Two Weeks Riding and Camping in Oregon’s Volcano Country
By Robert Eversole
I recently had the opportunity to camp and ride with two of the most enthusiastic mule ambassadors that I’ve ever met: Joe and Jenny from the North Idaho Saddle Mule Club. We rode and camped throughout central Oregon for two weeks, stopping at four different equine camps along the way and riding some phenomenal country. Together we shared fabulous trails, wonderful meals, and more than a few laughs.
Celeste and I met up with Joe and Jenny at the Quinn Meadow Horse Camp, west of Bend, Oregon. The Quinn Meadow Horse Camp is a popular destination point for riders throughout the Pacific Northwest. This very clean and welcoming camp offers sturdy corrals, potable water, private camp spots and miles of loop trails to enjoy through dense forest, and remnants of the area’s volcanic past.
Within 10 minutes of the horse camp riders can step back over 7,000 years to a time of bubbling basaltic lava flows and volcanic vistas. Riding through the lava flows that tower overhead is quite the experience!
Todd Creek Horse Camp
After a few days at Quinn we decamped and traveled 5 miles down the road to the Todd Creek Horse Camp where I would be completing my unfinished ride of 2017.
You may be asking what’s to enjoy if I called the camp an “immense parking lot,” and that’s a fair question. Lots. From the Todd Creek Camp, riders can easily connect with a myriad of wilderness rides within the Three Sisters Wilderness that sits right across the road.
Our destination point for Todd Creek was the nearby stratovolcano, Broken Top, which lies within an area of many densely-spaced volcanic vents. I’m pleased (and so are my surgeons!) that the ride was both fantastic and uneventful. Our little group had a long day in the saddle and we covered nearly 20 miles as we explored the slopes and the amphitheater-like eroded crater.
World Class Views at Newberry Volcanic Monument
Any trip to Oregon’s volcanoes is incomplete without a stop at the Newberry Volcanic Monument a half-hour south of Bend. The Newberry Volcano is the largest volcano in the Cascades, covering an area the size of Rhode Island. And it’s still active as proven by the hot springs and the youngest lava flow in Oregon; the 1,300-year-old Big Obsidian Flow.
Our ride at Newberry took us from the Chief Paulina Horse Camp east and around the Big Obsidian Field and up to the top of Paulina Peak. The views, oh my, the views across the twin azure blue lakes that fill the main body of the caldera over a thousand feet below are simply spectacular.
Back in camp was another story. Chief Paulina is an older horse camp that sadly is showing its age. When I imagine the camp 50 years ago, in 1960s Technicolor, before big LQs, and before uncaring users took their toll, this would have been a magical place.
Fortunately, I was told by the Forest Service that they have plans to upgrade the camp to modern standards and that they are actively seeking the partnership of an equine group to help with the campground. How about it, Backcountry Horsemen of Oregon? Are you up for the job? Can you help make Chief Paulina a world-class horse camp to match the world-class riding?
An Early Departure
The fourth destination for our Oregon odyssey was the Whitefish Horse Camp. Whitefish was the best appointed of all the camps we visited on this trip. Combine the fantastic amenities with the easy access to numerous trails that loop and meander through the Diamond Peak Wilderness and you’ll quickly understand why this camp is a winner in all regards.
Compared to our previous stop, Whitefish was operating room clean. The corrals, campsites and general area were spic and span. The place is loved, and it shows in the care that it receives.
Unfortunately, our stay here ended after just one night. Our old dog, Abby, had more excitement than an 18-year-old pup needs and was having a hard time with the heat. So, family being family we sadly parted ways with Joe and Jenny and headed home.
Well, there you go — a very brief rundown of a fabulous couple of weeks in Oregon riding and camping amongst volcanoes. For more information on these and other riding and camping areas throughout Oregon and the US including accurate directions, GPS tracks, pics, and more, visit www.TrailMeister.com!