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Big Indian Gorge Trail, Steens Mountain

One of the best reasons to visit Steens Mountain is to ride the Big Indian Gorge Trail.  Not only is the scenery spectacular, but there's also nothing like it in the Northwest.  And the horse-camping facilities are nice. 

Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain

The Big Indian Gorge Trail

The trail through Big Indian Gorge is the easier of the two gorge trails accessible from South Steens Campground.  It begins between campsites 9 and 10 and travels over a rocky hillside, then into the canyon and along the shore of Big Indian Creek.

The contrast between the sagebrush and bunchgrass of the glaciated valley floor, the lush vegetation along the creek, and the jagged cliffs soaring 1,000 feet above you is breathtaking.

Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain

Near the east end of the gorge, the trail crosses just above a waterfall you can hike down to on foot.  And if you ride all the way to the box canyon at the east end of the gorge, you’ll see waterfalls cascading off the cliffs all around you.   What a splendid ride!

Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain

The Backstory

Steens Mountain, located in southeastern Oregon, is the largest fault block mountain in the Great Basin.  Eons ago, enormous pressure under the earth’s crust pushed up one side of an existing fault line, creating the jagged east face of Steens Mountain, which towers nearly a mile above the Alvord Desert below.  On the west side (where you'll be riding), Steens Mountain slopes down more gradually.  Over time, the western side was carved by glaciers that created the Big Indian, Little Blitzen, Kiger, and Wildhorse gorges.

Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain

The Camping

You’ll find nice horse facilities at South Steens Campground, which features a horse camp on one side and a family campground on the other.  The campground lies between the mouths of Big Indian Gorge and Little Blitzen Gorge, providing access to the trails that run through these U-shaped glaciated valleys.  It offers corrals, potable water, and a toilet.

Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain

More Information

The Big Indian Gorge Trail is covered in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at

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