Pueblo Mountains Hikes

Day Hikes in the Pueblo Mountains
The Pueblo Mountains are truly a land of hidden charms. Located just south of Steens Mountain, this little-visited range appears dry, desolate and barren when first viewed from the Fields-Denio highway. Its green stream canyons and colorful rock formations are concealed within the range’s interior, though still easily accessible. It can take a leap of faith for day hikers to leave the highway and venture into these interior canyons, but they will be well rewarded. There are no developed campgrounds in the Pueblos, but dispersed campsites are common, especially at Little Cottonwood Creek, just off the highway. Gas, supplies and water are available nearby at Fields Station.

Though the geology of the Pueblos is continuous with Steens Mountain, it is much more complex, with layers of older mineralized rocks overlain by recent basalts, all uplifted in a massive fault block. The solitary summit of Pueblo Mountain itself rises over 8,600’ in the middle of the range and catches most of the rain and snow. It is flanked by low hills, long uplifted ridges, interior wet meadows and stream canyons flowing out of the range to the east. The appeal of the Pueblos lies in this juxtaposition of its dry, treeless rocky slopes with these isolated springs, seeps and streams lined with willow and aspen — which attract most of the wildlife and support diverse populations of birds, small mammals, mule deer and even bighorn sheep.

Download (PDF, 549 KB): Location Map of Pueblo Mountains Hikes
Download (PDF, 587 KB): Photos of Pueblo Mountains Area

The Pueblos are the epitome of a less-traveled mountain range. Though bisected by a segment of the Desert Trail, a 22-mile long corridor marked by rock cairns extending from Denio to Fields, few backpackers undertake this trip. Even fewer day hikers explore the Pueblo’s interior canyons and ridges, though a hardy few occasionally climb Pueblo Mountain’s summit peak. This range is not nearly as well-known in Southeast Oregon as Hart and Steens Mountains, and frankly is not nearly as dramatic and varied a hiking destination — but for those willing to explore off the beaten path, it has several attractive day hikes to reward the adventurous.

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For a nice introduction to the Pueblo range, the hike along Little Cottonwood Creek can be a good starting place. Here, a nearly continuous band of low cottonwood thickets winds over 3 miles deep into the Pueblos and supports a wide variety of nesting and migrant songbirds. For a more challenging hike, the 2.3-mile trail up Colony Creek climbs over 1,700’ along a small, alder-lined perennial stream, leading to wet meadows, colorful rock outcrops and old mining ruins in the upper basin. Finally, the hike along the West Pueblo Ridge offers panoramic views and easy walking on the top of an up-tilted, 7,000’-high basalt ridge with colorful, lichen-covered rock outcrops. All three of these trailheads can be reached by any passenger car on fair-to-good dirt roads off the Fields-Denio highway.

Little Cottonwood Creek Hike
Colony Creek Trail
West Pueblo Ridge Hike

Clickable map of Pueblo Mountains hikes:

Pueblo Mountains Clickable Map Pueblo Mountains Clickable Map Pueblo Mountains Clickable Map

Page last updated: 1/15/13