Little Fish Creek Hike

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 6.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Loss: 750’
Trailhead Elevation: 7,700’
Best Season: July through September,
          after upper snow gates are open
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle,
     once access road is snow-free and dry

Plus Points
• A moderate hike along roads and trails through two high-elevation stream canyons
• All within a cow-free zone of the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area
• Outstanding groves of old-growth quaking aspen along Grove Creek
• Beaver dams, wet meadows and wildflowers along willow-lined Little Fish Creek
• Historical cabins and old recreation camp at the Nye Place
• Magnificent views of the Little Blitzen Gorge from a rimrock overlook

Minus Points
• A rugged 0.8 mile, cross-country bushwhack between Grove and Little Fish Creeks
• This cross-country segment requires basic orienteering and route finding skills
• The access road to the trailhead requires a high-clearance vehicle

Download (PDF, 483 KB): Photos of Little Fish Creek Hike
Download (PDF, 655 KB): Topo Map for Little Fish Creek Hike
Download (PDF, 742 KB): Road Map for Little Fish Creek Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Little Fish Creek Hike
The hike begins at the junction of the road down Grove Creek and the road to the Nye Place. The route follows the road down Grove Creek for about 1 mile to its end at a “Wilderness Boundary” sign. Enjoy the remarkable groves of old-growth quaking aspens along this section. At road’s end, the route continues cross-country to the west, through another grove of big aspen trees, with the goal of climbing slowly uphill onto the ridge dividing Grove and Little Fish Creeks. There are some aspen thickets and sagebrush on this divide that require some serious bushwhacking — but if one continues west and south, there’s no way to get lost. Soon, one has panoramic views down into the Little Fish Creek drainage and the route is southwest down the steep hillside to the stream.

Once at Little Fish Creek, there is an old single-track trail winding upstream along the south bank of the creek following an easy grade through sage flats and wet meadows. If you can’t find this trail at first, keep wandering upstream along the south side, as the trail becomes more prominent the further upstream you go.

For the next 1.1 miles, the route follow this trail up Little Fish Creek, through streamside meadows and aspen groves. Note the beaver dams and ponds in this section. For the last mile to the Nye Place, the trail turns into a double-track jeep road that is easily followed. Once at the Nye Place, you’ll find a dirt road and several old cabins, remnants of a commercial hunting and fishing camp established here in the early 1900s. Before walking up the road to your vehicle, it’s worthwhile to take a short sidetrip to a remarkable overlook of the Little Blitzen Gorge. Follow the road 0.4 miles west from the Nye Place to a high point near the rim, where a short trail extends 50 yards to the south, through brush to the overlook.

Road to Trailhead
On the Steens Mtn. Loop Road, drive about 1.7 miles southeast from the Jackman Park Campground. Look for a dirt road branching off to the right (west). If it’s dry and hard, turn onto this road and follow it west, keeping to the right at all road junctions within the first half mile. At about 2.6 miles from the Loop Road, a dirt road branches off to the right (north) at a small grove of aspen trees. Park at this road junction, taking care not to block either road.

Note that this access road is for high-clearance vehicle ONLY — and even these vehicles will be challenged in a few of the steep and rocky spots.

Camping Options
For tent campers only: The nearest campground is the Jackman Park Campground, managed by the BLM. It’s located at 7,800’ on the Steens Mtn. Loop Road, 19 miles east of Frenchglen and about 4 driving miles from the trailhead. This campground is nestled within a small basin of aspen groves and wet meadows below a glaciated rim. There are 6 small sites for tents, though one of the sites can accommodate a small tent or travel trailer. Each site has a concrete picnic table and fire ring. The campground has a vault toilet, drinking water and trash cans. The fee was $6.00 per night in 2012.

For all campers: The next nearest campground is the Fish Lake Campground, also managed by the BLM. It’s located at 7,400’ on the Steens Mtn. Loop Road, about 17 miles west of Frenchglen and about 6 driving miles from the trailhead. This campground has 23 sites around a small mountain lake, some tucked away in aspen groves at the head of the lake and others more exposed near the lake’s outlet. All have gravel parking pads, tables and fire rings. There are vault toilets here, drinking water, trash cans and a small boat ramp (for motor-less boats only). The fee was $8.00 per night in 2012.

Agency Contact: Burns BLM District, (541) 573-4411

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local federal land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 1/17/13