Eastern Oregon’s Leslie Gulch is an unexpected journey in time and beauty
written by Joni Kabana
One of the most remote areas of Oregon has miles of sculpted rock formations that were formed millions of years ago. Getting there takes a bit of stamina and a tough vehicle, but once you arrive, there is no doubt you will feel like it was worth the planning and effort.
Towering volcanic rock, in various sizes and shapes, line the road in Leslie Gulch, located east of the Owyhee Reservoir in Oregon’s Malheur County. The soil is unique in this location and is conducive to growing rare plant species. If you love watching wildlife, mule deer, California Bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk and assorted coyotes and bobcats frequently roam the isolated landscape. Rock hounds will feel like they are in heaven, but collection of rocks and vegetation is strictly prohibited, as well as gathering firewood.
Camping and fires are limited to the Slocum Creek campground only and overnight backpacking and horses are not permitted in the Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Call ahead to check on weather conditions as flash floods and some ice conditions can make the road impassable.
From Highway 95 in Idaho, you can reach Leslie Gulch by traveling west eight miles on McBride Creek Road to Rockville, then one mile north to Leslie Gulch Road and 15 miles west. You can also take Succor Creek Road from either Oregon Highway 201 or US Highway 95 to the Leslie Gulch Road Junction.
While high-clearance vehicles are recommended, in prime conditions a car is suitable if tires are in good condition and the engine is operating well. The road is so isolated that becoming stranded would be a dangerous proposition. As with all remote travel, bringing large quantities of water and food is a must. Large recreational vehicles will not be able to make some of the hairpin turns, so seek a smaller vehicle before traveling here.
Accommodations are limited within the area, but there are several motels and AirBnBs that enable day visits to this area. Don’t forget to include a visit to hot springs in the area—some of Oregon’s best are found near Leslie Gulch.
For more information, see www.onda.org/hike/leslie-gulch.