A volcanic tuff ring rising from the flat landscape of Oregon’s high desert, Fort Rock received its designation as a National Natural Landmark in January of 1976. Occupied as a natural shelter by Native American tribes who occupied the area thousands of years ago, visitors to the Fort Rock State Natural Area see their remains in pictographs and petroglyphs on the rock walls.
Main parking lot with restrooms and picnic shelter.
During the last ice age, Fort Rock was a volcanic island in a prehistoric lake that encompassed what we know today as Christmas Valley. Sandals made of sagebrush were located in nearby Fort Rock Cave* are radiocarbon-dated at an approximate age of 10,000 years old are evidence of some of the earliest humans in North America. Similar archeological findings have been identified at the Paisley Caves, about an hour drive to the Southeast.
Hiking inside the Fort Rock crater.
While some of the trails are closed seasonally between February 15 and August 15 during the raptor reproductive season, we hiked the designated open trails during a recent visit to the site. A fairly easy excursion, you may want to use hiking poles on the initial ascent into the crater.
View from the top.
Modern restrooms and a small picnic shelter with interpretive signs and other park information greet visitors. If you are pulling a camper trailer, there’s a small turnaround point but no designated large vehicle parking. Between a picnic lunch and a full hike inside the rim, we spent about an hour and a half fully exploring this location.
To round out your Central Oregon adventuring, consider hiking the volcanic fissure at Crack in the Ground located 37 miles to the East.
*Fort Rock Cave is the site of instrumental archeological discoveries contributing to the significance of the Fort Rock Basin as a vital part of Native American History and Live. Tours of Fort Rock Cave occur throughout the spring and early summer bat 9am and 12pm. Register for a cave tour online or call the LaPine Sate Park Office at 541-536-2428.
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.
In March 2018 Julie Henning published the book "100 Things to Do in Eugene Before You Die" (Reedy Press). She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.
She has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, Travel Wisconsin, Travel Oregon, Hometown News Group, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine (DNR publication), Experience Michigan Magazine, the Official Oregon Wine Touring Guide, Metro Parent Milwaukee Magazine, Eugene Cascades & Coast Official Visitors Guide, Trivago, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, Amtrak.com, Eugene Magazine, and FTF Geocacher Magazine.
Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio. She has produced episodes for Journey of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. Julie has also produced travel apps with Sutro Media and Bindu Media. She works full time in marketing.
Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast.
She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee.
Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.
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