Sheer cliffs tower 1,000 feet above you as you ride the trail into spectacular Little Blitzen Gorge. You'll ride through aspens, cottonwoods, lush grass and seasonal wildflowers as you follows the Little Blitzen River up into the gorge.
Distance: Up to 20 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,300 to 6,300 feet
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 2 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.
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.
Getting to South Steens Campground
Located approximately 90 miles south of Burns, in the southeast corner of Oregon. Take Hwy. 20 through Burns and veer east on Hwy. 78. After 1.7 miles, turn right on Hwy. 205. Follow it 59 miles to the town of Frenchglen, then continue another 10 miles. Turn left on the gravel South Loop Road (the sign mentions the Upper Blitzen River) and drive 19 dusty and washboard miles through spectacular desert terrain (watch for antelope and wild horses), and turn right into the campground.
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.