Big Indian Gorge

Hike in Oregon's Steens Mountain Wilderness along Big Indian Creek into scenic Big Indian Gorge below Rooster Comb and the Steens Mountain summit. There are three round trip options that are 8-17 miles and 960-1,900 feet of elevation gain.

getting there

From Burns, Oregon, drive OR-78 1.7 miles east toward Crane, then turn right on OR-205 and drive 61 miles to Frenchglen. Continue  towards Fields for 10 miles, then turn left onto Steens Mountain Loop Road (snow closure between November and June) and drive 18.9 miles to South Steens Campground. The second entrance to the campground has family campsites, water, and a trailhead/picnic area parking lot at the far end of the camp loop.

on the trail

Hike into the gorgeous Big Indian Gorge, a canyon in Oregon's Steens Mountain Wilderness. The best time to travel is mid-June to early October. There are three round trip day hike or backpack options through the gorge:

  • 8.2 and 960 feet of elevation gain to a large boulder
  • 13 miles and 1,270 feet of elevation gain to Cottonwood Camp
  • 17 miles an 1,900 feet of elevation gain to end of the trail at gorge's headwall.

The hike involves up to three stream crossings at 1.9 miles across Indian Creek (the crossing may be dangerous in early summer, so look for better crossing on log about 100 yards downstream), at 2.2 miles across Little Indian Creek, and at 3.1 miles across Big Indian Creek.  Look for camps in cottonwood groves at 5.2 miles and 6 miles.

Enjoy exploring the cottonwood grove areas and beyond for waterfalls, meadows, large aspen groves, 2,000+ ft high canyon walls and overall spectacular scenic grandeur. 


  • Guidebook100 Hikes / Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon, 3rd ed. by William L. Sullivan (Navillus Press 2015).
  • Long pants are advisable for hiking along portions of trail with overgrown sagebrush.
  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Day Hiking
  • Seasons: June, July, August, September, October
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Length: 17.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,900 ft
  • 7,200 ft
  • Land Manager: Oregon-Washington BLM
  • Parking Permit Required: None
  • Recommended Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • Steens Desert High Country (Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series)
  • USGS Wildhorse Lake, OR
  • USGS Fish Lkae, OR
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