What is Christmas Valley Oregon
This little slice of central Oregon is surrounded by lonely roads that run through the sagebrush prairie. Christmas Oregon Valley, with a population of 1,313, has only a handful of restaurants and two motels. It also has a gas station.
Spend a few days on the bumpy gravel roads leading in all directions and you’ll discover a collection of amazing natural attractions, cracks, craters and sand dunes.
While some are established recreation areas with nearby amenities, most others remain relatively unknown. These aren’t places you just happen to stumble across, but rather places you actively search for. Christmas Valley can only be discovered by taking initiative.
It can also take good directions or use a GPS device. We were able to use the cell phone for a two-day tour of the region and found excellent service. However, my printed directions were a valuable resource for those few moments when there was no connection and I was glad that it was there.
It was also a relief to have a car that had four-wheel drive. This is a result of years of driving Oregon’s gravel and bumpy roads. It can be rewarding to travel through Christmas Valley, but exhausting. It’s an adventure just to reach these places, and even more so once you get there.
These hidden treasures of Christmas Valley are hidden in the silence of the desert. You can find fossils by walking through the cracks. You will find pieces of volcanic glass in the brush if you rummage. If you dig a little deeper, there’s always a feeling that something wonderful will appear at any moment.
These remote locations can make it easy to get lost. These Google maps are embedded and the written directions below will help. You can also search online for Bureau of Land Management maps for the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes or Crack-in-the-Ground regions. Be aware of the weather and don’t drive on roads that are muddy or snowy.
Fort Rock, an impressive rock formation that is also an Oregon state park site, can be seen from the road. It’s located on the west side of Christmas Valley. This rock is a naturally formed tuff ring. It forms when hot magma mixes with cold groundwater.
It is also home to a cave, where archaeologists discovered several pairs of sagebrush shoes that were approximately 10,000 years old. This provides some of the oldest evidence of human occupation in North America.
Jamie Hale/The Oregonian
Take Oregon Route 31 south, just south of La Pine on U.S. 97 to reach Fort Rock. Turn left onto County Road 5-11A after 29 miles. Follow signs for Fort Rock and turn left onto Cabin lake Road after 6.4 miles.
Crack-in-the-Ground is an ancient volcanic fissure that offers one of the most interesting hikes in central Oregon. The dirt trail descends into the fissure and leaves behind the sagebrush. It measures approximately two miles in length, 15 feet wide, and 70 feet deep. Walking through Crack-in-the-Ground can be likened to exploring an open-air cave because of the colder temperatures and damp environment.
Jamie Hale/The Oregonian
Turn north on Crack-in-the-Ground Road to reach the Crack-in-the-Ground Trailhead. It is located on the east side. Continue on gravel road for 7 more miles, following signs. You will find the parking area on the left side by a vault bathroom.
Another volcano landmark, Hole-in-the-Ground, is almost a mile in circumference and an explosion crater. Although it’s interesting, it is not the most exciting stop in the area. You can also visit the Big Hole neighboring.
You can find Hole-in-the-Ground by taking Oregon Route 31 south, just south of La Pine on U.S. 97. Look for signs to Hole-in-the-Ground after 24 miles. Continue on the forest roads until you reach a viewpoint overlooking this crater.
Christmas Valley Sand Dunes
Oregonians tend to think about the Oregon coast when they think of sand dune. Another set of dunes can be found in central Oregon’s desert, covering over 11,000 acres and reaching 60 feet high. It is a beautiful scene and a strange sight to see in central Oregon.
The Bureau of Land Management manages the Christmas Valley Dunes. They are open to off-highway vehicles such as ATVs, dirt bikes and other off-highway vehicles. Hikers are welcome to explore the dunes, but be aware of any vehicles driving down the sand.
Juniper Camp is the best spot to see the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes. This primitive campground has great access to the dunes. You can get there by driving east from Christmas Valley on Christmas Valley Highway and then turning left onto County Highway 5-14D. Also known as Fossil Lake Road. After 8 miles, turn right onto Lost Forest Lane. Look for Juniper Camp signs on your right after 6 miles.
Fossil Lake, a dry lake bed located on the southeast side the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes is well-known among paleontologists for its potential fossils. It is believed that the ancient lake once filled the area and was 200 feet deep. However, it gradually dried up leaving behind many remains of prehistoric animals who visited its shores.
Over the years, fossils of mammoths and dire wolves, giant apes, and more than 100 species have been discovered there. Although it’s fascinating, you will need to hike off the beaten path to reach it.
Jamie Hale/The Oregonian
Fossil Lake can be found by driving east from Christmas Valley via Christmas Valley Highway. Turn left onto County Highway 5-14D (also known as Fossil Lake Road). After 8 miles turn left onto County Road 5-14E. Also known as Lost Forest Lane. Continue straight for 1.7 miles on an unmarked dirt road. You will reach a wooden gate with a sandy parking lot beneath the powerlines. Continue south along the power lines for about.2 miles, passing through a gap in the fence. Turn right. Continue walking southwest for approximately.5 miles until you reach the dry lakebed.
The Lost Forest, located on the northeastern side of the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes is an example of an old forest of ponderosa Pines that once covered large areas of the area. It is a strange sight to see the sparse tree stand in the sagebrush Prairie.
You can reach the Lost Forest by driving east from Christmas Valley on Christmas Valley Highway. After 8 miles, turn left onto County Highway 5-14D also known as Fossil Lake Road. Turn right onto County Road 5-14E after 8 miles. Also known as Lost Forest Lane. Continue on BLM Road 6151 for 7.4 miles into the forest.
Rock hounds rejoice! Glass Buttes, Oregon is a great place to legally find obsidian shards. This volcanic glass is naturally found in Oregon. Obsidian forms when lava cools, without crystallizing. It’s been used for thousands of years by humans in pottery, arrowheads, and even surgical scalpels. The Big Obsidian Flow is a nearby volcano that displays volcanic rock.
Glass Buttes, a small group of volcanic peaks located north of Christmas Valley, is where you will find large obsidian deposits. The Bureau of Land Management manages the land and it is open for hiking, camping hunting, rock collecting and hunting. Casual collectors will find pull-outs close to U.S. Route 20. While serious rock hounds may have their own secret spots at Glass Buttes. The ground is littered with shards and colors of obsidian, which glimmer in the desert sunlight.
Jamie Hale/The Oregonian
Take U.S. Route 20 East from Bend to find Glass Buttes. Look for an unmarked dirt road along the south side, between mile markers 76-77. Follow the main road to several pull-outs. Turn left and continue straight. A primitive campground is located 2.3 miles away from the highway. This spot is a good one.