The Pike Creek Mine Hike may be one of the most rewarding hikes on Steens Mountain. While the gentle western slopes of Steens Mountain are relatively easily accessed, opportunities for exploring the fault block's more dramatic and steep eastern face are extremely limited. The Pike Creek Mine Trail uniquely allows hikers to venture into this rugged environment and provides visitors a glimpse into the past.
Located between Alvord Ranch and Alvord Hot Springs, an unmarked, rocky, and deeply rutted four-wheel drive road ventures up to the base of the mile-high escarpment and terminates at a cluster of campsites along Pike Creek. At the turn of the 20th century, mining prospectors searching for uranium built a road that climbed the mountain. Currently, the old road, which follows Pike Creek's south side, has been converted into a hiking trail. From the Pike Creek Campsites, the failed mine shaft and mining debris (an old shed, rails, and other equipment) are located roughly a mile up the road, where the path crosses the creek and becomes a single-track hiking trail. From the creek crossing, the views up the craggy canyon and over the Alvord Desert only become more rewarding. The trail continues for more than a mile and eventually fades near Pike Knob at 6,000 feet.
Note that, while it is free to park at the BLM sign and walk in to the trailhead, there is a day use fee to drive in and park at the trailhead parking area. This is payable at the Alvord Hot Springs, and the fees escalate for parties greater than two.
Be sure to fill up on gas before heading out to the Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert area. Year-round gas stations are in Burns and Fields, Oregon. The gas station in Frenchglen is only open during the summer months. Further, cell phone reception is virtually nonexistent in much of the area, so travel with extra provisions. If you plan to explore the area extensively, we highly recommend bringing additional, full gasoline canisters to ensure that you don't get stranded.