Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Appendix D: The Desert Trail

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 252-253.

by Andy Kerr

In 1974, a beloved high school biology teacher had a vision of a hiking trail from Canada to Mexico. Yes, it has been done along the Pacific Crest and is being done along the Continental Divide, but not through the deserts and grasslands of the Interior West. Russ Pengelly founded the Desert Trail Association to make his vision a reality.

Living in Burns, he naturally started with segments on and near Steens Moun- tain. Russ has passed on to that 0 percent grade in the sky, but his fine work is being carried on by the Desert Trail Association.

Much of the trail is not actually a trail, but a corridor marked by cairns (don't knock over these rockpiles).

The Desert Trail Association has published eight detailed "trail" guides (see table) and continues its methodical plotting and plodding northward and south- ward, staying to public lands where possible. Someday the Desert Trail will reach the nation's borders. In the meantime, several sections of the trail have been rec- ognized as national recreational trails under the National Trails System Act. Such an administrative designation isn't as good as a congressionally designated na- tional scenic trail, a status that this route richly deserves.

You can obtain each trail guide for $7 postpaid. While you're at it, also fork over enough to become a member ($12/year or $20/2 years individual; $18/year or $28/2 years family) and to receive a newsletter. While it is an all-volunteer outfit, the Desert Trail Association still has overhead costs worthy of your sup- port. Of course, they would greatly welcome your direct participation as well.

If you're planning to do long stretches, walk north. The weather is better earlier in the year in the south and the sun isn't in your eyes. You also need to time your traversing of Steens Mountain during the snow-free season of late July through September.

The Desert Trail presently traverses the proposed Pueblo Mountains, Steens Mountain, and Alvord Wildernesses, the proposed Steens Mountain National Conservation Area, and the proposed Diamond Craters National Monument.

Section                                                Southern                                  Northern                           Published

                                                            Terminus                                  Terminus                     

High Rock Canyon, NV                         High Rock Lake                          Cottonwood Canyon                 1990

Sehldon NWR, NV                                Cottonwood Canyon                   Denio                                     1991

Peublo Mountains, OR                          Denio                                        Fields                                     1981

Alvord Desert, OR                                Fields                                        Frog Spring (Alvord Desert)     1984

Steens Mountain, OR                            Frog Spring (Alvord Desert)       Near Steens Mountain Summit  1983

John Scharff Section, OR                      Near Steens Mountain Summit    Page Springs                           1985

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, OR     Page Springs                             Diamond Craters                      1987

Riddle Mountain, OR                             Diamond Craters                       Oregon Highway 78                  1989


For more information:

Desert Trail Association

Box 34

Madras, OR 97741

[Note: email and website address updated from original book.]