Hike Pike Creek Trail in the Steens Mountains

Rate this Adventure 5.4 miles 1500 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Shannon Kalahan

Pike Creek Trail is one of the few hikes to tackle the Steens Mountains from their dramatic, steep eastern face. This hike follows an old mining road along the southern edge of a canyon, and offers views of unique rock formations on all sides, stunning views of the playa to the east, and a glimpse into the local prospect mining history.

 Starting at approximately 4300’,  Pike Creek trail is about 5.4 miles RT to Pike’s Knob, out and back, however the entire hike is stunning and there is no wrong place to turn back.

The road for the Pike Creek Trail is a few miles north of the Alvord Hot Springs, on an unmarked, heavily rutted turn off.  Look for a dirt road with a cattle guard on the west side of the road, about 1.9 miles north of the Alvord Hot Springs and 3.6 miles south of the Alvord Ranch headquarters. If you do not have a four wheel drive high clearance vehicle, expect to park in a pull out closer to the Fields-Denio Road junction and hike the half mile up to the trailhead.  If you have a high clearance vehicle, you can carefully make your way to a parking area at the trail head.  There is a use fee for parking and camping, which is payable at the Alvord Hot Springs office.

The parking and trailhead is marked by a giant boulder with a juniper growing out of it.  You park on the north side of the creek, and the first portion of the trail runs along the south side, so you’ll need to bushwhack across the stream to find the old mining road you will be following.  Within the first quarter of a mile, you’ll see a wilderness sign-in box, with some breath-taking (or maybe it’s the altitude) long views back east towards to the Alvord Desert below.  The trail continues on through the scenic slot canyon, high above the creek, on a fairly well maintained track.  There are a few areas where the gravel is loose and the trail is unstable, so those with a fear of heights may struggle in a few spots – the buddy system seems to help in these areas.

After one mile, the roadbed descends into cottonwood groves along Pike Creek and hikers begin to see the ruins of the old uranium mining prospect, both along the trail and up the hillside to the south.  From here, the trail crosses the stream, so you’re now following along the north side of Pike Creek.  If you intend to hike in early spring, during spring run-off, use caution at this crossing.

For the next 0.3 miles you’ll walk past more mining ruins and dramatic overhanging cliffs, and head into a series of switchbacks.  This is where we turned back, however, the rest of the views along the trail to Pike’s Knob are supposed to be spectacular.  If not for it being our second hike of the day and the late hour, we would have kept going.  It’s just an excuse to go back!

Total elevation gain to the creek crossing and mining ruins is approximately 500’.  Total elevation gain for the entire trail is approximately 1500’.

Be sure to fill up on gas before you head to the Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert area.  There are year round gas stations in Burns and Fields, OR.  There is also limited cell phone service and supplies to be bought, so over-prepare for the trip.

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