OverviewFar from civilization in the sagebrush wastes of Southeast Oregon lies Alvord Peak, the highpoint of the Southern Steens Range known as "The Peaks". This basaltic mountain raises gradually from Long Hollow and Road Canyon in the west to its summit at 7132 feet then drastically plummets 3000 feet into the bleak Alvord Desert to the east. Like Steens Mountain, Alvord Peak is a feature of "Basin and Range" terrane, a fault block upthrust along the same rim as Steens and Pueblo Mountains. To the west is the Catlow Rim, the onetime shore of an inland sea that occupied the presently dry Catlow Valley. Looking further west beyond the Catlow are other fault block ranges such as Hart Mountain, and the Beatys Butte range. Below Alvord Peak in the east is Alvord Lake, the alkaline remains of what was once a much larger inland sea fed by glacier melt from the Steens Mountain block.
If you like forested wilderness, this may not be the summit for you. Alvord Peak is completely devoid of tree canopy, not even Junipers can be found in the immediate vicinity of the summit. Furthermore, a 2006 wildfire stripped most of this region of its sagebrush cover leaving many of these peaks blackened and barren. If you summit Alvord Peak during summer months be sure to bring water, there are no sources of water in the area. Also be aware that Rattlesnakes are prevalent in this area, at 7132 feet, winter is an excellent time to hike Alvord Peak and avoid reptilian nuisances.
Above: Looking north towards Steens Mountain
For a shorter summit approach, an alternative route description can be found in the book "75 Scrambles in Oregon" by Barbara Bond. This is an excellent hiking guide with some very thorough route descriptions.
Using the "Long Hollow Route" beginning at Long Hollow Summit on Highway 205 expect to travel about 4 miles one way with approximately 2300 feet of elevation gain. This hike takes approximately 5 hours roundtrip.
Getting ThereAlvord Peak lies directly between Steens Mountain to the north, and Pueblo Mountain to the south. To reach the Long Hollow route, travel 42 miles south of Frenchglen on highway 205 to Long Hollow Summit at 5608 feet. Here you will find a rockpit on the north side of the highway. Providing no activity is taking place here, park and begin your journey. Note, Frenchglen is located 60 miles south of Burns in highway 205.
Red TapeRoaring Springs Ranch blocks access from the east. I have heard the operators of Roaring Springs Ranch are quite friendly, if you wish to hike on ranch property you should be able to gain permission from them. The ranch is located on the east side of the Catlow Valley along Highway 205 between Frenchglen and Fields.
CampingThere are no camping restrictions, you will be hiking on BLM land. This area is extremely dry, observe campfire restrictions.
LinksNational Landscape Conservation System page; some nice information about the Steens Mountains.
Bureau of Land Management Page
Above: At the origin of Long Hollow looking towards Alvord Peak.