Spring Basin Wilderness

Enjoy spring wildflowers including hedgehog cactus and many other showy flowers, wildlife, geology and solitude as you explore trails and routes in Oregon's Spring Basin Wilderness. There are options for hikes and backpacks up to 8.2 miles into canyons, and to knoll viewpoints, and options both loop and out-and-back trips, all with views into the heart of the wilderness.

Getting there

Drive I-97 to Shaniko, a ghost town 97 miles south of Biggs, turn left onto OR-218, and drive 23  miles to Clarno. After driving 1.5 miles beyond the John Day River bridge, turn right onto the gravel Clarno Road and continue ~3.2 miles. The trailhead and parking are located up a faint road that leads 100 feet up on the left to a lone 15+ foot tall juniper tree—"first juniper." For an alternative trailhead, drive to the Clarno Arch parking area that is on OR-218 ~1.2 miles east of the Clarno Road junction.

On the Trail

Green Knoll

3.8 miles round trip with 1,060 feet of elevation gain

Hike past a "BLM Wilderness" boundary post on a faint trail through bunchgrass toward a draw. The trail ascends a gully where wildflowers bloom in the spring and crests a pass at 1.3 miles where a rock cairn marks a T-junction. Turn left and follow a faint, rolling jeep track along the wide crest of the ridge where hedgehog cactus bloom. Hike 0.5 mile, passing a juniper tree beside boulders and continue 0.1 mile to the high point of the faint track to a green knoll viewpoint. The knoll is a good turnaround point or a rest stop before continuing cross-country toward the Horse Mountain summit.

Horse Mountain Summit

Route 1: 8.2 miles round trip with 1,590 feet of elevation gain. Starting at the Clarno Road "first juniper" Trailhead and hike to the green knoll. Hike 0.6 mile east to a juniper grove (GPS N44 52.679' W120 25.240'),  a scenic, wind-sheltered place to camp. Continue 0.3 mile east  up a draw and reach a ridge crest where an old road becomes visible. Follow  the road  to the right along the ridge for 0.7 miles until it turns sharply left in another juniper grove. Leave the road and bushwhack to the right up a ridge 0.6 mile to the rocky summit of Horse Mountain, and enjoy a wide view of buttes and canyons.

Route 2: 7.8 miles round trip with 1,570 feet of elevation gain. From the Clarno Arch parking area, walk  0.1 mile south along OR-218 and turn left past a locked gate onto the gravel road for Pine Creek Ranch which is owned by Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Hikers and equestrians are allowed to cross the land on the road that ascends 0.3 mile to into Spring Basin Wilderness. Be sure to sign in at the kiosk at the Pine Creek Ranch. 

Loop Route: Combine Routes 1 and 2 for an 8.0-mile loop.

exploring nature

The best time to see wildflowers is mid-March through mid-May. Look for pink hedgehog cactus blooms from late March through early May, yellow balsamroot blooms in April, purple sage and orange checker-mallow blooms in May. Other showy spring wildflowers  include  mariposa lily, yellow bell, yellow-hairy Indian paintbrush, buckwheat, prairie rocket, penstemon, phacelia, phlox, sedum, elkhorn clarkia, spring gold, monkeyflower and more. Listen for spring songbirds throughout the area. 

Guides & More Info


  • There are no water sources. Carry at least one gallon for a backpack and two liters for a day hike.
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,590 ft
  • 2,860 ft
  • Land Manager: Oregon-Washington BLM
  • Parking Permit Required: None
  • Recommended Party Size: 8
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • Lower Deschutes & John Day Rivers Pacific Northwest Recreation Map
Trip Reports

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • Green Knoll
  • Horse Mountain Summit
  • Horse Mountain Summit Loop

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