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Steens Mountain

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to the headwall of the Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain (bobcat)
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Stevens Mountain is a 50-mile long basalt fault block with a steep eastern face and more gradual slopes facing west. The mountain is distinguished by five classic U-shaped gorges, the Kiger, Little Blitzen, Big Indian, Little Indian, and Wildhorse as well as several other deeply excised valleys. These glacial processes began about 1.6 million years ago during the last ice age.

The mountain has had a long and continuous history of human occupation. Native Americans foraged and hunted along the canyon bottom, and Euro-American stockmen arrived in the late 19th century with their herds; at the beginning of the 20th century there were at least 100,000 head of sheep and cattle grazing in the Steens Mountain area. Most of the mountain now lies within the Steens Mountain Wilderness, part of the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area created in 2000. The governing body is the Bureau of Land Management.

The 52-mile loop road, now good gravel all the way, is usually opened sometime in June. There are drive-in campgrounds on the north and south legs of the loop road. You can drive almost to the summit (It's a 1/4 mile hike from where you park your car), where there is a communications tower. Others choose to reach the summit via a backpacking trip, making a loop using the Big Indian Gorge and Little Blitzen Gorge. Views from the summit extend east over the Alvord Desert (5,000 feet below), north to the Strawberry Mountains, south to the Pueblos, and west to Hart Mountain.

The mountain is named after Major Enoch Steen, U.S. Army, who pursued a band of Snake Indians over the summit area in 1860.

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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