Wide, wild and rich with color, Big Indian Gorge is one of the most visually stunning Oregon canyons to hike through. Located on southeast Oregon's Steens Mountain, the gorge trail begins at the back of South Steens Campground.
The hike itself runs about 8 miles, with the trailhead beginning with 1.9 miles on an old road. You'll start off walking through grassy meadows and below wide-open sky. Expect to pass through acres of cottonwood and aspen trees, as well as multiple stretches of gorgeous meadows, especially in the spring and summer months.
On your way, look for three stream crossings. These can be difficult or impassable at times in the spring and early summer, as they stretch 10 to 15 feet wide and require careful footwork. But beyond these tricky river crossings, the scenery ramps up, and the landscape ahead is carpeted with sagebrush, aspen, and juniper.
Note that the trail fades out after the first 7 miles, and then becomes a cross-country hike. But the challenge is worth it; Big Indian Gorge Trail offers up stunning views at the end amid wildflowers, glacier-carved rock and waterfalls tumbling out of the headwall. There are also primitive campsites scatted throughout the trail for overnight hikers.
There is no cost to park or hike in this area. Rated as a moderately difficult hike by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Elevation gain: 1,800 feet.
Season dates: 6/1 - 10/20
From Burns, follow Highway 205 south for 61 miles to Frenchglen. Then continue another 10 miles south toward Fields. Turn left onto Steens Mountain Loop Road, for 19 miles to South Steens Campground. The trailhead is in the back of the family campground area.
Learn more about nearby Malheur National Wildlife Area and the Frenchglen hotel:
Learn more about the Big Indian Gorge Trail: