Wildhorse Creek Wild and Scenic River


Take yourself on a reverse hike down to Wildhorse Lake, below the Steens Mountain rim. The headwaters of Little Wildhorse Creek are designated as a Research Natural Area (RNA)/Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) because of a mid-to high-elevation lake and associated ecosystem. This RNA/ACEC was designated to protect the area for scientific study opportunities. Wildhorse and Little Wildhorse Creeks, above their confluence, contain interesting and unique assemblages of vegetative communities.

Know Before You Go:

  • Limited water sources – carry enough water and food to last your entire trip, and do not drink from untested water sources.
  • Ticks, mosquitoes, and rattlesnakes in certain areas during spring and summer.
  • Weather conditions – the mountain’s high elevation can cause rapid temperature changes. Blustery, 100-degree days are common and snow can fall year-round. Be prepared for sudden lightning storms, snow, rain, and high winds.
  • Long distances between services – including gas stations, phones, and cell phone reception. Let someone at home know where you plan to go and when you plan to return. Phone service should not be relied on for emergency communication. Always start your trip with a full tank of fuel and call ahead for current information about fuel availability in the Steens Mountain area. Fuel may be available in the towns of Fields, Frenchglen, Crane, or the Narrows.
  • Rough terrain – deep canyons and rocky slopes are a natural party of the rugged mountain territory. Elevation can change from less than 4,000 feet to over 9,000 feet in just a few miles. We recommend high clearance or 4x4 vehicles for primitive roads, including the steep and rocky portion of the Steens Mountain Loop Road near South Steens Campground. The rest of the Steens Mountain Loop Road can accommodate passenger cars at lower speeds. High quality tires are a must for all vehicles, even when traveling on maintained routes.
  • Livestock and wildlife on roadways – much of southeast Oregon is open range. Be alert, drive with caution, and plan to share roadways with cattle, deer, elk, antelope, wild horses, and rabbits!
  • Staying Found – the remote nature and vast landscape of the Steens Mountain area may leave even the most experienced traveler directionally confused or just plain lost. Traveling with a current map of the area is essential! Don’t hesitate to talk to locals - area landowners and Federal employees are generally visible in the Steens Mountain area. We welcome your visit and have information to help you.

Point of Interest:

Wildhorse and Little Wildhorse Creeks provide habitat for California bighorn sheep and a variety of wildlife from headwaters to canyon mouths. Species such as pika can be found at upper elevations. Little Wildhorse Creek contains excellent riparian habitat at higher elevations. Wildhorse and Little Wildhorse Lakes provide vernal high elevation pools, talus and cliffs, willows, and adjacent upland vegetation, which together provide a diversity of wildlife habitats.

Adventure is at Your Fingertips


Geographic Coordinates

42.63039, -118.58771


Wildhorse Lake: The lake is accessible by a trail starting at the Wildhorse Lake Overlook, which is just off the Steens Mountain Loop Road near the summit.