Eastern Oregon’s vast desert, sage and grasslands
Home to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert as well as one of the country’s largest ponderosa pine forests, Harney County has no shortage of environments to explore. Burns is your jumping off point for Eastern Oregon, with hotels, markets and sporting goods. From there it’s just a short drive south along the High Desert Discovery Scenic Byway to Steens Mountain, one of Oregon’s most iconic ranges and home to an abundance of wildlife and miles upon miles of hiking and two-wheeled exploration. To the west of the mountain the Malheur Refuge teems with activity from resident wildlife and the scores of birds that make an annual migratory stop.
Whether as a destination or a stopover on a longer journey, Crystal Crane is an oasis for weary travelers. Visitors here can soak in the natural pools, bathing in the rejuvenating mineral springs under expansive Eastern Oregon skies. On the Alvord Desert, the remote Alvord hot springs is a chance to soak in a semi-developed pool with a view of the playa.
Think of Utah’s salt flats and you’ll get a sense of the Alvord Desert’s perfectly featureless landscape. Here on the playa, you’re at the bottom of what once was a 200-feet-deep lake that stretched from Steens Mountain to Nevada. When you visit, pack your fishing rod for nearby Mann Lake where trophy Lahontan cutthroat trout cruise the waters.
Steens Mountain Brewing Company is a family-owned nanobrewery located in a tasting room in Burns. All beer is small-batch brewed with regional heirloom hops (some grown at the brewery owner’s home in the adjacent hop yard). Each beer name is inspired by a must-visit Harney County landmark or event, like the McCoy Creek Scottish Ale.
<< Pete French Round Barn
Built by cattle baron Peter French from stone and juniper, this circular barn near Burns was originally used for breaking horses during inclimate weather. The historic structure is now a state heritage site.