The Ancient Juniper Trail is a great opportunity to dip your toes into the Oregon Badlands Wilderness without committing your calves to 6+ miles of slogging through volcanic sand. Its also a great place to visit in the off season as it is usually snow free. The badlands were formed about 80,000 years ago when a lava tube developed a “leak”, only about ¾ of a mile west of the loop. This created many of the interesting formations you can see along the loop, but not the sand. That came form Mt Mazama 7,700 years ago. You can thank Crater Lake for that.
The hike begins out of the east side of the Flatiron Rock Trailhead off of Highway 20, east of Bend. Head past the informational kiosk and serve to the left to being the Ancient Juniper Loop. The trail seems weave in and out of the lava pressure ridges and it slowly climbs and then descends a small hill. There are lots of juniper along the trail, and some of them are old. Weird huh, probably weren’t expecting that. Some of the oldest junipers, ones that look mostly dead with maybe a live branch or two, are likely over 1,000 years old.
The trail will weave and bob through the landscape for the first 2 miles until you reach a junction with the Flatiron Trail. If you head left here, you can merge up with the Bad Lands Rock Trail. Flatiron Rock is about 1.5 miles ahead. To complete the loop, make a right and follow the trail as it slowly climbs back towards the trailhead.
To reach the Flatiron Rock Trailhead, head east from the 27th St intersection in Bend on Highway 20. The trailhead will be 13.4 miles ahead on the left. There’s even a sign. Pretty complicated.
Passes: No passes are requried.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on least or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: Open and accessible all year. The trail can get hot and dusty in the summer and may be covered in snow at times in the winter.