Northwest of Lake Billy Chinook a road dead ends into a short dirt trail, and at the end of that trail lies one of the most spectacular and unusual remnants of Oregon's volcanic history. Known only as Balancing Rocks, it is exactly as the name suggests, a field of massive boulders precariously balanced atop stone spires perched on a slope overlooking the Metolius River.
These unique sculptures are the result of three distinctly welded volcanic tuffs settled upon one another and weathered away at different rates. Hoodoo Tuff forms the spires with the remains of Flycreek and Turkey Ball Tuff (named because Volcanologists have a sense of humor, too) forming the balanced rocks. After these tuffs were placed as striated layers of stone, erosion began to do its work and much was worn away, but sequential layers of tuff were protected by layers above them. Shielded portions remain as spires with their guardians perched delicately upon them.
This geologic marvel is unmarked and unmapped in an attempt to save the area from overexploitation, vandalism, and overzealous, under-educated Boy Scout leaders. Historically, a thick juniper-pine forest camouflaged the rocks and a gentlemen's agreement kept the area out of the press as well. When fire ripped through in 2002 and exposed the rocks, the jig was up, and it is now generally considered acceptable to give directions to this spectacular site. While it can be reached by bike or foot, due to its remote location, it may not be fully accessible to folks with disabilities.
To get there from Bend head north to Lake Billy Chinook/Cove Palisades Park. Drive west through Cove Palisades toward Perry South campground in the Deschutes National Forest. At 13.7 miles west of the Deschutes River arm bridge, look for the balancing rocks parking area and trailhead 0.1 mile west of the junction with Forest Road #1170. GPS coordinates are N 44° 34.672 W 121° 25.315.