Flickr album link: Steens Mountain Wilderness
Just a few miles north of Denio on the Nevada Border is where the Steens Mountain Wilderness is located. Denio Junction definitely is the place to top off the tank, since fueling stations are far and few between in the north end of the Great Basin Desert, especially on the Oregon side of the line. Many people get stranded in this region due to poor planning or the lack of navigational skills, so it is best to be aware of just how desolate this area really is.
When traveling north on Oregon Highway 205, Fields-Denio Road is the route to look for and this road runs by the east side of the Steens Mountain Wilderness. The reason why this touring route is recommended is because there are several interesting landmarks to discover nearby that will peak the interest of those who relish the thought of relaxing in a hot springs pool way out in the middle of nowhere. The Borax Hot Spring, Frog Springs and the Alvord Hot Springs Bath House & Campground are located in the valley along Fields-Denio Road east of the mountain. The flat Steens Mountain Lakebed is also in this area, which offers some breathtaking desert views.
There are rough dirt roads that go up both sides of Steens Mountain to the summit, where the trailhead to Wildhorse Lake can be found. There are several scenic areas to discover on the way uphill and this is one of the very best places to observe pronghorn antelope in sagebrush country. The Steens Mountain Wilderness covers over 170,000 acres, so there is plenty explore. Dispersed camping opportunities exist in this BLM territory, which certainly do appeal to those who wish to escape from the modern world.
On the downside, The Steens Mountain Wilderness can be greatly affected by thick smoke during the northern California wildfire season, which is something to keep in mind. As can be seen in the photos, the wildfire smoke was very thick during my visit, so I called off the excursion in order to avoid breathing problems. Even so, the few pictures captured demonstrate just how wild and unforgiving this region can be. Even with all the challenges, the Steens Mountain Wilderness is well worth experiencing, so be sure to place this very remote Great Basin Desert destination on the list!
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