Two Gorges Hike

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 4.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 370’
Trailhead Elevation: 8,970’
Best Season: July through September,
          after upper snow gates are open
Driving Access: Any vehicle, once
             access road is snow-free

Plus Points
• A cross-country hike to scenic overlooks of both Big Indian and Little Blitzen Gorges
• Route is through a glaciated alpine landscape, with springs and wet meadows
• Wildflowers in late summer, including purple gentian, monkeyflower and helianthus
• Glacial features, including rock polish, grooved striations and a few erratics
• With binoculars, potential for bighorn sheep sightings from both gorge overlooks
• Red-tailed hawks and potentially golden eagles soaring overhead

Minus Points
• Afternoon thunderstorms can present a lightning hazard on both exposed overlooks
• No defined trail to Little Blitzen overlook, so basic orienteering or GPS skills are helpful

Download (PDF, 551 KB): Photos of Two Gorges Hike
Download (PDF, 640 KB): Topo Map for Two Gorges Hike
Download (GPX, 4 KB): GPS Points for Two Gorges Hike
Download (PDF, 749 KB): Road Map for Two Gorges Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Two Gorges Hike
From the trailhead at the small gravel parking area on the Steens Mtn. Loop Road (GPS Point 1), one has to decide which leg of this hike to start first. The route north to the Little Blitzen Gorge overlook is more challenging, so you may want to walk this first and save the easier route to the Big Indian Gorge overlook for later in the day.

To reach the Little Blitzen Gorge overlook, first walk north from the parking area and enter the broad basin across the road. The route then follows the east side of the small creek draining this basin, downstream to the northeast. Look for glacial polish and striations on the exposed bedrock in this basin. At about the 0.4 mile point and 8,870' in elevation, a prominent grass-covered bench leaves the creek to the north (GPS Point 2).
Follow this wide bench to the north and east for about 0.6 miles as it contours around the hillside, through wet meadows and over exposed bedrock, to the edge of the Little Blitzen Gorge (at GPS Point 3). For the best views, hike north and west along the rim, over Promontory 8842, for about 0.3 miles to a high rimrock overlook (GPS Point 4). Return as you came.

To reach the Big Indian Gorge overlook, walk south from the parking area on the obvious trail heading downhill. After about 100 yards, the trail turns into a double-track jeep road that climbs south along the east side of the basin, above the wet meadows. The route follows this old jeep track south for about 0.5 miles as it grades uphill to Promontory 9090 on the rim. This jeep track is faint in spots, but the route is always south towards the dark rocky point on the horizon,
keeping east of the wet meadows. Near the rim, the jeep road winds around the head of several gushing springs, which cover almost an acre here with bright yellow monkeyflowers. From the head of the springs, it's an easy walk up to the rim and the great views from Promontory 9090. With binoculars, look for bighorn sheep in the green, glaciated basins at the head of Big Indian Gorge. Return as you came.

Road to Trailhead
On the Steens Mtn. Loop Road, drive about 6.5 miles southeast from the Jackman Park Campground to a 4-way intersection. Bear right (west), staying on the Loop Road, and drive 1.1 miles to a small gravel parking area on the south side of the road.

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 8 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 10 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