Leslie Gulch

15 Rock and Juniper against Sky  Pretty

I’ve been fortunate to have spent much of my life in Idaho.  From spectacular mountain ranges to sunbaked dunes to sprawling lava flows this state offers it all.  But until just a few years ago I had never heard of the Owyhee Canyonlands.  A PBS program, Outdoor Idaho, featured this natural wonder early one spring and I decided then this area was a must-see.  And so, in July of 2011, I embarked on my second hike with the Idaho Conservation League.

We drove to Leslie Gulch, which is actually located just across the Idaho line in Malheur County, Oregon.  Named for a local rancher, Hiram E. Leslie, who was hit by lightning there in 1882, Leslie Gulch boasts picturesque formations composed of volcanic tuff ranging in color from orange-red to variegated shades of brown.  I stared in amazement as the first outcroppings

1 Rocky Outcropping on Hillsidecame into view.  Strikingly beautiful against the cloudless sky, these statuesque pillars seemed to have sprung from the brushy hills supporting them.  Once out of the truck, however, I discovered this is a hike best done either in the spring or fall.  It was 11:00 a.m. and already VERY warm.

2 Brush  Rocks  HillUndaunted, we started walking and the beauty and solitude we experienced more than compensated for any discomfort from the heat.  And the farther we walked the more impressive the formations became.

3 Brushy Dell  Rock Hill 4 Hikers  Shrubbery  Rock Tower

6 Rocky Spires on Hillside 5 Rocky Hills

7 Hill with Rock Outcropping 8 Fortress on Hillside

9 Trail along rock Hill in background 10 Lofty Rock Tower  Juniper  Shrubbery

11 Thicket Beneath Rock Hill 12 Rocky Tower

13 Pink Bowl Ringed with Holey Rock 14 Holey Rocks

And best yet, it’s practically in my back yard!



5 thoughts on “Leslie Gulch

  1. Thanks for posting this. I have wanted to go here for years but I haven’t made it any closer than Steens Mountain. How rough was the drive in?

    If you are ever out near Bend, be sure to check out Smith Rock. There are more people than at Leslie Gulch but the terrain is similar and augmented by the substantial Crooked River and fantastic views of the Three Sister, Mount Jefferson, etc.


  2. You’re welcome! Thanks to all who visited this post.

    The drive in wasn’t bad at all. I, along with most in our group, drove SUV’s but a few came in cars. The roads are mostly graveled but well maintained. About a half-mile from the trailhead we hit a couple of places where runoff had cut shallow trenches across the road. However, everybody made it through fine. (This is coming in from the east off Idaho Hwy. 95.) The only thing: There were no signs along 95 or the secondary roads to guide us, so a person would need a good set of directions and to remember to reset the odometer when the directions indicated, as you have to keep track of the number of miles between given points. Chris Hansen, who was with the Oregon Natural Desert Assn. at that time, led our group and knew his way around very well.

    I’d love to see Smith Rock! I’ve seen pictures but haven’t made it there–yet!


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