Steens Mountain

I moved to Oregon last July for graduate school. Upon arrival, I asked two of my professors, both lifelong Oregon residents, the same question: whites your favorite part of the state? Both responded with the same answer. Steens Mountain.

I'd seen the feature marked on maps before, a long mountain running southwest to northeast down in the southeastern corner of the state, far away from the population centers in the west. I checked Google Maps to see how long it would take to drive there: 7 hours. If I was going to visit Steens, it wasn't going to be a daytrip.

A year passed, and I explored most other regions of the state. There was so much to see so close by, plus the various responsibilities associated with grad school. Steens remained unseen. In May, I did see it from a distance, skirting its southern end on a field trip. In August, I drew closer, driving along its eastern flank. It was an impressive sight to be sure, but it was only a sight. I craved a more complete experience. In mid-October, that's what I got.

For the better part of three days, a few friends and I roamed the magical landscapes on and around Steens Mountain, a fault block mountain made of uplifted lava flows with its summit sitting at 9,733 feet above the Pacific. For a more in-depth account of the adventure, I'll direct you to my post on Exposure. Here, I'll just leave a few photos and my closing exhortation from that longer post:

In a state known for lush forests, snowy volcanos, big rivers, and rocky coastline, Steens Mountain adds to Oregon’s already deep and varied geographic character. Plus, its remoteness means that those who do make the trip may find that they have large tracts of the mountain all to themselves. If you live in Oregon, go to Steens. It’s well more than worth the trip. If you live elsewhere, come to Oregon. Come to Steens Mountain.


Chaney Swiney

Bend, Oregon

Naturalist, Photographer, Cartographer