FKT: Steven "Aria Zoner" Thompson - Steens Mountain Crossing (OR) - 2020-10-07

Route variation
Standard point-to-point
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
8h 37m 56s
GPS track(s)

On 10-6-2020, I completed the Little Wildhorse Lakes Loop ( then left my car at the trailhead and rode my bike back down to the South Steens Campground. On the way in, I had stashed a basic camp setup and spent the night at the closet site to the trail, site 22. In the morning, I restashed my setup, then at 9:02am, departed with only minimal supplies and no backpack. The trail up Big Indian Canyon was in great shape and there were several stream crossings. Ascending the head wall out of the canyon was in my opinion pretty sweet. I was expecting much worse after reading so many horror stories. To my surprise, there was water on this upper part as well.

At Steens Mountain, I stopped by my car as I passed thru the trailhead, had lunch, then left again minimally supplied. A few minutes later, at exactly 5 hours in, I reached the summit communication towers. Without stopping, I continued down to Wildhorse Lake. From here, the going is XC for the next few miles but pretty fast if you stay in the creek bed. Approaching the exit saddle, it's imperative to arrive at the correct elevation. Here, the route is traversing level, thru thick brush, then suddenly, rounds a bend leaving you mid cliff. From this point only, a narrow - slanted but sandy - catwalk continues traversing along the cliffs. From them, the final bit to the saddle is best done at a slightly higher elevation.

After pushing past the previous section, the final miles down an old dirt road to Alvord Hot Springs went extremely fast. At the springs, I checked in then retrieved a second basic camp setup I had dropped off the day before, already in a pack. After setting up, I enjoyed a long hot soak as the sun set. In the morning, I packed up, soaked from 5-6am, then rewound back up to my car at Steens Mountain Trailhead. After picking up my cache at South Steens Campground, I headed for the Station in Fields to partake in this route's post completion ritual, milkshakes!

*The road from Alvord Hot Springs to the entrance/exit saddle to Steens Mountain Wilderness is private. Permission is required to pass. There are also locked gates at several places along it. Soaking feels are $10 day, $40 night. However, access to the wilderness is free with prior permission from Alvord Hot Springs.