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