Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
1,400.00 ft (426.72 m)
Trail type
8.00 mi (12.87 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 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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Glaciated landscape. Stunning views. Wildflowers. Solitude.



Trailhead Elevation

5,400.00 ft (1,645.92 m)


Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Bird watching
Big Game Watching
Big vistas
Geologically significant
Big Game Watching

Suitable for




What a fantastic place to visit! Fall is definitely the best time of year to do this hike. The cottonwoods and aspens turning yellow is absolutely stunning. The Steens look majestic with a fresh coat of snow! I would add that after October 1st the area is open to hunting so take caution if you're hiking then. Also there is some really spectacular back country sites here as well.
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