Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon

Photo © Oregon State Parks

One of the newest additions to Oregon’s State Park system, the 8,000-acre Cottonwood Canyon State Park, opened in September, 2013, in the state’s scenic John Day River territory. It is Oregon’s second largest state park, and, until 2008, the land was used as a ranch.

When the park opened, it was with families in mind; near the main entrance, the park is family friendly without extreme adventure—picnicking, a primitive 21-site campground and short, easy day hiking. There is a day use area with a picnic shelter, a Welcome Center, flush restrooms and interpretive displays. The ranch’s old jeep roads now serve as trails.

While Cottonwood Canyon State Park is open year round, the seasons can be extreme. Winter visitors should come prepared to endure extreme cold, while summer brings blazing heat with little shade. The farther into the park one hikes, the more rugged the landscape. No matter how far into the park a visitor ventures, this desert landscape comes equipped with desert fauna. A camera or spotting scope will come in handy for sightings of elk, bighorn sheep and even rattlesnakes.

Be prepared for extremes and emergencies. If you hit the trail, even for a day hike, carry the 10 hiking essentials—navigation (map and compass), sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen), insulation (extra clothing), illumination (headlamp/flashlight), first-aid supplies, fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles), repair kit and tools, nutrition (extra food), hydration (extra water) and an emergency shelter.

To learn more about Cottonwood Canyon State Park, go to To travel to Oregon’s John Day River Territory, first visit