Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
3,864.00 ft (1,177.75 m)
Trail type
19.50 mi (31.38 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Big Indian Trail offers a challenging yet rewarding 19.5-mile out-and-back hike from the South Steens Campground, up the Indian Gorge Headwall to the Steens Mountain Loop Road.

You'll find the trailhead at the back of the South Steens Campground, tucked away on the east end of the campsites. It's a good idea to sign the trail register and familiarize yourself with the trail regulations here, as this point marks your entry into the Steens Mountain Wilderness.

The trail initially crosses Little Indian Creek before turning north into the gorge. As you progress, you'll be treated to a landscape of lush vegetation, meadows, and aspen groves. The path then veers east, offering a gentle climb up through the gorge.

Scattered along the Big Indian Trail are several primitive campsites, making it an ideal route for either a long day hike or a short backpacking trip.

The trek becomes more demanding as you approach the headwall of the gorge. Here, the trail turns into the more primitive Big Indian Headwall Trail. This section is best suited for experienced hikers who are adept at navigation, as the trail becomes faint and the ascent steep. You'll be climbing over 2,000 feet in elevation within approximately a mile and a half. 

Reaching the Steens Mountain Loop Road signifies the halfway mark of your hike, with the rest of the journey being a downhill trek. Before embarking on this steep descent, it's a great idea to take a break, enjoy a snack, and replenish your energy. This spot offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the Steens Mountains and the canyon below, providing a rewarding moment to savor the stunning perspective of the rugged terrain you've just navigated. Take this opportunity to reflect on your journey so far, appreciating the vast beauty of the landscape that surrounds you.


For information about the South Steens Campground, including details on campsite reservations, amenities, and rules, you can visit the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) webpage dedicated to the campground: Steens Mountain Wilderness.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Solitude. Lush vegetation. Impressive canyon scenery.


Steep section on unmaintained trail to get up the headwall.

Trailhead Elevation

5,340.00 ft (1,627.63 m)

Highest point

8,973.00 ft (2,734.97 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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