Steens Mountain

Diamond, Oregon 97721

Steens Mountain

Steens Mountain Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"In eastern Oregon, Steens Mountain is the most well-known Basin and Range uplift. The raw, nearly vertical east face towers more than 5000 feet above the Alvord Desert and playa, dominating the landscape. From the west, the gentle slopes lure visitors to its layered interior, which is exposed in the rugged gorges carved by glacial ice and corrosive rivers. Steens Mountain is a classic north-south fault block and consists of many layers of distinct lava flows.

The scramble up the imposing headwall of Big Indian Gorge will reward adventurous scramblers with a sense of accomplishment. Although you are able to drive to the top of Steens Mountain, scrambling up the gorge gives you a unique perspective on this Oregon natural wonder. Special considerations: The BLM map has updated road information. Steens Mountain is preserved as a Wilderness and cooperative management area. Practice “Leave No Trace.”"

More Steens Mountain Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Backpacking Oregon: From Rugged Coastline to Mountain Meadow (Wilderness Press)
Douglas Lorain
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"Steens Mountain dominates the landscape of southeastern Oregon. At 9,733 feet it towers over the hills and marshes of the surrounding desert, and can be seen for hundreds of miles in all directions. People are drawn to this landmark for many reasons, not least of which is the scenery. The majestic beauty of this desert mountain has no equal in Oregon or, arguably, anywhere else in North America. The cliffs on the mountain’s eastern escarpment drop over 5,500 feet to the flat expanse of Alvord Desert. On the gently sloping west side of the mountain, Ice Age glaciers carved immense U-shaped gorges that are among the most impressive in the world. In most of North America, forests now obscure the evidence of past glaciation. Wildlife is plentiful, including bighorn sheep, badger, coyote, bobcat, and the occasional rattlesnake (especially in the lower parts of the canyons). Best of all, the isolation and the lack of official trails mean there’s plenty of solitude—except, perhaps, during the fall hunting season. If you do this hike just before the higher parts of the loop road open to cars, you may have the entire trip to yourself. The road’s lower elevations open in May." Read more
Hiking Oregon (State Hiking Guides Series) (Falcon Guides)
Lizann Dunegan
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"Take a tour through the Wild West in Oregon’s southeast desert. The star attraction of your tour is 9,733-foot Steens Mountain, a magnificent geologic wonder located approximately 60 miles southeast of Burns. There are several ways to explore this amazing mountain. You can start your tour in the tiny town of Frenchglen and head up to the summit using Steens Mountain Loop. Along the way you may see wild horses roaming the hills around you. You’ll be surrounded by expansive views and pure solitude. At different viewpoints along the route, you’ll see magnificent glaciercarved gorges and sweeping views of Winter Rim, Summer Lake, Lake Abert, Abert Rim, the Warner Basin, Hart Mountain, and the Alvord Basin." Read more

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Trail Information

Nearby City
4,588 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Easy to Moderate
Skill Level
12 to 15 hours
Best July to November
5,251 feet
Trailhead Elevation
9,733 feet
Top Elevation
Bureau of Land Management, Burns District
Local Contacts
USGS Fish Lake, Wildhorse Lake; Sportsman Series, Baca Lake, Oregon BLM map
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018