Best hiked from July through mid-October, the High Desert Trail arises on an old, unused jeep road off the gravel-paved Steens Mountain Loop Road. The drive to the trailhead passes by campgrounds where you and Fido can choose to stay the night and extend your visit after your hike. You'll also see a turnoff for Kiger Gorge, a must-do side trip to view the magnificent glacier-created bowl gorge. Another junction further on leads to the East Rim and Steens Summit if you're up for a real challenge, as they both soar into the sky. The High Desert Hiking Trail is about a mile beyond this point, with a steady descent.
The old jeep road trail starts here and passes a small spring as it leads to a rocky outcrop from which you'll see pawsome Big Indian Gorge below and Steens Mountain, almost a mile high with a snow-covered peak even in summer. Wildflowers litter the landscape along the trail, and you're likely to spy desert wildlife like elk, snakes and lizards. The High Desert country of Oregon is home to raptors, porcupines and bobcats, as well as water-loving turtles, otters and waterfowl near the creeks and pools.
Other views of the gorge, Steens Mountain and other vistas are available from several additional dirt roads that veer off from the Steens Mountain Loop, but the High Desert Trail is the only one that is marked.
Bring the family and Fido for this brief hike and don't forget to enjoy the long drive which boasts its own scenic beauty as well!