“Steens Mountain Sunrise”
Steens Mountain is located in a remote part of Southeast Oregon, west of the famed Alvord Desert. Steens is the largest fault block mountain in North America and tops out at 9,733 feet of elevation. In early spring, lupines proliferate on the dry eastern slopes of Steens while alpine wildflowers decorate high elevation meadows.
Rising more than 4,000 feet above the adjacent Alvord Desert, Steens is a dramatic sight. Named… perhaps misnamed… after Enoch Steen, a US Army Major, who chased and harassed members of the Paiute tribe off of the namesake mountain.
In October of 2000, President Bill Clinton signed legislation which created the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and protection act which helps to protect some of this area against cattle grazing and mining .
A 52 mile long scenic byway traverses the Aspen Grove laden west slopes of the mountain, making for a fantastic autumn drive, peaking at over 9,700 feet, making it the highest elevation road in Oregon. Snow fields may persist well into summer at high elevations, so check in at the French Glen Store prior to committing to drive the scenic loop as snow gates will be closed when the upper reaches of the road are impassable.
Beneath the Alvord Desert which is adjacent to Steens is a prominent geothermal area. geothermal activity has created multiple hot springs, including Mickey Hot springs, Borax Hot springs and Alvord Hot springs which offers rustic camping facilities , provisions, and improved hot springs with stunning views of the mountain and the Alvord Desert.
This area is one of the most remote in all of the lower 48 of the United States and because of the scarcity of development and therefore lights, this area offers stunning night sky viewing. popular hikes include Pikes Creek and Wildhorse Lake. Please do your research before planning either of these hikes as access can be complicated.