Oregon’s Remote Steens Mountain: SPRING

Day 1: Diamond Crater/Happy Valley/Round Barn

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 spectacular geology.  Keep your eyes peeled today for wild Kiger mustangs roaming the hills. Highlights of the day could include dry lake bed investigating, hot spring searching & lava field exploration. We’ll even visit a historic site of cattle baron Pete French before settling into the comfort of Hotel Diamond. Meals L, D

Day 2: Pike Creek Canyon, Alvord Desert

The lonely desert roads lie ahead today!  The incredibly vast and unpopulated land will certainly strike awe in you. A desert trail will take us to the shores of the Alvord Playa, an ephemeral lake which in spring is typically flooded.  A hike up a lonely and wondrous east-side canyon will provide amazing insight to the land and its formation.  At a most indigenous hostelry we’ll enjoy a glass of wine on the lawn before a family style dinner.  Overnight  Frenchglen Hotel.  Meals: B, L, D

Day 3: Big Indian Canyon on Steens Mt.

The west slope of Steens enormous fault scarp has been left with the finger prints of glacial ice.  After visiting a super sweet turn-of-the-century homestead ranch we’ll migrate on foot up this scoured canyon.  It’ll leave you with incredibly lush images of the eastern Oregon landscape.  Overnight Frenchglen Hotel. Meals: B, L, D

Day 4: Malheur Wildlife Refuge

After a relaxing morning of sipping coffee we’ll visit the refuge, home to millions of migrating birds.  The refuge headquarters with its small but impressive museum will be our last stop before heading back into Bend.  We trust that a travel desire will have been sipped upon, but certainly not quenched. Meals: B, Lunch is on your own on the drive back.

Packing List:

June 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 even June can be a bit chilly, so be prepared for any type of weather. At one point, we might see snow high up!

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)