Oregon’s Outback and The Steens

Last year when we meandered into Eastern Oregon, people raved about the Steens Mountains and how we HAD to see them.  Last week we took a quick trip over to see the area called Oregon’s Outback and the Steens.  They did not disappoint.  Very remote, free of commercialism, and very few other people.

Part of Oregon's Outback

Part of Oregon’s Outback

We opted to leave our new camper behind and stay in the iconic Frenchglen hotel.

Frenchglen Hotel

Frenchglen Hotel

It was built in 1916 as a rooming house for ranchers in the area and later used for travelers and school teachers that taught at the one room school house across the street (school still used and has two teachers). The hotel is historic and you eat family style and are able to mix with other travelers, I didn’t sleep much hearing doors and beds creak as people traveled down the hall to the shared bath.

The hotel is a great launching point for exploring this wilderness area.  Be prepared for lots of gravel roads and no services like stores or gas stations.  We went to see the Round Barn built in the 1880’s by Peter French, a rancher with over 45,000 head of cattle over thousands of acres.

The barn is a neat design which allows training of horses throughout the harsh winters with two circle areas under the roof.

We drove the 50+ miles loop through the Steens which are an unusual 30-mile fault block that is a small mountain range rather than a single peak. This route climbs thousands of feet and tops out just shy of the summit at 9,734 feet.

Kiger Gorge in the Steens

Kiger Gorge in the Steens

Aspens turning colors

Aspens turning colors

There are very few trees, except the beautiful quaking Aspens in the gorges which had turned a splendorous yellow. Just panoramic views for miles and the ability to see the full length of deep glacier carved gorges.

There are herds of wild horses that roam on the south side of the wilderness area.  We didn’t see any of them but did see plenty of rattle snakes. We scouted the four BLM campgrounds which are nice – just graveled sites with picnic table and vault toilets.  I wouldn’t suggest anyone with a camper longer than 20 ft attempt the curvy roads and short sites into these campgrounds without some advanced recon.

For you burger lovers, if you are on Hiway 205 near Fields, OR (population 12).  STOP, STOP, STOP at Fields Station.  Fresh 1/2 lb burgers, a selection of beer on tap, and homemade thick milkshakes are ubbergood.

Inside the barn

Inside the circle barn

Road leading into campground

Road leading into campground

Inside of round barn

Outside circle inside barn

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4 Responses to Oregon’s Outback and The Steens

  1. Truely unique place to visit. I really like the hotel.

  2. Kate Goetz says:

    Rattle snakes still? Wow, I would have thought they’d all be gone to hibernate by now. The aspens look beautiful.

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