Wildhorse Lake fills the bottom of a deep cirque with high surrounding walls on three sides that give way on one side to an open view of the horizon beyond. This treeless bowl is streaked with tiny creeks and even tinier rivulets that flow only after there’s been rain.
You’ll start out by heading downhill from the back of the Steens Mountain Summit parking area through a field of lava rock. As the trail descends toward the lake, it becomes steep and loose in places, so be sure to proceed carefully.
Wildflowers, including monkeyflower, buckwheat, and lupine, dot the trail with bright bursts of pink, yellow and blue, particularly in spring and early summer. After 1.2 miles, you’ll reach the lake. Please stick to already established paths as you near the lakeshore, as this alpine area is fragile.
You can paddle or swim in the lake, or stay shoreside to read, reflect, people-watch, or just soak in the beautiful views.
In the case of the hike to Wildhorse, what goes down, must come up. To return to the trailhead, you’ll need to gain the 1,100 feet of elevation you lost on the way in.
Notes and Advice:
- There are no trailhead amenities.
- Snow can remain on the Steens Mountain Loop Road into the summer, delaying the opening of the full loop. Before heading out, contact the Bureau of Land Management in Burns at 541-573-4400 or check their website for more information.
- For more hiking tips, check out our desert travel guide.