The trail through Little Blitzen Gorge is impressive. Sheer cliffs tower 1,000 feet above you as you follow the Little Blitzen River, riding beneath stands of aspens and cottonwoods and through lush grass and seasonal wildflowers.
The trail starts directly across the road from South Steens Campground and runs over an arid, rocky hillside, then it crosses the Little Blitzen River and heads up into its namesake gorge.
The next two miles of the trail are challenging, as the trail is narrow, rocky, and in several places it crosses hillsides that plunge steeply to the river below.
After that, the gorge widens out, the going gets much easier, and the scenery is gorgeous.
You can picnic along the creek or in the cottonwood groves, where the horses can graze while you lounge in the shade. The mosquitoes can be voracious in early summer, so bring lots of bug spray or plan to come later in the season.
Overnight camping and day-use parking are available at South Steens Campground, which offers 15 equestrian campsites with sturdy hitching rails, fire pits, and picnic tables. Five sites have oversized corrals that can hold 2 horses. Several sites can accommodate 2 trailers. The camp has potable water, a toilet, garbage cans, and a manure bin.
Keep a sharp eye out as you drive to and from South Steens Campground, and you may spot one of the bands of wild horses or burros that live in the area.
You’ll find more information about the Little Blitzen Trail and other trails at Steens Mountain in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.