I have a deep love for The Steens Mountains. I often find myself dreaming about packing my bags and taking a spur of the moment vacation. The Steens offer unbelievable views, unique wildlife and hundred of thousands of wildflowers. As you can probably guess, The Steens Mountains is my favorite place in the world. Let me guide you through my road trip. Maybe you can make the journey one day!
The Steens Mountain
We started off on our journey from Bend, OR. The drive was only 4 hours and 30 minutes from Bend. If you leave from Portland, OR, you can add an additional two hours to that time. We were lucky to leave early enough to arrive at the Steens around 10:00 am.
Make sure to call the Steen Mountains Ranger Station before you make the drive. The Steens road on the mountain is closes until the beginning of July, unless there is a lot of snow. We were able to come on the first opening weekend. The road was nice and gravelly smooth, a nice change from the wash board gravel I am so used to seeing. The first weekend is absolutely the best weekend to go!
Fish Lake Campground
Fish Lake Campground is one of the campgrounds you can camp near The Steens Mountain. It offers beautiful Aspen trees. But beware, this campground is right next to a small lake. It is filled with thousands of mosquitos. Although it is beautiful, it might be best to camp somewhere else.
Down the road we stopped and viewed the canyon near the Little Blitzen River. It had absolutely fantastic views.
Along Steens Mountain Road was thousands of wildflowers. It almost felt like heaven. The warm sun on your skin, birds chirping, fresh air, and the beautiful abundance of wildflowers. None of these photos does it justice. Its one of those times where you just had to be there and experience it in person.
There are so many fantastic view points along the Steens Mountain Road. I would suggest stopping at: Kiger Gorge Overlook, East Rim Overlook, and this unnamed spot. There is basically so many view points on this road, don't be surprised if you stop your car every 5 minutes.
South Steens Campground
After exploring the Steens Mountain Road we headed back down the mountain to South Steens Campground. This is my favorite campground near the Steens. It has lots of spots, clean bathrooms, and is relatively quiet (besides the RV generators). It is only $6 dollars a night to camp here. So not a bad price at all!
Wild Horse Lake Hike
We slept in on day two and made breakfast at our campsite. After we were full, we headed back up to Steens Mountain Road. We drove around for a couple hours, taking photos and flying the drone.
Wild Horse Lake Trail is a 3.2 miles hike with a 1,200 ft elevation gain. This was a great hike! The views are spectacular. Because of the time of year we went there was a little snow on the trail. We did have to maneuver around these snowy parts. This hike is difficult, but getting to the lake is definitely work it. Keep an eye out for big horn sheep. We didn't see any, but they are located in the area.
I would suggest walking to the top of the mountain, near the cell towers. It's not much farther and offers a drastic view of the lake.
After this great hike, we decided to drive back to our campground. Along the way we saw a sign for the Riddle Brother Ranch. Since we had a lot of extra time, we decided to check it out. It is fairly close to the campsite. But you do have to drive on a narrow, bumpy dirt road. I wouldn't suggest doing this in the rain. Could be sketchy.
Riddle Brother Ranch
We arrived to the gates of the Riddle Brother Ranch, and was surprised by the multiple historic posters. The posters were very interesting to read. Don't miss out!
The Riddle Brother Ranch is a historic site near The Steens Mountains. There were three Riddle brothers that helped contribute to the large livestock industry in the Pacific North West. All three brothers settled near the bottom of the Steens and built their ranch. All structures still remain on the property. It was pretty incredible to see the original buildings.
The couple staying at that this site, were very friendly and gave us a tour of the property. He even gave us directions to a hike to a swimming hole. We ended up walking for 3 miles but couldn’t find it. There wasn't really a path, so we probably just got lost.
Even though we got lost, we saw some pretty spectacular butterflies!
On the third day we left the South Steens Campground and headed to a hike near the Alvord Desert, about a two and half hour drive.
Pike Creek Hike
The Steens Mountains have almost 10,000 elevation. Driving to the Alvord Desert on the other hand is only 4,000. That's a big jump. Be aware, that even though its has some elevation, The Alvord Desert can get extremely hot.
We arrived at the Pike Creek Trail around 10:00 am and with the type of sandy dirt, it already felt like 90 degrees. This hikes was a blast, but it is very rocky. I wouldn't suggest hiking this trail unless you have some good shoes and also bring lotsss of water. Also be careful of rattle snakes. It has been known they can be near the trail.