Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
700.00 ft (213.36 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
4.20 mi (6.76 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

In 1882, Hiram E. Leslie was rounding up cattle in a canyon just east of the Owyhee River when he was struck by a bolt of lightning, which would consequently lead to his death six days later. Although the canyon that would later be named Leslie Gulch commemorates Hiram as a cattle rancher, he was also a professional photographer, and it's likely that this passion is what brought him west from his birthplace in Amherst, Ohio in the first place. Throughout his life, Leslie owned a number of galleries in Silver City Idaho, all of which seemed to have focused on outdoor photography, boasting ads such as, "our facilities are unsurpassed in the upper country for taking Views of all Descriptions." Being that the first known photograph was taken less than 10 years before his birth in 1835, Leslie is a pioneer in photography and would have been on the cutting edge of capturing the landscapes of the Western U.S. on film.

Carrying bulky 1800s camera equipment into environments that feel isolated today, and were hardly touched outside of indigenous populations 200 years ago, would have required an incredibly motivated tenacity and quite possibly a respect and yearning for the natural world. On the day of his demise, Leslie might have had one eye on his cattle with the other transfixed on the diverse geology of Eastern Oregon's desert.

Although 200 years is a substantial passage of time in our world, the natural world moves at a much slower pace, and the Leslie Gulch Hiram saw is almost the same as the Leslie Gulch visitors see today.  Colorful towers of redrock encircle the gulch and create an intimate quality that is enhanced by thick patches of juniper and sage. These unique formations are the by-product of volcanic activity and amounts of time that seem inconceivable in comparison to the human timeline. Volcanic eruptions that coated the area in layers of ash 15 million years ago and then again 100,000 years ago, were followed by the slow process of erosion and sediment solidification which formed the "Leslie Gulch Tuff" seen today. The signature "honeycombed" rock is aptly named and coats the tuff's walls in tiny caverns which have been carved out of the surface overtime.

In the days of Leslie, the native Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep would have populated the cliffs of Leslie Gulch. Unfortunately, the last of these sheep were wiped out by 1945, but the more than 200 California bighorn sheep that roam the area now, which began as 17 in 1965, exemplify a species introduction success story.

These days Leslie Gulch is much more accessible thanks to a 2 mile trail, and the burden of a camera is hardly noticeable. However, If you do have the opportunity to experience this unique portion of Oregon make sure you think of Hiram E. Leslie, and of course, keep on the look out for lightning.  

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Unique geology. Nearby campground.

Cons

Long drive on a gravel road.

Trailhead Elevation

3,600.00 ft (1,097.28 m)

Highest point

4,300.00 ft (1,310.64 m)

Features

Wildlife
Geologically significant
Wildflowers
Cave
Historically significant

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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