When you venture out to the Badlands just 16 miles east of Bend, you'll be treated to a harmonious blend of ancient juniper trees, vibrant lichen growing on contorted lava rocks, and a geological history that makes even the dirt under your feet seem interesting. Roughly 80,000 years ago, lava from the main vent in Newberry Volcano traveled underground through the ancient Arnold tube system (Arnold Ice Cave and Lava River Cave being remnants of the tube). When the lava reached the area now known as the Badlands, it spewed to the surface in every direction creating a 360-degree spread that covered the landscape. The craggy and unforgiving terrain was further impacted by another geologic event: 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama (Crater Lake) erupted and violently expelled plumes of ash that drifted toward central Oregon. Much of this ash settled on the ground to become the Badlands soil.
The Oregon Badlands officially became a BLM protected wilderness area in 2008, and a plethora of hiking and horseback riding trails were added. The Flatiron Rock Trail is an easy, 6-mile there-and-back hike (with loop options) that leads to the origin of the lava flow: Flatiron Rock. Accessible any time of year, Flatiron offers small caves to explore, great views of the cascades, and a chance to travel back in time to see how Native Americans called the Badlands home; their old fire pits and drawings are evident under some the rocky overhangs.
Note the abundance of juniper berries, which are used to give gin its signature flavor!