Last Updated on August 15, 2023

The Central Oregon High Desert is a vast, arid region that begins at the eastern foot of the Cascade Mountains and extends across much of the central, eastern, and southern parts of the state.

With an average elevation of over 4,000 feet, the high desert is characterized by its dry climate, sagebrush-covered hills, and clear blue skies.

Central Oregon High Desert Map
Central Oregon High Desert Map

The high desert in Oregon encompasses parts of the Great Basin and the Columbia Plateau. It is characterized by its high altitude, which ranges from 3,000 to 6,000 feet (910 to 1,830 m), and its relatively cool temperatures.

The high desert is home to a variety of plant and animal life, including sagebrush, juniper, wildflowers, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and golden eagles.

Some of the major cities in the Oregon high desert include Bend, Burns, and Prineville.

Bend, Oregon High Desert
Bend, Oregon High Desert

What is the high desert in Oregon?

The high desert in Oregon is a region that is defined by its altitude, topography, and plant and animal life. The high desert is generally at a higher altitude than the lower desert regions of Oregon, such as the Klamath Basin and the Malheur River Valley.

This higher altitude means that the high desert has cooler temperatures, more rainfall, and more diverse plant life.

The high desert is also characterized by its rolling hills and broad valleys. This topography is home to a variety of ecosystems, including sagebrush steppe, juniper woodland, and ponderosa pine forest.

The high desert is home to a variety of plants, including sagebrush, juniper, wildflowers, and grasses. These plants are adapted to the dry, hot climate of the high desert.

The high desert is also home to a variety of animals, including bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, coyotes, and jackrabbits. These animals are adapted to the dry, hot climate of the high desert.

What are the popular activities in the high desert in Oregon?

There are a variety of popular activities that people enjoy in the high desert in Oregon. Some of the most popular activities include:

  • Hiking: There are many great hiking trails in the high desert, ranging from easy to challenging. Some of the most popular hiking trails include the Smith Rock State Park Trail, the Paulina Lake Trail, and the Steens Mountain Wilderness Trail.
  • Camping: There are many great campgrounds in the high desert, ranging from RV parks to backcountry campsites. Some of the most popular campgrounds include the Deschutes National Forest Campground, the Malheur National Forest Campground, and the Steens Mountain Wilderness Campground.
  • Rock climbing: The high desert is a great place for rock climbing. There are many different rock formations to climb, ranging from beginner to expert level. Some of the most popular rock climbing spots include Smith Rock State Park, the Painted Hills, and the Steens Mountain Wilderness.
  • Stargazing: The high desert is a great place for stargazing. The skies are dark and clear, making it easy to see the stars and planets. Some of the best places for stargazing include the Painted Hills, the Steens Mountain Wilderness, and the Ochoco National Forest.
  • Scenic driving: There are many scenic drives in the high desert. Some of the most popular scenic drives include the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway, the Deschutes River Scenic Byway, and the Steens Mountain Loop Road.
  • Visiting national parks and monuments: There are several national parks and monuments in the high desert in Oregon. Some of the most popular national parks and monuments include the Crater Lake National Park, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and the Malheur National Forest.

Cities in the Oregon High Desert

Bend

Bend is a city in Central Oregon, at the confluence of the Deschutes and Crooked Rivers.

It is the largest city in the Central Oregon High Desert region, with a population of over 100,000 people. Bend is known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, such as hiking, biking, fishing, and skiing. The city is also home to a number of breweries and wineries.

Bend is a popular tourist destination, and is often referred to as the “Adventure Capital of Oregon”.

Visitors can go hiking and biking in the Cascade Mountains, fishing and boating on the Deschutes River, skiing and snowboarding at Mount Bachelor, visiting the High Desert Museum, tasting craft beer at one of Bend’s many breweries, or shopping at the Old Mill District.


Burns

Burns is a city in Harney County, Oregon, with a population of around 25,000 people. It is the second-largest city in the Oregon high desert. Burns is a ranching and agricultural community, and is home to the Malheur National Forest.

Burns is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, fishing, and camping. Visitors can go hiking in the Malheur National Forest, fishing in the Malheur River, or camping at Steens Mountain Wilderness.

Burns is also home to the Burns Paiute Indian powwow, which is a cultural event that celebrates the history and culture of the Paiute people, held every year in July.


Prineville

Prineville is a city in Crook County, Oregon, with a population of around 15,000 people. It is the third-largest city in the Oregon high desert.

Prineville is a logging and mining community, and is home to the Ochoco National Forest. The city is also known for its annual rodeo, which is held in June.

Prineville is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, and fishing. Visitors can go hiking in the Ochoco National Forest, camping at Paulina Lake, or fishing in the Crooked River.

Prineville is also home to the Prineville Rodeo, which is a rodeo event that attracts cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country.


Sisters

Sisters is a small town in Deschutes County, Oregon, with a population of around 7,000 people. It is a popular tourist destination, known for its charming Main Street and its proximity to several national forests. Sisters is also home to a number of breweries and wineries.

Sisters is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, biking, and camping.

Visitors can go hiking in the Three Sisters Wilderness, biking the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, or camping at Black Butte Ranch. Sisters is also home to a number of breweries and wineries, making it a great place to relax and enjoy the local flavors.


La Pine

La Pine is yet another small town in Deschutes County, Oregon, with a population of around 4,000 people. It is a somewhat popular tourist destination, known for its fishing and boating opportunities on the Deschutes River.

La Pine is also home to the Lava Lands Visitor Center, which offers information about the surrounding lava fields.

La Pine is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, such as fishing, boating, and hiking. Visitors can go fishing and boating on the Deschutes River, hiking in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, or visiting the Lava Lands Visitor Center.

La Pine is also home to a number of camping and RV parks, making it a great place to stay if you are planning on spending time in the area.


Oregon High Desert Map


Read also: Oregon Desert Towns

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