Oregon’s Remote Steens Mountain Itinerary: FALL

Day 1: Bend/ Hart Mt. Antelope Refuge/ Frenchglen

Bend lies on the outermost western edge of the Great Basin Desert.  Our first day’s journey will transport us deeper into the fabled sagebrush country of the graceful pronghorn and cattle baron, Peter French. Our visit at Hart Mt., high up in the Warner Mountains, will include a secluded dip into a steaming hot spring.  Overnight Frenchglen Hotel.  Meals: L, D

Day 2: Steens Mountain Loop

After a hearty breakfast with group members, our route takes us to heights of 9,700 feet where vistas over the driest section of Oregon meet the eye.  The cracked earth a mile below is striking, while remnant snow patches atop the Steens persist from last winter’s deposits.  We’ll walk the uplifted slopes of Steens Mt. where the changing aspens fill our senses of sight and smell while the rustling leaves whisper in our ears.  A good hike into glacial cut Wildhorse Canyon where shimmering waters lie will enliven your senses! Deep, water-cut canyons will guide us back to Frenchglen for a second night.  Meals: B, L, D

Day 3:  Pike Creek Canyon/Alvord Desert

The lonely desert roads lie ahead today!  The incredibly vast and unpopulated land will certainly strike awe in you. Lying at the eastern base of the Steens, 5,000 feet below our perch atop Steens the day before, lies the Alvord Desert.  The Alvord is a playa, dried by the scorching sun, on the edge of which flows the perennial hot waters of Alvord Spring.  Plunging into this ephemeral playa is Pike Creek which flows through its eroded canyon on the Steens east flank.  Willow, sage, cottonwood and gurgling water accompany our hike up-canyon.  Exhilarated by the natural world, we’ll arrive at the Hotel Diamond.  Overnight Hotel Diamond.  Meals: B, L, D

Day 4:  French Round Barn/ Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

After a leisurely morning we’ll visit the historic round barn built by cattle king, Peter French.  Fascinating history will flood your mind while walking the inner planks of this structure. Oregon’s expansive and rugged countryside plays a hospitable host to thousands of migrating birds which we will view at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. By afternoon we will return to Bend, a travel desire having been sipped upon, but likely not quenched.  Meals: B

Packing List:

Fall weather is usually good in the Steens with day time temperatures in the 70’s and with lows in the 40’s. Be aware that fall can be a bit chilly, so be prepared for any type of weather. At one point, we might see snow!

It is always recommended to dress in layers each day. Our tour is casual; we want to be in and see the natural world! There will be no activities or events which demand anything but casual attire. With that said, here are some ideas for packing, though not exhaustive.

  • Warm jacket
  • winter hat, light gloves
  • Sweatshirt
  • Hiking clothes
  • Bathing suit for the hot springs! 
  • Hiking shoes and socks
  • Sandals for the hot springs (ones which can get wet)
  • Rain shell, just in case of a fluke on the desert
  • Sun protection: Hat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Day pack for hiking
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks if desired
  • Binoculars for bird watching

Your guide will wow you with the natural and cultural history of the Steens Mountain Area during your tour, but if you find some time prior to your trip, here are some great reads.

Flora of Steens Mountain
Donald Mansfield
Oregon State Univ. Press, 2000

Happy Valley
Anne Shannon Moore
Oregon State Univ. Press, 1916
Can be found at Bend’s High Desert Museum

Hart Mt. National Antelope Refuge Comprehensive Management Plan Vol. I and II
An EIS prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Sagebrush Country, A Wildflower Sanctuary
By Ronald J. Taylor (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1992)

Cattle Country of Peter French
By Giles French (Binfords & Mort, Publishers, 1964)

Harney County, An Historical Inventory
By Royal Jackson and Jennifer Lee (Gail Graphics, 1978)