Black Canyon Wilderness
This remote 13,400 acre wilderness offers opportunities for solitude. The major creeks of Black Canyon and Cottonwood bisect the area. Dense thickets of willow and brush follow the stream course. Hillsides are dominated by mixed conifer and stands of park-like ponderosa pine. Ridge-tops are predominantly open sagebrush with some mountain mahogany. Deer and elk are common year round. The lucky observer may also see bear, coyote, mountain lion, or possibly wolverines! Beware of rattlesnakes, especially in stream bottoms.
Walk down through geologic time, from the rim to Black Canyon creek, from Boeing Field to the South Fork of the John Day River; each successive basalt flow is older than the last. Black Canyon Wilderness is a layer cake of 17 million-year-old Picture Gorge Basalt flows, stacked one on top of the other.
The 18 miles of maintained trail offer easy access throughout the wilderness. Be prepared to ford streams as there are no bridges. The 12-mile Black Canyon Trail (#820) cuts through a narrow gorge, requiring hikers to cross rushing water at least a dozen times. The creek is typically un-fordable at high water, usually January through March. Three short side trails join the Black Canyon Trail. There have been two large wild fires in the area within the last decade encompassing most of the wilderness.
- Elevation range: 2,850' - 6,483'
- Trail map: View a Black Canyon Wilderness area trails map (.pdf)
- Key access points: Trail and trailhead access information
At a Glance
|Closest Towns:||Paulina, Oregon or Dayville Oregon|
|Operated By:||US Forest Service|
|Information Center:||Ochoco National Forest
3160 N.E. 3rd Street
Prineville, OR 97754 (541) 416-6500
(1) From Dayville, Oregon take County Road 42 south for about 13 miles to the Black Canyon East Trailhead located near South Fork John Day River.
(2) From Paulina, Oregon travel northeast on Highway 112 for approximately 5 miles then veer left onto Highway 113. Continue for approximately 2 miles. Stay straight onto Forest Service Road 58 and continue for approximately 6 miles. Turn left onto Forest Service Road 5810 and continue for approximately 12 miles. Boeing Field Trailhead will be on your right.
Trails within Black Canyon Wilderness:
- Black Canyon Trail (#820)
- Coffee Pot Trail (#820B)
- Kelsey Trail (#820C)
- Owl Creek Trail (#820A)
- Payten Trail (#820D)
- South Prong Trail (#821)
View a trail vicinity map.
Aldrich Gulch, Wolf Mountain. Download free U.S. Forest Service Topo maps.
Buy maps online
Go to the National Forest Store.
Go to Wilderness.net for online maps and other important Wilderness information.
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
While day hiking is possible it is not a common use of Black Canyon Wilderness trails, due largely to the long drive times to access the wilderness. Additionally, many of the trails are too long to convert to a loop in a single day, so if visitors elect to day hike the most realistic options are out-and-back trips from a single trailhead.
It is quite a drive to access Black Canyon Wilderness and consequently there is very low visitation, so if you are looking for a true solitude experience this is a VERY good option. Black Canyon Trail (#820) is just over 12 miles in length, and follows Black Canyon Creek most of the way, which means that water can be easily acquired on backpacking excursions. There are a variety of options to vary the lengths of your trip from a couple of days to over a week. Some roads outside the wilderness can be used to link trails together and make a loop instead of an out-and-back trip.
The long trails of Black Canyon Wilderness linked with some of the lesser used roads outside the wilderness can make for some long and beautiful horseback journeys. There is easy access to water throughout the wilderness which makes packing and posting up rather easy. This wilderness area does not see much use, so opportunities for solitude are abundant as well.