Dry camping in eastern Oregon

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 15-21, 1997
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Dry camping in eastern Oregon
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Dry camping in eastern Oregon
Question: Given the extraordinary amount of snow in the Cascades this winter, can you recommend some good low-elevation backcountry camping in Washington and Oregon?

Kelly Mullins
Seattle, Washington
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Bone-dry and beautiful, try the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon. With a sprinkling of 5 inches of rain, Alvord Desert is the arch-opposite of the nearby 9,773-foot Steens Mountain, which gets 25 inches of rain per year. It's misleading to say you'll be hiking in the desert, because in actuality, it's too barren. Instead, you'll be viewing it from nearby mountain perches.

The most scenic route through this sparse landscape is the Steens Mountain National Backcountry Byway, which starts in Frenchglen (six hours east of Portland). For a great hike, stop at the Wild Horse Overlook (30 miles east of Frenchglen), where you can pick up the Desert Trail. Although you're allowed to camp in the sandy expanse, avoid pitching your tent among plants. For more complete details, call the BLM Burns District Office in Hines, Oregon (541-573-4400).

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