Route: Steens Mountain Crossing (OR)

Submitted by hlaptalo on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 07:36am
Oregon, US
22.31 mi
Vertical Gain
5,222 ft

Steens Mountain is in the southeastern part of the Oregon, and is a large fault-block mountain, located in Harney County and it stretches some 50 miles (80 km) north to south, and rises from alongside the Alford Desert at elevation of about 4,200 feet (1,300 m) to a summit elevation of 9,733 feet (2,967 m). It is sometimes confused with a mountain range, but is properly a single mountain.

The Steens Mountain Crossing is a path less traveled and estimated to be about 23 miles long one-way.  The journey starts  from the Big Indian Gorge Trailhead at the South Steens Campground.  Here you have a trail for about 7 miles, then you reach the gorge's headwall where you begin to climb up towards the Steens Mountain summit.  There are pieces of a trail but no real path up the headwall.  When you top out, you're on the Steens Mountain Loop gravel road, which takes you to the highest point on the mountain.  Here, you get your first glimpse of the Alvord Desert to the east before dropping down to Wildhorse Lake via a south-side slope from the summit.  There is no trail through Wildhorse Canyon and much of it is filled with sagebrush and other obstacles that make navigating your way east rather tricky.   Once you climb your way out of the bushes, you reach a saddle where you get another breathtaking view of the desert.   A large cairn at the top of the saddle marked the turn that connects you to an old dirt road, which winds you all the way down to the edge of the Alvod Desert. 

The crossing can be done in either direction.



Having spent extensive time out here myself, I really agree that your linked Steens Traverse is the full traverse.  I think this is a fun partial traverse route that has merits for sure!  And I love seeing people out creating new adventures in this space.

To Heather LaptaloKristina KurcinkaBecky Schreiber, absolutely no insult or hard feelings here! you created a cool link up and maybe just didn't know of this existing much more complete variation by Christof. Thank you all for contributing your creativity to this forum!!! it will inspire people!

To Admin:  I think that Teuscher's Steens Mountain Traverse should be considered the "standard route" for a "Steens Mountain Traverse" and that this shorter variation be the "Big Indian Gorge to Alvord Playa" variation.

Teuscher's route has been documented for longer, utilizes a developing trail system, and tackles a much more complete, aesthetic traverse of the range.

Christof, I hope you will submit a gpx file and route description of your traverse through the "add a route" so that it can be added as the standard route or "Teuscher Steens Traverse" here

with undying stoke,
Jason Hardrath

Awesome. Look forward to trying both routes in the near future.

I was studying the Steens range as a route and I found Christof’s 75 mi N-S traverse. I considered scouting a loop beginning in the west and traversing both canyons with a Steens summit. I love that this route provides a shorter option. But Loops are my favorite as a solo unsupported adventurer. 

I just submitted the route. I called it the "Real Steens Traverse" because it requires a new name, but I personally don't care what it's called. Both traverses are equally valid to me. Perhaps they could be listed as N-S and W-E traverse or something.

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This brings back great ODT memories. Think I'll have to try this route. Steens is definitely one of the highlights of the ODT.