Horse Ridge is comprised of a series of volcanic ridges east of Bend, near the Oregon Badlands. The area makes for a nice destination in the winter or spring when snow covers many of the higher elevation trails. Plus, when a little wet, the sandy trail will firm up making for a more pleasant walking experience.
Begin your hike at the Horse Ridge Trailhead, located east of Bend on Highway 20, just across the highway from the Badlands Rock trailhead. The trail leaves through a gate at the south end of the parking lot. This is a very popular mountain biking area in the winter, so you can expect to see a lot of cars parked here. Once we got away from the trailhead, however, we saw very few bikers.
Once you leave the trailhead, things can get a little confusing at first. There seem to be trails heading everywhere. Stay on the main trail/ road, heading south for about 500 feet until the trail Ts. At this intersection, head to the right. The trail will continue to resemble a wide, two track road for a while as it swings back to the south and approaches Sand Canyon. After half a mile, prepare yourself for a nice, thigh-burning climb. The trail climbs about 1,000 feet in the next 1.5 miles. As you climb, you will notice interesting, moss covered basalt formations in the canyon along with some of the oldest Western Juniper in the world.
At just over 2 miles into the hike, you will reach another intersection. Head to the right again and begin heading up the spine of the ridge. Initially, you will still slightly be on the north side of Horse Ridge, but you will traverse towards the top as you slowly climb another 200 feet in the next 1.5 miles. From up here, the views open up to you, stretching from the Cascades to the Ochocos. As you reach the peak of the ridge as well, Paulina Peak and other vista to the south are visible.
Once you reach the top of Horse Ridge, the trial splits again, with one route heading steeply down the south side of the ridge and another trail heading to the right, continuing along the top. Head to the right and the ridge begins to loose elevation. In about ½ a mile, the trail will turn sharply to the right. Here you better pre-rub some icy-hot on your knees because they are going to hate you. The Horse Ridge trail descends very steeply, losing over 1,000 feet in less than a mile. As you approach the bottom, the trail and surrounding area get really sandy. The trail will reconnect back with a two-track road as you swing to the right and begin the 1.75 mile trek back to the trailhead.
After about half a mile along the bottom, the trail runs into a fence with lots of no trespassing signs on it. You will also notice another trail heading to your right. Follow that trail for about 100 yards until you see a break in the fence and another trail heading eastwards again, along the edge of another fence with more no trespassing signs. Follow this trail as is skirts around a quarry that eally doesn’t want people strolling through, apparently. In a little more than half a mile, you will be around the quarry and back on the primary trail to the trailhead.
To reach the Horse Ridge Trailhead, head east from Bend on Highway 20 for 15 miles until you see a sign for Horse Ridge Trailhead directing you to the right. It will be right across the highway from the Badlands Rock Trailhead. Turn right onto Horse Ridge Frontage Road and drive another 0.75 miles. The trailhead will be on the left.
Passes: No passes are required.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: Year Round. Can get very hot in the summer.