Steens Mountain located in Oregon's high desert is one of the crown jewels of the state's wildlands. It is some of the wildest and most remote land left in Oregon. Of the Wilderness acres designated by the public law that created this area, 98,859 acres are "cow-free", meaning that no grazing will be permitted.

The two trails shown here are Wildhorse Lake Trail and Steens Mountain Summit Trail, both start from the same parking lot.

The summit trail is actually a service road that is very steep but not too long. I do a lot of hiking and backpacking and was surprised how tiring the walk up was but remember this is at almost 10,000ft so that may affect you. The lake trail is very very steep with harsh switchbacks, but it's pretty short as well.

There is a third trail that branches off of the lake trail and goes along the ridge to the right, maybe a mile or so. It is pretty fun but isn't for children. It's rocky and on the ledge, though it's nothing too intense but not safe for some. I don't know the name of this trail unfortunately. I'll refer to it as Wildhorse Ridge Trail

backpacking
8 days ago

I went the weekend before the 4th of July and the weather was perfect, not too hot yet. I was actually afraid it would be too cold at night and if you camp at the very end on the stone lookout area I imagine it would be chilly and windy, so be prepared. I camped at 6.5 miles in and wish I had walked about another mile where the camping starts to get really good. There are forest groves and open areas without scratchy scrubs, and few access points to the creek until about 7.5 miles in.

I used a Garmin InReach which tracked the entire trip at about 17 miles if I remember correctly. In terms of terrain, I would rate the hike as easy with some moderate parts. I have no idea how it is rated hard other than the distance as it is mostly flat and smooth enough for horseback riding with older kids. If you made this a day hike it would be hard because of that, but not terrain. I ended up hiking 6.5 miles the first day and hiked the entire rest of it the next day, finishing by late afternoon a day early. I had a heavier than normal back due to extra water and was fine. Don't be deterred by the hard rating, it would be a great beginner two night backpacking trip. Bring lots of water!

If I could do it again I would hike all the way to the end and camp there, there's a nicely assembled firepit and a few good spots to set up tent without being right in the open.

Challenging and lonely hike in the Steens Mountain Wilderness. Lots of elevation change. Scenery is good the whole way. I went in winter but looks like there could be good wildflowers in spring. I expect it would be crazy hot here in the summer. Marked track here is accurate until near the end of the trail. Best to stay on the obvious trail and not go straight up the Butte like the track here shows.

backpacking
10 months ago

Beautiful trek! Well worth the effort to get there. The first bit of the trail out of the campground was the hardest (for me anyway). It's exposed and on a dry slope with a rocky trail. It looked like an old, disused Jeep road. But again, the views make it worth the effort despite the heat and rolling rocks on the trail. Once we reached the two mile mark, the trail dipped into a shady patch to the first creek crossing. It was a hot day, so it was great to get our feet wet. The trail followed the creek for a bit to another crossing and the remains of an old cabin. The trail through this section was very clear and easy to follow. At the third creek crossing, the path began to grow denser with sage brush. I would recommend long pants and was really happy to have a pair on. We hiked to 6.2 miles and felt that the trail was easy to follow and not all that overgrown. We had backpacked in with the intention to stay overnight if we found a good spot. However, when we reached Cottonwood Camp we decided not to stay. It's a lovely spot if you have it all to yourself, but open and that made it a bit too "communal" for us when we knew some other backpackers were coming up the trail behind us. There were a few other primitive campsites along the trail, but all were right on the trail and offered no privacy or solitude if anyone walked by. (I'm probably just picky about my campsites.) All in all, this was a great hike! While it is remote, we saw other people on the trail including those with horses. So, it seems to be a well used trail and I can see why.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

great views... trails are good, not great. the view though - simply amazing. feul up at burns!!! Road is better, but still gravelly and bumpy so make sure to have good tires. 5 star for the views.

camping
Sunday, August 16, 2015

The views of the rock formations and dramatic mountain scenery are phenomenal in this area. We hiked this trail to the 7 mile point with backpacking and camping gear, and really enjoyed the stunning views as the scenery unfolded up the majestic canyon. Having said that, there are a few logistical concerns to share about this trail. It is extremely overgrown with sagebrush past the 3 mile point. We were wearing shorts and got very scratched up from having to plough through the sagebrush. The BLM information on this trail states that "many beautiful, existing primitive campsights beckon the overnighter," however, we could not find a single campsight area to pitch a tent. They may have been lost to disuse, as this trail appears to have very little traffic. The 3 stream crossings required wading through a foot of water, even in early August. Other than that, a great trail, and we would do it again - perhaps with a machete!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lovely views, flowers, and birds.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lots of mosquitoes. Hot exposed switchbacks up ridge after crossing creek. Pretty vistas but more challenging than the trail is rated.

hiking
Saturday, December 29, 2012

A beautiful hike into the heart of Steens Mountain. It's well worth the effort it takes to get there. I wish we had decided to spend the night, as it was a trudge to hike all the way out and then drive back to Frenchglen.

If you go, watch out for rattlesnakes - there are numerous warnings posted at the trailhead.

backpacking
Thursday, July 20, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Saturday, May 23, 2015