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What can I do there now?

The park is open to hunting, camping, hiking, bicycling (puncture-resistant tires highly recommended), horseback riding, picnicking, stargazing, photography, wildflower sniffing, and a bunch of other stuff limited only by your imagination and a few common-sense rules. More details are online at the park’s official web page.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2014 7:34 pm

    Sorry but even puncture proof tires are no match for the goatheads and the sharp basalt on these unmaintained trails. It’s not even safe to wear thin-soled footwear– one should only wear sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support. Very odd that you aren’t telling people to avoid biking in this heat since there is NO potable water along the trails– people can find themselves in a very dangerous and deadly situation even less than a mile from the trailhead. There are many rattlesnakes, stinging insects and personal injury hazards on theses trails. A person with even the best training and gear can end up dead within sight of the campground, and that is not a guess, it’s the reality of being in the desert. Avoid these trails for now, because they are unmaintained and very unsafe!

    • June 10, 2014 8:25 pm


      Thank you for making some great observations about hiking and biking at Cottonwood. We hope people will realize the limitations and challenges of recreating at Cottonwood.

      You’ve made out some very good points:
      – Bring lots of water
      – Be prepared for the unexpected
      – Wear heavy soled and sturdy hiking boots
      – If biking bring a couple of extra tubes

      I wouldn’t say avoid Cottonwood or the trails but come with the proper expectations and be prepared for the conditions.

      I’m sorry you’ve had some negative experiences at Cottonwood. Please free to call the Park at 541-394-0002 if we are able to address any issues.

  2. Gary Bradshaw permalink
    September 7, 2014 8:40 pm

    While I was recently (9/4/14) exploring the McDonald Ferry area, I tried to check out Hay Creek. I got to within about 1.9 miles of the John Day, on the road down Hay Creek, when I came upon a locked gate. Is the area closed for restoration, and what are your plans for the area?

    • September 30, 2014 5:19 am

      In the short term this will remain the same–locked gate and walk in access only. We have chosen this route because their is inadequate river access–parking etc.–further down the Hay Creek road; and the road along Hay Creek cannot support a large amount of traffic being so close to the creek. On the plus side hunters love this area!

      In terms of restoration we have a major revegetation project along Hay Creek and weed management of the bottom land fields.

      In the long term there may be a boat put in/take out; extended trails connecting to the main park; pulling Hay Creek road off Hay Creek and primitive camping. However, these plans are several years out and will develop based on recreational use. We will do our best through the Oregon Parks website and this website to keep folks informed of developments in the park.

  3. Greg permalink
    February 15, 2015 7:15 pm

    I notice on the Cottonwood Brochure map where there is a mix of State Park land and BLM land. I have already done the Pinnacles Trail and Lost Corral Trail. Is it permitted to roam off-trail and do some of the planned trails such as Gooseneck? Looks like it would be a great loop hike and add some elevation gain to the hike.

    • April 10, 2015 12:10 am

      Sorry for the very very late response on your message.

      As long as you are aware of private property off trail hiking is allowed.

  4. Natalie Gordon permalink
    October 17, 2015 9:50 pm

    Are the hiker campsites throughout the park? I am looking to more so backpack around the park.

    • October 29, 2015 2:47 pm

      Backcountry camping is allowed–for the best locations; fire restrictions and current information please call the park at 541-394-0002. We hope to have designated backcountry sites for backpackers and boaters in the coming year.

      Thanks and we hope to see ya’ on the trails.

      • Tony Vang permalink
        May 7, 2017 8:08 am

        Hi, I don’t know where I’ve been, but I just now discovered the existence of this park after 45 years as a native Oregonian. I know it’s new as of 2013, but I thought I would have heard more buzz. I have always wanted to hike and camp the John Day, as opposed to rafting it. Is it ok to camp anywhere off trail as long as we are in BLM/Park land or are we restricted to designated camping sites? Also if camping off trail, are fire restrictions in effect as of June 1st, as is usual for float camping?

        Thank you,


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