Steens Mountain is one of the highest roads of Oregon

Steens Mountain is a high mountain peak at an elevation of 2,968m (9,737ft) above sea level, located in Harney County, in the U.S. state of Oregon. It’s said to be the highest road of Oregon.

Steens Mountain

Where is Steens Mountain?

The mountain is located in the southeastern part of Oregon, not far from Nevada, within the Steens Mountain Wilderness.

Why is it called Steens Mountain?

The summit underwent a renaming in 1860 in honor of Major Enoch Steen of the United States Army. He was renowned for his role in confronting and repelling members of the Paiute tribe from the mountain.

How long is the road to Steens Mountain in OR?

The road to the summit is totally unpaved. It’s called Steens Mountain Loop Road. Starting at OR-205, near Frenchglen, the road is 43.61km (27.1 miles) long. The road departs the tiny, historic town of Frenchglen and climbs up Oregon’s eighth-tallest mountain on a tour of massive gorges, vast panoramas, and one of the most spectacular lakes in the Pacific Northwest.

Is the road to Steens Mountain in OR safe?

The road is not difficult at all. It’s bumpy in places, but much of the surface has been upgraded and improved in recent years, except for one short, narrow, steep section of the road near the viewpoints of Big Indian and Little Blitzen gorges. It can be driven by standard vehicles, and passenger cars shouldn’t have any trouble. The gravel is generally good throughout the route.

Is Steens Mountain in OR open?

The road is usually open from mid-June to October, weather permitting. A gated road (closed to the public) goes right to the top, at 9,737 feet to service an array of communications towers. Snow can remain on the road into the summer, delaying the opening of the full loop. The mountain’s high elevation can cause rapid temperature changes. Blustery, 100-degree days are common and snow can fall year-round. Be prepared for sudden lightning storms, snow, rain, and high winds.

Is the road to Steens Mountain in OR steep?

The road to the summit is steep. Starting at the tiny, historic town of Frenchglen, on OR-205, the elevation gain is 1.689 meters. The average gradient is 3.87%.

Is Steens Mountain in OR worth it?

Deep in the southeast section of Oregon, the road is a spectacular gem in the high desert and provides sweeping views of the region, including Wildhorse Lake and Keigor Gorge. The road also provides access to Steens Summit and the Riddle Brothers Ranch National Historic District campgrounds. The peak isn’t quite sublime, however, because cell phone and radio towers, along with propane tanks, are present. It’s one of Oregon’s most rugged and lesser-visited destinations. Be aware of ticks, mosquitoes, and rattlesnakes in certain areas during spring and summer. The area is the premier recreation destination in Southeast Oregon and an iconic part of the Oregon's High Desert landscape. The drive offers an extraordinary landscape of volcanic uplifts, deep glacier-carved gorges, stunning scenery, wilderness, wild rivers, and a rich diversity of plant and animal species.
Pic: Jared McCullough