we noticed a path to our left heading down toward the river. We headed down this path thinking it might be the trail. It was pretty steep as it headed down toward a rock pillar.

Rock pillar

The path continued to the left of the rock pillar. Here there were steps in the rocks and old wooden stairs. This made us think that we might be on the right trail after all.

Steps leading away from the Crooked River

On the far side of the river were some caves and cool rock formations.

Cave across the Crooked River

Crooked River Gorge

Near the river the trail became faint. A barely visible path to the right led through the grass between the river and canyon wall.

Crooked River Gorge

The trail eventually ran out in thick brush.

Crooked River Gorge

We hadn’t seen any pine trees and were now back to thinking this wasn’t the Lone Pine Trail after all. It had taken us almost 30 minutes to get to the thicket though so we had killed enough time and headed back the way we’d come. This time as we followed the same use path back to the parking lot we spotted the Lone Pine Trail. We figured that just left us an excuse to come back again someday, for now it was time for some food. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Otter Bench

Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Gray Butte Trail to Smith Rock State Park

We were in Central Oregon to pick Dominique up from college and took the opportunity to hike in the Smith Rock area. We had hiked in the state park twice before, both times taking the Misery Ridge Trail up and over the summit and completing a loop via the River Trail. For this visit we decided to access the park via the Gray Butte Trail which passed through the Forest Service administered Crooked River Grassland and BLM managed lands before reaching the park trails. We parked at a trail junction along Gray Butte Saddle where the Cole Loop Trail (854) meets the Gray Butte Trail (852).

The trail was marked by a lone unsigned post.

The trail traversed a hillside amid scattered juniper trees and sagebrush. Despite being a little late in the year for the best flower displays there were still clumps of color scattered along the trail.





We also spotted a couple of deer above us on the hill.

One of the nice things about the trail was, as it passed through the sagebrush filled grassland, the snowy peaks of the Cascades lined up on the horizon.

The views were spectacular and as we continued around the trail more of the mountains came into view as well as many nearby rock formations.





At the 1.4 mile mark we arrived at Bitterroot Pass where the trail crossed a dirt road.

Shortly after crossing the road the trail and road intersected again. This second junction proved confusing and after several minutes reviewing our maps we decided to head up a hillside along another old road.

This wound up being incorrect. At the second junction we should have taken a clear trail that veered down and slightly to the right along the side of the ridge. There was also a trail further to the right that just ended atop a little crest. The route we took led almost 400′ up to the summit of an unnamed butte. We climbed steeply for over half a mile before arriving at the rocky summit. It was only after reaching the top that we knew we had taken a wrong turn. Actually Dominique had been fairly certain we should have taken the right hand fork but that didn’t seem to jive with the map we were looking at. In any event the views from the top were amazing including a good look at Mt. Hood far to the NW.



We could see Smith Rock below us as well as the trail we were trying to get too at a junction with Burma Road.


On the way back down we passed a western fence lizard sunning on the rocks and a hummingbird busy collecting nectar from paintbrush.


We got back on the correct trail and continued to head toward Smith Rock.

We passed along the side of the butte we had detoured up before arriving at the trail junction we had seen from above.


Even though the grassland doesn’t put on the kind of flower show that alpine meadows or the Columbia Gorge can we continued to see various flowers all throughout the hike.






We were now on the Summit Trail in Smith Rock State Park and heading for the Mesa Verde Trail. At a viewpoint along the way we could see the Crooked River as it was winding through the park as well as a section of the Misery Ridge Trail that we would be descending later on.


We could also see Gray Butte and the hillsides we had traversed earlier.

We had already passed through Forest Service, BLM, and Oregon State Park lands when the Summit Trail entered a short section of privately owned lands.

The Crooked River and Smith Rock’s most famous feature, Monkey Face, came into view as we reentered the park.

We were greeted by number of locals.



As we passed by a rockfield we noticed a group of rather large very interesting flowers. They turned out to be smoothstem blazing-star.


smoothstem blazing-star Mentzelia laevicaulis

The colors and textures of the rocks in the park never ceases to impress.




We turned up the Mesa Verde Trail and climbed to a junction with the Misery Ridge Trail below Monkey Face.

As mentioned before this was our third time on the Misery Ridge Trail but the first time we had gone up from this side. We all agreed it was actually easier to go up this side than down it due to the loose dirt and rocks that make the trail slick. We followed the switchbacks up along Monkey Face to the busy summit where the view is worthy of a long look.




We could once again see Mt. Hood and Gray Butte.

Climbers were busy making their way up Monkey Face.


We could also see our return route along Burma Road which ran along the hillside below our earlier unscheduled summit.

We crossed the summit and got ready for our descent down Misery Ridge to the Crooked River below.

Unlike the other end of the trail we had many steps to use.

We passed under a number of rock climbers before reaching another trail junction near the only footbridge over the river in the park.


We turned left along the Wolf Tree Trail which traveled along the Crooked River.

Butterflies were flitting along the banks while geese enjoyed the water.





After almost a mile we reached a sign for Burma Road.

We had a .9 mile climb up Burma Road to get back to the Gray Butte Trail junction. The road passed by a canal and reentered BLM lands. It was another fairly steep climb with the sun beating down on us, but we managed to make it up to the junction.


Our backs were to the park and mountains for most of the return trip on the Gray Butte Trail, so we focused on spotting additional wildflowers as we went.






What should have been a 10.5 mile hike had turned into 12.1 miles thanks to our little detour but it had been well worth it. This was a tough hike and probably best during the month of May, but it was packed with big views, plenty of wildlife, various wildflowers, and lots interesting scenery. Happy Trails!