The hike into Big Indian Gorge takes backpackers into a stunning landscape that was carved out by glaciers in the last ice age. The 8-mile hike ends at the base of the gorge headwall, passing through meadows as well as cottonwood and aspen groves.
Beginning at South Steens Campground, hikers or equestrians have a staging spot for day hikes or short backpacking trips into the gorge. The trailhead can be found at the back of the campground. The elevation at the start of the hike is 5,400 feet, but the hiking trail almost imperceptibly climbs to 6,800 feet at the headwall where the trail fades and can be hard to find.
There are three stream crossings along the way, which can be difficult or impassable at times in the spring and early summer. Fishing enthusiasts who hike with rod in their pack can find red-band trout in the river. The U-shaped gorges, carved by glaciers, are sure to amaze, as will the wildflowers and waterfalls. A number of primitive campsites exist along the way, and hikers will pass an old abandoned homestead on the hike.
The Big Indian Gorge Trail is part of the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail route that starts outside of Bend and ends at the Owyhee Reservoir near the Idaho border.
Make sure to call to check trail conditions before heading out as snow can be an obstacle early in the season. The area is managed by Burns BLM District, which can be reached at 541.573.4400.