Where To: Hart Mountain

Mark Darnell

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge lies at the center of the Greater Hart-Sheldon Region in southeastern Oregon. Few established trails cross this vast region. Instead, desert enthusiasts have endless opportunities to build their own adventure and experience the solitude of Oregon’s high desert.
Here are six tips that will help you make the most of your visit to this diverse and expansive stronghold of the sagebrush steppe.

 

listen

Greater Sage Grouse and Sparrows at Hart Mountain

Greater Sage Grouse and Sparrows at Hart Mountain

voices

Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

So proud of ONDA and its members and volunteers. Such hard work gets done. To use an overused word, this is patriotism!

voices

John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

Restoration is hard slow work. It takes hold, or it doesn’t, in fits and starts. The immensity of the need can be discouraging, but we must carry on. I am so thankful ONDA carries on.

Tip #1: Grab a map

One of best ways to make the most of your trip to Hart Mountain is to find a good map. There are many available, including the standard USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps. Friends of Hart Mountain, a group that supports the refuge in fulfilling its mission and purpose, sells one of the better maps to the area. This $10 map can be found at the Hart Mountain visitor center located at the refuge headquarters, or through the Friends of Hart Mountain webpage.

Order a Map

Tip #2: Know - and follow - the rules

Because Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is managed as a range and breeding ground for pronghorn antelope and other species of wildlife, you’ll want to be mindful of certain rules and regulations that differ from those of the surrounding public lands. Be sure to check in with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website to learn about the rules and regulations before heading out, and always follow the leave no trace principles.

Know the rules

Tip #3: Start in the Warner Valley

The Warner Valley is located on the west side of the refuge. A long and broad valley that encompasses a vast marshland and a half-dozen or more ephemeral lakes, the Warner Valley is the western terminus of Hart Mountain. Numerous canyons stretch from the high reaches of Hart Mountain down to the valley floor, offering incredible opportunities to explore lush willow- and aspen-filled canyons that are vastly different from the open expanses of the eastern half of the refuge.

Tip #4: Gain some elevation

From the floor of the Warner Valley to the highest point at Hart Mountain (Warner Peak), visitors can explore some 4,000 feet of high desert grandeur. On the west side of the refuge, from places such as the Hot Springs Campground, Guano Creek Campground and the Barnhardy Road, visitors can easily gain ground and enjoy an uninterrupted viewshed of the Greater Hart-Sheldon Region.

Tip #5: Follow the dirt road

While Hart Mountain does not have a network of established hiking trails, there are numerous two-track, dirt roads that can serve the same purpose. In many cases, these roads are closed seasonally to motorized vehicles and offer the intrepid hiker an efficient way to traverse some of the refuge's most scenic and awe-inspiring vistas. Great places to catch a road hike include the south end of the Hot Springs Campground, from the Blue Sky ponderosa grove near the Guano Creek campground, or out along the Skyline Drive road.

Tip #6: Head east

Most visitors miss the incredible opportunities to explore the lesser known regions of the eastern half of the refuge. Wide open sagebrush with hidden playas, box canyons and incredible rimrock offer endless opportunities for true exploration. Viewed from afar, the secrets of this incredible part of the refuge are likely to be missed.

Here are two hikes to get you started:

Brent Fenty

DeGarmo Canyon

From the base of Hart Mountain you can access this beautiful canyon complete with wildflowers, wildlife and waterfalls. Various hiking options from an easy walk to difficult climb can be accessed from this point. The hike begins by entering a narrow slot canyon with a stream crossing about 50 yards upstream of the first...

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ONDA

Warner Peak

Take this hike to enjoy views not just from the summit, but all along the way. Keep your eyes open for wildlife as well. You can start from the Hot Springs Campground for an 11-mile hike, or take the shorter option and start from Barnhardi Meadow when the 4-by-4 road is open (Aug. 1...

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