30. Little Blitzen River (Little Blitzen Unit)
Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. p. 153.
What to Expect: A gentle glacial valley in the high Steens and outstanding near-summit views
Distance: 17.8 miles round trip
Elevation Range: 5,300-9,100 feet
Drinking Water: Yes
Best Times: Summer, fall
USGS 7.5' Maps: Fish Lake, Wildhorse Lake
Oregon Map Starting Point: Frenchglen
Go 10 miles south of Frenchglen on OR 205. Turn east onto the South Steens Mountain Loop Road. At approximately 20 miles is South Steens Campground. East of the campground entrance 0.2 mile is a parking area on the south side of the loop road.
Farther east 0.2 mile is a BLM sign noting a trail starting on the north side of the road by a big boulder. Follow the trail 0.6 mile to cross the Little Blitzen River (Fish Lake quad). Pick up a very nice trail on the north side of the river. Approximately 7 miles upriver a major tributary enters through a break in the north rim (Wildhorse Lake quad). Camping is nice.
You have two options. The first is continue upriver into the glacial cirque for 2 miles and 1,000 feet elevation gain. The second is to hike the next day 3 miles to the east rim of Steens Mountain. This elevation gain is 2,300 feet, but the views and the exaltation are worth it!
Start early up the west side of the creek. It gets less steep in about a mile (don't miss the waterfall). Hike your way eastward to the point where Kiger Gorge cuts into the Steens Mountain rim (you do have to cross the South Steens Mountain Loop Road). A great place for lunch.
Return to camp and hike out the next day.