Steens Mountain Wilderness Nye Trail Work


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.


Western Meadowlark Dawn Chorus

Western Meadowlark Dawn Chorus


The Last Darkness

The Last Darkness

Organizer: Renee Patrick

Start Date: 9/9/2019

End Date: 9/13/2019

Region: Steens

Difficulty Rating: 5 out of 5

Maximum Group Size: 12 participants

About the place

Steens Mountain lies along the horizon of southeastern Oregon like a sleeping giant among a bed of sagebrush, perennial grasses, and wildflowers. Although often mistaken for a chain of mountains, Steens is actually one contiguous monolith — the largest fault block mountain in North America, stretching some 50 miles and reaching a mile vertically, with summits that overlook the Alvord Desert, wide canyons, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The Nye Trail offers a steep ascent from Little Blitzen Gorge to the Cold Springs Road.

About the stewardship work

ONDA created Oregon Desert Trail (ODT) to link existing trails, old two-track roads, and cross country travel as a way to introduce hikers to the stunning landscapes found in Oregon’s high desert. The Nye Trail is part of an alternate route for hikers in the Steens Mountain Wilderness, and this work project will continue the work our 2018 ONDA volunteers started.

We typically head to the work site at 8 a.m. and stop work by 4 p.m. in order to leave time in the afternoon to clean-up, relax and cook a well-deserved dinner. The work will involve using loppers and handsaws to clear brush from the corridor of the trail, as well as a variety of other trail tools to clear and maintain the corridor according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trail standards. The section of trail we will be working on is a steep narrow trail that is quite exposed in places. ONDA will provide all instruction and necessary tools to do the job. No previous trail building experience is needed to attend this trip. All that is required is a love of the high desert, a big smile and a willingness to learn.

Trip timeline

  • Monday, September 9, 3 p.m.: We will meet at the junction of the Steens Loop Road and Cold Springs Road to stage vehicles and shuttle ourselves and our gear into our camp with the BLM’s assistance (approx. 3 miles). We will set up camp, and volunteers are welcome to hike or explore the area at their own leisure.
  • Tuesday, September 10: After breakfast, we will begin our work brushing and maintaining the trail tread. Volunteers should plan to be out all day, and be prepared for a full day of hiking and doing physical work in full sun.
  • Wednesday, September 11: After breakfast, we will continue our work brushing and maintaining the trail tread. Volunteers should plan to be out all day, and be prepared for a full day of hiking and doing physical work in full sun. (We will plan on taking a half-day off on Wednesday or Thursday to relax or explore the area).
  • Thursday, September 12: After breakfast, we will continue our work brushing and maintaining the trail tread. Volunteers should plan to be out all day, and be prepared for a full day of hiking and doing physical work in full sun.
  • Friday, September 13: After breakfast, we will pack up camp, and return back to our cars.


We will be shuttled to our camp in at the top of the Nye Trail above the Little Blitzen Gorge, approximately 3 miles in from our parked cars. The road is not suitable for most vehicles, so the BLM will assist with transportation. Please pack accordingly.


Level 5

Challenges will be backpacking several miles into the work site, physically strenuous work on a steep trail at elevations between 6,200 – 7,500 feet, and hot daytime temperatures.

Participant responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food, camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. In the event of sunny and hot weather, please bring up to four liters of water capacity for the day, and consider an electrolyte replacement drink or mix to help you stay hydrated. We will provide a water filter for use during the day as there are springs that flow over the trail near our work area, but please consider bringing several gallons of water for use in camp for the duration of our stay. We will bring at least 15-20 gallons of water for group use in camp. Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots, long pants, a long sleeve shirt (a lightweight sun shirt is a great option), and eye protection are required for this trip (sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses are suitable eye protection). Participants should be prepared to be away from camp all day and bring a daypack for lunch, snacks, and water.

Gear provided

ONDA and the BLM will provide tools for the work, work gloves, sunscreen, and hardhats. We will provide a gravity filter for water and water for camp, expert leadership, and we can talk about long distance hiking on Oregon Desert Trail. This is a not a car camping-based trip, so volunteers will need to pack their gear, and be prepared for an awesome backcountry camping experience. The BLM will assist in shuttling our gear, water and our trail tools.


An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this trip. Check the box next to each trip you would like to attend. You only need to fill this form out once per year.

 Apply Now

What happens next?

You will receive a confirmation email within 10 working days of submitting your form. The confirmation email will provide information regarding which trips you are on the “participant list” for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the “waitlist.”

Six weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs, open spaces will be backfilled with people from the waitlist.

Three weeks before the trip start date, registered and confirmed participants will receive driving instructions, maps, carpooling options, and additional information in an email sent by the trip leader

If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the trip leader.