The Steens Mountain is a large fault-block mountain located in southeastern Oregon. It runs north to south for about 50 miles. To its east is the Alvord Desert at 4,200 feet in elevation. The summit of the Steens is 9,733 feet and is the highest drivable road in Oregon. The Steens Mountain is surrounded by The Steens Mountain Wilderness which is 170,166 acres.
The history of the Steens Mountain starts a ways back. It was called the “Snowy Mountains” by John Work, one of the first European fir traders in the area. Then in 1860 it was renamed after the United States Army Major Enoch Steen, who fought members of the Paiute tribe on the mountain.
The Steens Mountain is composed of stacked basalts on its east face. The vegetation changes greatly due to the large varied elevation. Some common plants include sagebrush, juniper, bunchgrass, mountain mahogany, aspen, Steens paintbrush, and mountain meadow knotweed. The mountain is distinct in that it has an absence of conifers, even at the elevations they would normally be found at. It is the largest mountain area without conifers. This may be due to its isolated location.
The west slope of the Steens Mountain has a 52-mile loop road. This road reaches an elevation of 9,700 feet. On this road there are viewpoints such as Kiger Gorge and the summit. Some popular activities include numerous hot springs, camping sites, pick nick locations, cycling, hiking, stargazing, and more.
Looking to plan your trip to the Steens Mountain? Check out the GPX files for routes from Burns to the 52-mile loop or longer trips to include the Alvord Desert. There are no amenities so be sure to pack enough water, fuel, food, and essentials. Please remember to Tread Lightly!